Will he or won’t he? And who dresses in his place? – Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Middletown, N. J. – You have all heard the clichés being thrown around prior to game six of the Eastern conference quarter-final between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. Must win and do or die being the two most popular.
But this is nothing the Isles have not been facing the last eight weeks or so as they battled to qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament. It seems like they have played in a dozen or so of these so called elimination games. The tension they felt before and during game one is all but surely gone now and there is only one focal point. Get this series to game seven, where the hockey gods have smiled on the less fortunate and even less talented many times before.
Make no mistake, this is not to slam our beloved Islanders. The Penguins ARE more talented and more experienced. I don’t think anyone can make a valid claim otherwise. The two wins New York has garnered in this series have been the product of out working the better team and taking advantage of some leaky goaltending.
If head coach Jack Capuano can get his team playing with the same emotion level they did for games two through four, game seven will be a very realistic probability. The effort in game five clearly was not there, along with the battle level. Every player in that dressing room knows what transpired after Tyler Kennedy scored on a breakaway and Evgeni Nabokov thought he was a juggler and not a goaltender on a sailing point shot by Douglas Murray.
Two areas of concern heading into this evening for New York loom large however. Relatively healthy all season long, the dreaded injury bug is showing its ugly face. After losing Andrew MacDonald,their top minutes eater on defense, with a broken hand, word is that Frans Nielsen is a game-time decision with a lower body injury sustained in game five. Capuano has to get this lineup decision correct, as scratching Matt Carkner for Thomas Hickey and inserting Jesse Joensuu for David Ullstrom did not work out too well for him in the 4-0 loss.
Get back at it boys and play with tons of emotion and grit. Be the team we know you are. Don’t worry about the fans. They will be out in full support, led by seventh man Blue and Orange Army, to rock the barn. And one last note for the fans; Regardless of what the outcome may be tonight, for I do not own a crystal ball, stand up and give this team a rousing standing ovation at the end. For they sure deserve it. When they leave the ice to return to the dressing room, keep cheering. Do not stop until they all come back out.
Around The Twitter-Sphere
- Great observation Dennis. Yes the entire team looked slow and lethargic for game five but your goaltender can sometimes be the key to that. The Murray goal seemed to deflate the club in the same manner a huge save, the thing that has eluded Nabby to this point in the series, can uplift the team in the opposite direction.
- If you thought games three and four were loud wait until you hear the barn tonight. The team has to play like their playoff lives depend on it, because they do, and the fans should react in the same fashion. Cheer like there might not be a tomorrow.
- Not as unpopular as you might think Chris. I absolutely love having hockey conversation with fans of all teams, granted they keep it respectful and not personal. It is really what drives my creativity at times as well. I think more people wish this than they would like to admit. I live in a house with two Rangers fans and assure you, we never have a problem just because of our different rooting interests.
Around The NHL
- Henrik Lundqvist just about walked on water last night but could not prevent a deflected point shot from landing right on the stick of a wide open Mike Ribero in overtime as the Capitals hold home ice and take a 3-2 series lead over the Rangers with a 2-1 overtime victory. Defenseman John Moore, stung by a blocked shot just seconds earlier, was late in coverage leading to the game winning goal. The Rangers have to get more out of Rick Nash, invisible in this series, if they are to advance to the second round. With scoring consistency already an issue in Manhattan, concern has to be on the mind of bench boss John Tortorella.
- In a hotly contested battle in Boston, the Maple Leafs avoided elimination by beating the Bruins 2-1. James Reimer was outstanding, again proving the point that goaltending is the most key position in the tournament. He stopped 43 of 44 shots. The Bruins still lead the series 3-2.
- Henrik Zetterberg notched his second goal of the game and of the series, leading the Red Wings to an overtime victory over the Anaheim Ducks to even their series at 3 and forcing a decisive seventh game. Great time for the Wings captain to show up in this series and power his team into a game where anything could happen.
- The Kings are Stanley Cup champions for a reason and they proved it again last night, defeating the Blues 2-1 and advancing to the second round of the NHL playoffs. Dustin Penner‘s tally with 1 second remaining in the second period took the tune out of the Blues note and Jonathan Quick rebounded from earlier in the series to play solid hockey as the six game series wore on.
Not to belabor the point, but this is what the Isles need out of Nabby…
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As always, pre and post game coming up later as we prepare for game six.