Chicago and Washington: Rising to the top

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Chicago Blackhawks vs. Washington Capitals
12:30 p.m. EST – Sunday, March 14, 2010
Live on NBC

It’s just a normal, regular season game between two teams that meet
just once a year – but today’s game between the Chicago Blackhawks and
Washington Capitals is so much more than that. It’s a game between two
potential Stanley Cup finalists and two teams who have mirrored the
other in a rise to tops of each conference.

We always love to make the most of the storylines each game and
perhaps make them out to be a bit more than they really are. Yet today’s
game is such an interesting matchup that I can’t help but look ahead at
what these two teams could bring in what would be perhaps the most
exciting playoff series the NHL has even known. The skill on display by
each, the amount of goals scored due to goaltending ineptitude? It’d be
like an all-star game, but much more physical and the stakes are just a
bit higher.

From mediocrity to potential greatness.

The Blackhawks and Capitals have each risen from the ashes that lie
in the dredges of each conference to become the two most exciting teams
in the NHL. The San Jose Sharks lead the Western Conference,
technically, but their style is so methodical – and perhaps boring —
that the Blackhawks have certainly taking the lead in scariest team in
the West.

Just a few years ago both of these teams were either out of the
playoffs or just lucky to get there. For the Blackhawks it was much
worse; the team had just one postseason appearance in 10 seasons. Yet
when a team is that bad for that long, there are some positives that
come from all of the frustration: high picks in the draft.

It’s all about the draft, baby.

While Chicago’s rise has been a bit swifter than Washington’s, each
team boasts a nucleus of great players taken in the draft. Sure, not
every team with a number one draft pick becomes great just a few years
later – but it sure doesn’t hurt when trying to rebuild. The Capitals
and Blackhawks both built a team predicated on speed and skill, and they
drafted players that fit into that mold.

Of course, getting Alex Ovechkin in 2004 certainly helped speed up
the process for Washington but it’s still taken them a number of years
of building around him to get where they are now. Plus, the combination
of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane could be considered an ever greater
threat than the Great Ovechkin alone.

Who’s greater? Let’s find out.

Are the Capitals really as good as their record says they are? I know
they score a lot of goals, but they can’t be just heads and shoulders
above every other team like it seems they are on paper. And despite my
constant harping on Chicago’s goaltending situation, there’s no doubt
its defense is miles ahead of Washington’s.

Perhaps Washington’s bloated points lead is the result of playing in
perhaps the worst division in the NHL. Well, maybe not the worst – but
having just one team in the top eight in the conference doesn’t help the
argument. And while we all fawn over Chicago’s exciting style and their
great defense, our lamenting of the goaltending is perhaps a bit
overplayed.

So who is better? Which team’s offense can overcome the other’s the
most? These are the two most exciting teams in hockey to watch and
they’ll be taking on one another in a one-game playoff to determine
which team really has risen higher in such a short time. I know that
it’s just one game but these are two teams that are at the peak of their
skill level after years of re-tooling and rebuilding. They’ve been
raised side by side, their styles mirroring each other and now we get to
see them faceoff for the only time this season.

Hopefully it won’t be the last.

Join us for a live chat of today’s game at 11:30 a.m. EST, only on
Pro Hockey Talk!

WATCH LIVE: Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Louis Blues

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

 

PROJECTED LINES

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Vladislav NamestnikovSteven StamkosNikita Kucherov

Ondrej PalatBrayden PointTyler Johnson

Alex KillornYanni GourdeCory Conacher

Chris KunitzCedric PaquetteRyan Callahan

Defensemen

Victor HedmanJake Dotchin

Mikhail SergachevAnton Stralman

Slater KoekkoekDan Girardi

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

NHL On NBCSN: Lightning, Blues Square Off In Battle Of NHL’s Best

St. Louis Blues

Forwards

Vladimir SobotkaPaul StastnyVladimir Tarasenko

Alexander SteenBrayden SchennDmitrij Jaskin

Ivan Barbashev – Patrik BerglundMagnus Paajarvi

Scottie UpshallOskar SundqvistKyle Brodziak

Defense

Joel EdmundsonColton Parayko

Carl GunnarssonRobert Bortuzzo

Jordan Schmaltz – Vince Dunn

Starting Goalie: Jake Allen

Corey Perry ‘week-to-week’ with lower-body injury

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The Anaheim Ducks have started to get some of their injured bodies back lately, but they were dealt another significant blow on Tuesday, as they found out Corey Perry would be out ‘week-to-week’ with a lower-body injury.

He’ll be re-evaluated in a week, but he was working out at the Honda Center earlier today, according to beat reporter Eric Stephens.

Perry suffered the injury in the first period of Monday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Even though he isn’t as productive as he once was, the veteran is still a big part of team. He has six goals and 16 assists in 31 games this season.

Monday’s game marked the return of forwards Ryan Getlzaf and Jakob Silfverberg to Anaheim’s lineup, which probably had the Ducks feeling pretty good about themselves. Clearly, that didn’t last long.

