Quick hits: Reviewing 'Hockey-tar', Pens' struggles

3d glasses.jpgHere are some assorted bits from around the NHL today.

  • Should the Penguins be worried about their poor play against the Eastern Conference elite? ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun brings up the question, pointing out that Pittsburgh is winless against the conference’s two best teams. They’re 0-6 against New Jersey and 0-1-2 against Washington. LeBrun went on to discuss the fact that despite complaints of excessive attention paid to Crosby and Ovechkin, the rivalry keeps living up to the hype.

All of which is why I’m pretty sure you’ll hear an official announcement from the NHL at some point soon that next season’s Winter Classic on Jan. 1 will feature these two teams. It’s a no-brainer. It’s the NHL’s best rivalry right now with the game’s two biggest stars.

No matter how many people fill the ESPN.com message boards complaining that Crosby and Ovechkin have reached the saturation point in their exposure, the reality is completely the opposite.

What I can tell you is the debut of hockey in 3D was a success. For starters, it actually worked. The image on the 32×18 foot screen at the MSG theatre was crisp. Everyone from David Lee of the Knicks to D’Brickashaw Ferguson of the Jets to Peter Criss of Kiss and Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad put on their geeky 3D glasses and didn’t want to take them off. Except for maybe when Sports Illustrated swimsuits models Jessica White, Irina Shayk and Dominique Piek walked to their seats.

The bottom line: if 3D TVs were more readily available, if I had the room in my house and if I had the cash, I would join the 3D movement.

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    It’s supposed to be pretty cold during tomorrow’s NHL 100 Classic in Ottawa

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    We’re just over 24 hours away from the “NHL 100 Classic” outdoor game between the Canadiens and Senators at TD Place in Ottawa. Don’t forget, you can watch that game online tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. ET via the NBC Sports app.

    If you’re considering watching the game at home, that’s probably a wise move considering it’s going to be freezing in Ottawa on Saturday night.

    According to the Weather Network, it’s supposed to be mainly clear. It’s also going to be 7 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’ll feel more like minus-4 because of the wind-chill factor.

    “There are going to be moments we wish we were inside,” Sens captain Erik Karlsson said, according to TSN’s Frank Seravalli.

    And Bobby Ryan is a little confused:

    “I can’t even pronounce the thing that goes over your head,” Ryan told TSN Radio’s Ian Mendes. “It’s sounds like a dessert — a balaclava or whatever.”

    As fun as this might be, it’s still a huge game between two Atlantic Division rivals. The Canadiens are two points behind Boston for third in the Atlantic and the Sens are five points behind Montreal.

    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.

    A deeper look into the Bruins’ 11-game losing streak against the Caps

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    There are some streaks in professional sports that simply don’t make sense. How some teams continue to dominate others year after year even though coaches and rosters change is kind of weird.

    One of those strange streaks was extended on Thursday night, as the Washington Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins for the 11th straight time. The last time the Bruins took down the Caps was in March of 2014. The B’s have made a coaching change, they’ve altered the roster, but they still can’t beat the Caps.

    As Washington’s Barry Trotz pointed out earlier this month, every squad seems to have a “unicorn team”. On Dec. 5, Trotz’s team beat the San Jose Sharks for the first time since 2009. Fine, the Capitals and Sharks might not play each other that often, but that’s still an eight-year losing streak.

    “Every team has a unicorn team, you do,” Trotz said at the time, per the team’s website. “I was talking to the Columbus broadcasters [on Saturday], and they said, ‘Do you know what your record is against Columbus?’ And I said, “I have no idea.’ They said, ‘It’s pretty good.’

    “For years, Nashville was [the Blue Jackets’] unicorn. They could never beat them. I think every team has that. The ones that come to mind for me with this club are San Jose and Dallas. We’ve been a unicorn for a few franchises, too. I just think everybody has one of those.”

    Trotz is right. The Capitals have definitely been Boston’s unicorn.

    The last time the Bruins took down the Capitals, Claude Julien was still their head coach, Jarome Iginla was the third-leading scorer on the team, and Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith, Loui Eriksson, Carl Soderberg and Andrej Meszaros were still on the roster.

    Also, Barack Obama was still the president of the United States, the hoverboard scooter wasn’t invented yet, Nico Hischier was just 15 years old, and Tom Brady was “only” a three-time Super Bowl Champion.

    “At some point you definitely want to get it over with and win those games,” Patrice Bergeron said after last night’s 5-3 loss, per NHL.com.  It’s not something necessarily that I was thinking before the game … we knew it was a challenge and we had to be good and be smart. A few breakdowns and a little lack of discipline [and they] made us pay is the bottom line.”

