Is the NHL's concussion protocol failing the players it's supposed to protect?

Preview: Capitals at Penguins

Save for a couple of tight saves in the middle of Game 5 that kept the Capitals within striking distance, Holtby has rarely been tested.

Game 7 will be Wednesday night in Washington, where Crosby, perhaps the best player in the world, is expected to take the ice.

"At the end of the day they're a different team", said Adam Oates, who coached the Capitals' 5-0 Game 7 loss in 2012. The affable 24-year-old Kuznetsov often is one to make outlandish statements, too, but played it close to the vest with reporters when he shared the team's mindset. They held the Penguins without a shot on goal for 12:17, and Washington's time in the offensive zone helped draw two penalties by Pittsburgh. Nicklas Backstrom tied the game just 2:49 into the period. "We've got to execute to handle that pressure".

Come Tuesday morning, Crosby would be on the ice for practice, so it's safe to assume that he did not fail any type of concussion-testing that may or may not have happened, but given the murky waters of this situation thus far and how confusing the process has been, how can we even guess what's actually going on here? The Penguins also would win at Detroit in seven games to clinch the Stanley Cup. A swap in the lineup with Alex Ovechkin has done him well and has made the Caps that much deeper.

T.J. Oshie opened the scoring in the first period before Burakovsky grabbed his first of the night in the second period to give the Caps a deserved 2-0 lead at Pittsburgh's PPG Paints Arena. "Early in the series a few breakdowns hurt us and they capitalized on them". So he can't do that this whole series. They're not going to just go away. "I'm still positive we're going to be able to pull it out, but (it's) tough (to play) 5-on-5 with the goalie pulled".

Anyway, the teams were so good that it didn't seem to matter where they were playing.

"Since Game 3, we've had a calmness about what we're doing".

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All series the Capitals have been aiming to play better in front of Holtby, who had his best game of the series Saturday in stopping 20 of 22 shots.

Now the question is simply whether the Capitals can carry momentum into Wednesday's Game 7 back home at the Verizon Center. "We're having fun now".

For a player with Sidney Crosby's concussion history, it raised some eyebrows when Crosby went headfirst into the boards in the first period Monday against the Capitals, and returned afterwards. He lamented some struggles for his line, but expressed no concerns about his health. "I think it just knocked the wind out of me but felt fine". "There were some chances there".

I bring this up because I remember thinking at the time that only New Jersey fans could still think their team had a chance at winning the Stanley Cup.

A year ago, Washington trailed Pittsburgh 3-1 in the second round, won Game 5 at home only to fall in overtime of Game 6. However in the National Hockey League playoffs, game 7's are usually wild affairs where anything can happen.

Pittsburgh went to Tampa Bay in last year's Eastern Conference final behind 3-2 in the series. The Predators will face either the Anaheim Ducks or Edmonton Oilers for the right to come out of the West.

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