It’s a tough blow for a team that’s already without Ryan Kesler (he hasn’t played at all this season), Nick Ritchie, Hampus Lindholm and Joseph Blandisi. On a positive note, it sounds like Kesler will be on the team’s upcoming six-game road trip that will see them travel to St. Louis, Washington, New Jersey, New York, Brooklyn and Pittsburgh.

The Ducks could certainly use some healthy bodies, as they’re in a fight for a playoff spot right now. They currently trail the Flames by one point (Calgary has a game in hand) for the final Wild Card spot in the West. They’re also two points behind the Sharks (San Jose has two games in hand) for third place in the Pacific Division.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

‘It’s just a formality’: Erik Karlsson talks about submitting 10-team no-trade list

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There has been plenty of speculation regarding the future of Erik Karlsson over the last few days.

On Tuesday, the speculation took an interesting twist as Karlsson spoke to the media for the first time since a report surfaced about him being asked to submit a 10-team no trade list to management.

“That’s one of the things that’s in my contract and it’s just a formality and it’s business. I don’t read too much into it,” said Karlsson, per the Ottawa Sun.

Karlsson might not read much into it, but the fact that the Senators have allowed this situation to get to this point is mind-boggling.

Sure, the Swedish blue liner might not want to take a discount to stay in Ottawa, but he’s arguably one of the top three players in the game. Are the Sens really willing to make a franchise-altering trade because the face of their organization isn’t willing to take a few million dollars less?

Of course, this might just be a negotiating tactic. Maybe they believe that the threat of trading him will scare him into taking less money, but that’s a pretty silly way of thinking. On the flip side, asking him to submit his no-trade list could theoretically turn him off, too.

“It varies from person-to-person and from personality-to-personality,” added Karlsson. “When you’re in the situation we’re in right now, I’ve been through it before, so I’ve seen multiple different scenarios. I’m probably better dealing with it than some of the other guys.”

 There’s no doubt that the Senators are struggling mightily right now. Although it’s still early, the Matt Duchene trade has been a complete flop. Not only is Duchene not producing, the Sens, as a team, have seemingly forgotten how to win.

Ottawa has dropped four games in a row, and since coming back from their sweep of the Avalanche in Stockholm, Sweden, they’ve won just one of their 12 last games.

They need to shake things up, but trying to rattle Karlsson’s cage is not the way to get it done.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Inconsistency only consistent thing about Canadiens

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The 2017-18 edition of the Montreal Canadiens has been underwhelming at best. The only thing that’s been consistent about them is their lack of consistency.

On some nights, they look like a team that should have no problem making the playoffs. Other times, they look like a squad that should be picking in the top five of next summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

Through 31 games, they own a 13-14-4 record, but how they got there is the most interesting part.

Let’s forget the fact that five of those wins have come against the Sabres (three times) and Red Wings (twice). Hey, in the NHL, a win is a win. But the Canadiens have rarely not been on some kind of positive or negative streak this season.

After opening the season with an overtime win in Buffalo, Montreal went on to lose seven games in a row. They ended that skid at home against Florida, followed that up with a loss to the Los Angeles Kings and then went on to win five of their next contests.

That hot run came to an end with a 3-0 loss at home to the Minnesota Wild. In fairness to the Canadiens, they didn’t have Carey Price, Shea Weber and Jonathan Drouin in that game. But after beating Buffalo in their next game, they went on to lose five in a row to Columbus, Arizona, Toronto (they were obliterated 6-0 in that one), Dallas, and Nashville before snapping the skid against (you guessed it) the Sabres.

The game against Buffalo was the night Carey Price returned to the lineup. Price’s return sparked the Canadiens and they went on to win their next four games over Columbus, Ottawa and they beat Detroit twice, including a 10-1 drubbing at the Bell Centre.

After the blowout win over the Wings, a lot of people thought they had turned the corner. Instead, they followed up the win over Detroit with home losses to St. Louis, Calgary and Edmonton. Saturday’s loss to the Oilers was beyond embarrassing, as they were totally dominated in front of their fans.

“Well, if I knew, I certainly would’ve done something about (the Canadiens’ streaky play),” head coach Claude Julien said after the loss to the Oilers. “It is frustrating. We had a good stretch there, but this week has been a tough week for us. At the end of the day, you have to be better than you were tonight.”

There’s a number of reasons for Montreal’s lack of consistency. They’ve dealt with injuries to key players like Drouin, Price, Weber, David Schlemko and Artturi Lehkonen, but every team goes through that.

Their goaltending was brutal early on, and that certainly didn’t help during their tough start to the year. Also, the fact that 5-on-5 scoring doesn’t come easy to them is another reason why they don’t produce with any regularity. They’re also lacking some mobility on defense, which isn’t exactly ideal for today’s NHL.

And, of course, the fact that their two streakiest scorers have been “off” more than they’ve been “on” has really hurt them. Both Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk haven’t scored nearly enough. Pacioretty has eight goals in 31 games, while Galchenyuk has seven goals in 31 contests. Both have scored 30-plus goals in recent reasons.

The one thing going for the Canadiens is that the third spot in the Atlantic Division is up for grabs. Yes, the Bruins currently have four games in hand on Montreal and a two-point lead in the standings, but those old rivals will be going head-to-head three times in just over a week during the month of January.

As ugly as the season has been at times, the Habs still in it.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.