    Here’s the game-by-game breakdown of the 11-game losing streak:

    • Oct. 11, 2014: 4-0 loss at home (Alex Ovechkin scored twice, Braden Holtby had the shutout)

    • Mar. 15, 2015: 2-0 loss on the road (Nicklas Backstrom assisted on both goals, Holtby had the shutout)

    • Apr. 8, 2015: 3-0 loss on the road (Backstrom had two more assists, Holtby had the shutout)

    • Nov. 5, 2015: 4-1 loss on the road (John Carlson had a goal and an assist)

    • Jan. 5, 2016: 3-2 loss at home (Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and an assist)

    • Mar. 5, 2016: 2-1 OTL at home (Matt Niskanen scored the game-winning goal)

    • Dec. 7, 2016: 4-3 OTL on the road (Justin Williams scored twice, Backstrom netted the OT winner)

    • Feb. 1, 2017: 5-3 loss on the road (Backstrom had three points)

    • Apr. 8, 2017: 3-1 loss at home (Kevin Shattenkirk scored the game-winning goal)

    • Nov. 4, 2017: 3-2 loss at home (Tom Wilson had two goals)

    • Dec. 14, 2017: 5-3 loss at home (Alex Chiasson scored twice, Ovechkin had a goal (empty-netter and an assist)

    These two teams will play each other one more time (Dec. 28) this season. Will the Bruins be able to figure out how to beat their “unicorn” by then?

    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.

    PHT Morning Skate: What’s holding the Islanders back?

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

    • University of Alabama hockey player Jon Lovorn is dedicating this season to the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School. (SECCountry.com)

    • It’s time for the NHL to give all 31 teams an outdoor game next season. (Vice Sports)

    • Philly.com takes a look at Sean Couturier‘s “well-balanced” life and how it got him to the NHL. (Philly.com)

    • A strong end to 2017 could help the Predators land home ice advantage in the playoffs (Predlines)

    • If/when Seattle makes it to the NHL, there might be too many teams in the Pacific Division. How would realignment look? (Five for Howling)

    • One of the reasons the Oilers have struggled for so long is because of their inability to select solid players late in drafts. (OilersNation.com)

    • The only thing that appears to be holding the Islanders back is goaltending. (The Hockey News)

    • The Hershey Bears released their 2018 Outdoor Classic Jersey for their game against Lehigh Valley next month. (RussianMachineNeverBreaks.com)

    • The Rangers’ recent struggles prove that they need to be sellers before the trade deadline. (NY Post)

    • The Devils and Coyotes swapped minor-league forwards yesterday. New Jersey got Michael Latta while the Coyotes got Ryan Kujawinski. (NHL.com/Coyotes)

    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.

    The Buzzer: Saros, streaks, shutouts

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    Player of the Night: Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

    You can criticize the Edmonton Oilers for taking too many perimeter shots and/or having their defensemen fire the puck far too often, and you’d probably have a point.

    Still, on nights like these, you also have to acknowledge that the Oilers have also run into some tough luck and even tougher goalies. When it came to Thursday, Saros was that tough goalie, and he reminded the NHL that’s he capable of being more than “just a backup.”

    The Finnish goalie set a new Predators record by making 46 saves for a shutout, collecting the second goose egg of his blossoming career.

    The Predators (specifically Kyle Turris‘ new second line, which might need to be called a 1B line at this rate) are on a roll, beating Edmonton 4-0 to grab at least one point (7-1-2) in nine of their last 10 games.

    Highlights of the Night

    Nice play finished by Patrick Kane, as the Blackhawks cooled the Jets:

    Jakub Vrana‘s goal was pretty sweet, and a taste of the Capitals’ recent dominance of the Bruins.

    Josh Bailey‘s hat trick is worth watching here, even if it wasn’t enough to propel the Islanders to a win against the Blue Jackets.

    Scary moment

    Here’s hoping that Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Ryan Callahan are OK:

    The Lightning kept their hot streak going with a W over the Coyotes.

    Factoids

    Brayden Point gets the Lightning their … well, you probably know. Their points.

    The Wild are picking it up, and it’s not just the power of Bruce Boudreau. Probably.

    The Flyers are weird, and so is hockey.

    Scores

    Capitals 5, Bruins 3
    Flyers 2, Sabres 1
    Blue Jackets 6, Islanders 4
    Canadiens 2, Devils 1 (OT)
    Ducks 3, Blues 1
    Wild 2, Maple Leafs 0
    Blackhawks 5, Jets 1
    Avalanche 2, Panthers 1
    Sharks 3, Flames 2
    Predators 4, Oilers 0
    Lightning 4, Coyotes 1
    Golden Knights 2, Penguins 1