Capitals-Rangers: Game Seven Filled with High Emotions, Stiff Punishments

Matt DolloffCorrespondent IApril 28, 2009

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 11:  Colton Orr #28 of the New York Rangers fights with Donald Brashear #87 of the Washington Capitals on February 11, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Emotions have undoubtedly run high in the opening Stanley Cup playoff series between the No. 2-seeded Washington Capitals and No. 7-seeded New York Rangers, as they usually do at this time of year.

Players and coaches alike have had tendencies to let their emotions get the best of them and have used poor judgment in their actions.

That is precisely the case with Rangers head coach John Tortorella, who sat out the Game Six Capitals victory after an incident with a fan in Game Five.

Capitals winger Donald Brashear also learned today he will be suspended six games for two separate incidents in Game Six 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 Blair Betts (replay at about 0:53):

This hit is a bona fide cheap shot 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 employed 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, breaking 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 clear it will not tolerate juvenile behavior from coaches or players during such an 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 Five 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 the Tampa Bay Lightning's head coach when he threw goalie John Grahame under the bus during the 2006 playoffs. So, 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 he could have cost his team the series.

This series, through all its trials and tribulations, back-and-forth action, and sensational headlines, comes down to one single game. Tortorella will need to pull his entire team together in order to defeat the much deeper and more talented Capitals.

And he will need to keep his emotions under control in the process.


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