NHL on NBC Game of the Week 2011 schedule

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This is it. This is what you’ve been waiting for all summer long, you’re first real warning signal that yes, hockey is back. Today the NHL released their national television schedule and part of that, of course, means sharing with you all what NBC will be covering this year.

This year, NBC is doing things a little differently and making it easier to build your schedule around. For the first time ever, the NHL Game of the Week on NBC will start at 12:30 pm ET and for the fourth year in a row, NBC will be making the use of “flex scheduling.”

This means that 13 days ahead of time, we’ll know just who will be playing in the NBC NHL Game of the Week. NBC’s coverage of the NHL will kick off on New Year’s Day with the 2011 Bridgestone Winter Classic from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh between the Capitals and the Penguins. But you knew that already. Which other games will be up for grabs? Buckle up because here we go.

Sun. Jan. 23

Philadelphia @ Chicago 12:30 PM

Florida @ New Jersey 12:30 PM

Buffalo @ N.Y Islanders 12:30 PM

Sun. Feb. 6

Pittsburgh @ Washington 12:30 PM

St Louis @ Tampa Bay 12:30 PM

Sun. Feb. 13

Boston @ Detroit 12:30 PM

Pittsburgh @ N.Y. Rangers 12:30 PM

Los Angeles @ Philadelphia 12:30 PM

Sun. Feb. 20

Washington @ Buffalo 12:30 PM

Pittsburgh @ Chicago 12:30 PM

Detroit @ Minnesota 12:30 PM

Philadelphia @ N.Y. Rangers 12:30 PM

Sun. Mar. 06

Philadelphia @ N.Y. Rangers 12:30 PM

Buffalo @ Minnesota 12:30 PM

Sun. Mar. 13

Chicago @ Washington 12:30 PM

Los Angeles @ Dallas 12:30 PM

Sun. Mar. 20

N.Y. Rangers @ Pittsburgh 12:30 PM

New Jersey @ Columbus 12:30 PM

Sun. Apr. 03

N.Y. Rangers @ Philadelphia 12:30 PM

Minnesota @ Detroit 12:30 PM

Tampa Bay @ Chicago 12:30 PM

Sun. Apr. 10

Detroit @ Chicago 12:30 PM

Boston @ New Jersey 12:30 PM

Dallas @ Minnesota 12:30 PM

Pittsburgh @ Atlanta 12:30 PM

One special day where things will be different coverage-wise will be February 20th, Hockey Day in America. On the 20th, NBC will be doing regional coverage of the games. This means, depending on where you live, you’ll get to see the game that most affects your area. With four games dropping the puck at 12:30 PM ET, Hockey Day in America is going to go off with a bang. We’ll have more details about NBC’s hand in Hockey Day in America when they’re released but holy cow what a day that’s going to be.

For those of you keeping track (and I know you will) the teams break down this way for the maximum number of times they could appear on NBC’s Game of the Week.

Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and N.Y. Rangers – 5 times

Detroit  and Minnesota – 4 times

Washington, Buffalo, and New Jersey – 3 times

Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles , and Tampa Bay – 2 times

Atlanta, Florida, N.Y. Islanders, Columbus, and St. Louis – 1 time

While not all of these teams will get the chance to appear on NBC, this makes for an incredible cross-section of teams across the United States. While everyone will have New Year’s Day circled on their calendar for the Winter Classic, February 20th becomes a must-see date for fans across the country as well.

PHT Morning Skate: David Letterman shows off awesome playoff beard at Caps-Pens game

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–We’ll start with highlights from Game 1 of the highly anticipated matchup between Washington and Pittsburgh, which the Penguins won 3-2. Sidney Crosby scored twice, while Alex Ovechkin found the back of the net once.

–It appears as though hockey fans in Montreal still aren’t thrilled about P.K. Subban being shipped to Nashville last summer. But what if they had kept Subban? Would they still be alive this postseason? Sportsnet’s Andrew Berkshire says we can’t know for sure, but there’s at least a chance the Canadiens would still be playing in they had Subban instead of Weber. (Sportsnet)

–Speaking of trades that happened last off-season, The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell writes that we shouldn’t be quick to appoint winners and losers of last year’s major trades (Subban to Nashville for Weber, Adam Larsson to Edmonton for Taylor Hall). Campbell writes: “We rush to judge. That’s what we do. Guilty, by the way. So when Adam Larsson has the night of his life in the Oilers Game 1 win over the Anaheim Ducks, the low-hanging fruit gets picked and Larsson becomes everything to the Oilers that Taylor Hall was not. It’s not terribly fair to the guys who were on the other side of the trade, but you pretty much sign up for that kind of scrutiny when you become a part of the NHL Millionaires Club.” (The Hockey News)

–Goalies like Jake Allen, Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist all turned in spectacular performances in the first round of this year’s playoffs. So Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog takes a deeper look at eight goalies that have stolen a playoff series. Vintage J.S. Giguere was fun to watch! (Yahoo)

–Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik is one of the few players that has been on both sides of the Caps-Pens rivalry, but how did it start? “It was Penguins-Flyers when I started. Then when Sid and Ovi came, that’s two of the marquee names. I think that rivalry was manufactured a little bit, especially when we weren’t even in the same division and didn’t play each other in the playoffs until ‘09. A lot of that, I think, was hyped up for TV ratings. But at the same time those guys always seemed to kick it up a notch when they played each other, so it was fun to be a part of. (Sports Illustrated)

–Political speechwriter Stephen Krupin wrote and agreed with many of Barack Obama’s speeches, but there was one he wrote that he just couldn’t get on board with. You see, Krupin is a big Washington Capitals fan, so when the Penguins came to the White House after their Stanley Cup triumph, he had to write a nice speech about his team’s biggest rival. “As with any good speech, the process began with research. I clenched my jaw and read recaps of the Penguins’ remarkable turnaround season. I grew nauseous as I dug through fawning profiles about enemies of the state such as Matt Murray and accomplices such as Phil Kessel.” (Washington Post)

–David Letterman was at last night’s game between the Capitals and Penguins, and he was sporting a pretty impressive playoff beard. See for yourself:

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).