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Up 1-0, Caps face desperate New York team in Game 2

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Up 1-0, Caps face desperate New York team in Game 2

NEW YORK - News, notes and a few quotes as the Capitals and Rangers prepare to butt helmets today in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Madison Square Garden:

Where they stand: The Caps hold a 1-0 series lead on the Rangers after taking the series opener 2-1 on Joel Ward’s goal with 1.3 seconds remaining. Two years ago the Caps won the first two games against the Rangers on home ice, but lost four of the following five games to fall in seven.

Day of rest: Aside from some stretching, meetings and a team dinner, the Capitals’ players were given Friday off to roam the streets of New York City. Alex Ovechkin said he’d peruse the Nike store for shoes, while Brooks Orpik said he’d catch some playoff hockey on television.

The Caps went 4-5-1 in afternoon games during the regular season and lost both afternoon games against the Islanders in Round 1.

“I think it was important for us to get our rest,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said. “You’re going to see [the Rangers’] absolute best this afternoon, just because of the desperation factor.

“We went through that in Game 2 in our first series [a 4-3 win fueled by backup goalie Philipp Grubauer following a series-opening loss], so hopefully we understand that.  We need to try to match that desperation and that commitment and that urgency. As I said before, let’s not go around this game; let’s make sure we’re going through it. And if we do, then with our best effort we’ll see where the chips fall after that.”

Trotz said he does want to dwell on the Caps’ afternoon struggles with his players, but …

“I don’t think we’re ignoring it,” he said. “I think we’re learning from it. The more you have them the more you get used to it.

“I think the tank wasn’t quite full [in Game 1]. Hopefully, with what we did yesterday our tanks are full again and we go from here.”

Swallow the whistles? On Friday, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said the “standards have been set” on  what will be called and, more specifically, what will not, during the playoffs. He cited as examples Alex Ovechkin’s Game 7 hit on Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey and Nicklas Backstrom’s hit on Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle in the final seconds of Game 1 to set up Ward’s game-winner.

Trotz was asked Saturday if he thinks the standards of officiating change during the playoffs.

“No, not really,” Trotz said. “That’s one of the misconceptions of the whole thing. There’s more physicality in the playoffs but that doesn’t mean the standards change. It’s just more physical, that’s all.

“You see the number of hits increase in the playoffs. I think the referees have been really diligent in calling he game fairly. They’re human and they’re probably not going to get every play. We see things on monitors in slow motion 8 to 10 times and then we’re making judgment on a split-second decision. I have a lot of admiration for the officials.”

Boyle in or out? Boyle skated with the team on Friday but Vigneault did not say whether the 38-year-old defenseman, who missed seven games with a concussion during the 2013-14 season and had trouble sleeping for another couple months, would be in the lineup today.

“We’ll see soon,” Vigneault said of his lineup.

RELATED: Can Caps afford to bring Joel Ward back next season?

If Boyle cannot play, look for defenseman Matt Hunwick to take his place.

Praising Holtby: Vigneault was complimentary of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who stopped 31 of 32 shots in Game 1 and ranks first among playoff starting goalies in goals-against average [1.54] and first in save percentage [.947].

“He’s one of the best goalies in the league and he;s proven that,” Vigneault said. “He’s played a lot of hockey [80 games]. I could give you all the ‘we need to get more traffic, better presence in front of him,’ all the things we know. But without a doubt he’s one of the best in the league. Goalies are at the top of their game, especially in the Eastern Conference [where Carey Price and Ben Bishop have been tremendous] and we’re going to have to be real good.”

No O: The Rangers were the third-highest scoring team in the regular season at 3.02 goals per game, but are averaging just 2.00 goals per game in the playoffs.

Special teams: With a 1-for-2 performance in Game 1, the Caps’ power play is now at 20 percent [3-for-15], while the Rangers [0-for-2] are at 13.6 percent [3-for-22]. The Caps remain a perfect 16-for-16 on the penalty kill, while the Rangers are at 80 percent, allowing three goals on 15 man-advantages.  

Here are projected lineups for Game 2:

CAPITALS

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Joel Ward

Marcus Johnasson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Jason Chimera

Andre Burakovsky – Jay Beagle – Troy Brouwer

Curtis Glencross – Brooks Laich – Tom Wilson

Defense pairings

Brooks Orpik – John Carlson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Tim Gleason – Mike Green

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby – Justin Peters

Scratches: C Michael Latta, D Dmitry Orlov

Injuries: Eric Fehr [upper body, day-to-day]

RANGERS

Forward lines

Rick Nash – Derrick Brassard – Marty St. Louis

Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – J.T. Miller

Carl Hagelin – Kevin Hayes – Jesper Fast

James Sheppard – Dominic Moore – Tanner Glass

Defense pairings

Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi

Marc Staal – Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle – Kevin Klein

Goaltenders

Henrik Lundqvist – Cam Talbot

Scratches: D Matt Hunwick, D Chris Summers

Injuries: Mats Zuccarello [head, indefinite]

MORE CAPITALS: How a long chat in Vegas changed Ovechkin

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues pull even with Sharks with 2-1 win

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues pull even with Sharks with 2-1 win

The St. Louis Blues' two-goal first period powered them to a win over the San Jose Sharks, and the series is now tied.

