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Capitals-Rangers Series Enters Game 7 With High Emotions, Stiff Punishments

Emotions have undoubtedly run high in the opening-round Stanley Cup playoff series between the No.2-seeded Washington Capitals and No.7-seeded New York Rangers, as it usually does at this time of year. Players and coaches alike have had tendencies to let their emotions get the best of them and use poor judgment in their actions. That is precisely the case with Rangers head coach John Tortorella, who sat out the game 6 Capitals victory after an incident with a fan in game 5, and Capitals winger Donald Brashear, who learned today he will be suspended six games for two separate incidents in game 6 at Madison Square Garden.

TO be more specific, the suspensions are one game for Brashear’s shove of the Rangers’ Colton Orr during pre-game warmups, and five games for this vicious hit he delivers to Betts (replay at about 0:53):

This hit is a bona fide cheapshot by one of the more goon-ish forwards in the NHL. Brashear is known for an extremely physical style of play that makes up for his lack of skill, which has kept him getting jobs at the NHL level for several years. But his reputation earned him the stiff suspension, and it is justified considering his actions.

The hit is very, very late and apparently includes a big portion of Brashear’s elbow. The hit broke an orbital bone in Betts’ face. Since normal hits are supposed to come immediately after a player gets rid of the puck, the solid second that comes in between Betts’ release and Brashear’s hit feels like an eternity. Brashear also seems to veer out of his way to deliver the hit, as you can see in the second replay.

The NHL has made it totally clear that they will not tolerate juvenile behavior from coaches or players during such important series. The Capitals lose an important physical presence for six games, and would lose Brashear for the first five regular season games should the Rangers pull the upset in tonight’s decisive seventh game.

Tortorella has probably also learned his lesson after this incident with a Capitals fan in game 5 earned him his one-game suspension:

Tortorella is known for his fiery personality, which can motivate his players to do well for him, but at times can also make him his own worst enemy. He came under fire in 2006 as Tampa Bay Lightning coach when he threw goalie John Grahame under the bus during the 2006 playoffs, so at least to me it comes as no surprise that Tortorella again lost control of his emotions in the postseason.

The (probably) drunken fan that provoked Tortorella obviously had no business remaining in the arena, but it was Tortorella’s job to ignore the guy and not stoop to the same level. But he did, and by doing so could have cost his team the series.

This series, through all its trials and tribulations, back-and-forth action and sensation-stirring headlines, comes down to one single game. Brashear will not be present, but Tortorella will. And he will need to pull his entire team together in order to defeat the obviously much deeper and more talented Capitals. And he will need to keep his emotions under control in the process.

April 28, 2009 - Posted by | hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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