We now pray for the health of Lubomir Visnovsky. In all honesty, it seemed likely he may have been concussed in game 3 but played through it due to a combination of a warrior mentality and the fact that this may be his last shot at the cup. After game 4 and Tom Wilson (not to mention a boarding by Ovechkin), we fear the worst. It’s possible he’s done for the playoffs, and maybe for his career.
If Visnovsky is out, this leaves the Isles at a crossroads. The team is already short one right defenseman – Travis Hamonic – and is playing its worst D man on his off side as a result. The team now has lost two, which gives them very few options. It’s remaining healthy D practicing with the team are now:
Matt Donovan (a left handed stick who plays RD like Visnovsky)
Matt Carkner (Natural Right D)
Griffin Reinhart (Left D)
Ryan Pulock (Natural Right D)
Scott Mayfield (Natural Right D)
The temptation is probably high for the team to play Reinhart, Mayfield, or Carkner (probably Reinhart or Carkner), to add size to the lineup. Carkner even plays Right-D. After all, the Caps won that game while being incredibly physical – and the itch to enact vengeance for Lubo is only natural.
But that temptation is the path to further disaster. The Isles have basically outplayed the Caps for 3/4 games this series. How? By outskating the Caps. By using their speed and skill to skate around the Caps and pelt Holtby and Grubauer with shots. This has worked. And if not for some insane goaltending by Holtby, this series would be at 3-1.
Switching to a slower, bigger approach could possibly work – but it would be going away from what we know HAS worked. That is by definition not smart – going for the two birds in the bush instead of the bird in the hand. The Isles should attempt to keep with the speed lineup as much as possible.
To start: Lubo should be replaced by either Pulock or Donovan. Donovan hasn’t played that well when in this year, and Pulock has no NHL experience, but both are experienced puck handlers who could play Right D in at least a facsimile of Lubo. Pulock would even add to the power play that is hurt without Lubo and has so far proven toothless.
In addition, if Grabovski is concussion-symptom free, the team should insert him immediately (for Kennedy). This will increase the time the Isles have in the offensive zone and add a better shooter than Kennedy to the lineup to capitalize on this, and suddenly will make the third line lethal.
The Isles can get vengeance still: By winning. Turning away from what has actually won to get vengeance in Game 5 might only give the Caps the last laugh.