The Blues started with a goal 35 seconds into the game. Ivan Barbashev picked off a Brent Burns exit pass and flung it towards the net for the games opening goal. 

Barbashev is the second Blues player to score in the first minute of a game these playoffs. Jaden Schwartz is the other player.

Tyler Bozak scored the game-winning goal for the Blues on a power play off a scramble in front of the net.

The Sharks responded when Thomas Hertl poked the puck past the goal line after Jordan Binnington thought he had the puck covered. Hertl now has 10 goals this postseason for the Sharks, and the team now features 10 or more players to score 10+ goals in the playoffs for the second time in franchise history.

Binnington's 29 save performance gave him his 10th win of the playoffs, the most of any Blues goaltender in franchise history.

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Soccer could be the key to fixing the NHL's video replay and officiating problem

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Soccer could be the key to fixing the NHL's video replay and officiating problem

In Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, just about everyone in the world saw San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier bat the puck with his hand to teammate Gustav Nyquist in the offensive zone. Nyquist then passed the puck over to Erik Karlsson who scored the overtime winner. It was a goal that never should have counted because of the obvious hand pass.

The St. Louis Blues players saw it, the fans saw it, everyone at home saw it. Heck, even the NHL saw it, as Meier was credited with an assist on the play.

The only four people who did not see it, however, were the four people who mattered most. Both referees and linesmen missed it and no hand pass was called.

The hand pass was obvious after watching the replay, but per NHL rules, hand passes are not reviewable. The goal stood and the Sharks won what felt like a tainted game.

Officiating and video review have become a major topic of conversation during the 2019 postseason after several botched calls on the ice that could have easily been overturned upon review. No one wants to see the game slowed down by multiple lengthy reviews, but this postseason is a clear indication that more video review is needed. When referees are making series-altering decisions that anyone can see from a quick replay is incorrect, that’s a problem.

In the wake of the controversies we have seen this postseason, there are bound to be many suggestions over how the NHL can expand video replay to get this right. The problem with every suggestion – and the reason many detractors do not want to see video review expanded – is the fear of unintended consequences.

The offside review, for example, was prompted by a goal scored by Matt Duchene in 2013 in which he was at least 10 feet offside. The rule was implemented to prevent plays like this. Instead, now goals are broken down frame by frame, pixel by pixel to see if a player’s skate may have been over the blue line even if that player had nothing to do with the play. Just ask the Colorado Avalanche, who had a game-tying goal in Game 7 of the second round this year erased because Gabriel Landeskog was headed for a line change and took too long to get on the bench.

The fear over slowing the game down and unintended consequences are legitimate, but they cannot be an excuse to not help the officials. Instead, the NHL has to find a system that limits reviews to catch the egregious mistakes that are more black and white.

Luckily for the NHL, there is a sport that has a rule like this already in practice.

Most Americans do not follow soccer all that closely, but FIFA has had a videa assistant referee system (VAR) for years now. It was implemented for the 2018 World Cup and there is no bigger stage in world sports than the FIFA World Cup.

How does it work?

Each game has a video assistant referee who reviews calls made by the referee during the game. There are only four types of incidents that can be reviewed: goals, penalty decisions (meaning specifically penalty kick decisions), red card decisions and mistaken identity (if the wrong player is given a red or yellow card). While these rules limit what can and cannot be reviewed, they are also broad enough to encompass all significant instances of a game.

A similar system can be implemented in hockey that will eliminate what we all most want taken out of the game: egregious officiating mistakes.

Let’s say, for example, the NHL stipulates that every scoring play, major penalty and perhaps some of the more black and white minor penalty calls such as delay of game are now reviewable. First off, this system takes reviews out of the hands of the coaches. Coaches should not be in charge of whether or not a game is officiated correctly and a bad call should not be allowed to stand just because a coach does not have a challenge. Second, making all goals reviewable for any reason would allow for the easy denial of plays like Duchene’s obvious offside goal or the missed hand pass on Meier. That is what a VAR would be looking for, not if a player’s skate was a millimeter offside.

The insane standard to which offside is now called based on the offside challenge would essentially be gone if you stipulate in the rules that a VAR in hockey would have until the puck drops to notify the referee of a review. That would only allow for the VAR to watch for the more obvious calls. Third, if all you are looking for are the obvious calls, none of these reviews should take much time at all. Fourth, this would not take the human element out of the game. Referees must make subjective calls throughout the course of the game. The VAR is not there to argue if something is a soft call, he is there to inform the referee of the possibility that he just got a call flat out wrong.

By leaving situations in which plays can be reviewed as broad while also keeping the time in which a review can be called rather short, this would ensure only the really bad calls are fixed. In the end, that should be the goal.

The NHL desperately needs a video review system in place that can better help the referees. If the whole world can see Meier’s hand pass, the people with the ability to make the call should too. Yes, expanding review can open a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences, but soccer’s system has had success in both limiting bad mistakes by officials without overly slowing down the game. They have shown it is possible and have provided a blueprint in which the NHL desperately needs to follow.

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