Looking back at the 'Almost Season' for the Washington Capitals

mikeknublerobbed.jpgAs you know, only one team can win a championship (with the occasional exception in college football, maybe?). Some absolutists will say that anything less is a failure, but really, there are only a few teams in each sport every year that should really kick themselves and wonder “what if?” as they look back. Some franchises get oh-so-close but never quite make it, like the Chris Drury/Danny Briere-fueled Buffalo Sabres teams during the first couple post-lockout seasons.

The window hasn’t closed on the Washington Capitals by any means, but losing in the first round after an incredible Presidents Trophy run left many of them shaking their heads in disbelief. Sirius XM Radio and NHL.com will premiere a new show called “Hockey Diaries: The Almost Season” that chronicles the disappointment felt by the Caps. The show will begin tonight between 7 and 9 pm ET.

Here is more from NHL.com.

Having chronicled their personal journeys through the eventful 2009-10 NHL season by recording their thoughts and observations, Washington Capitals Mike Knuble and Tyler Sloan will give fans a first-hand account of life in the NHL tonight with the premiere of “Hockey Diaries: The Almost Season,” presented by NHL Radio and broadcast on Sirius XM Radio and streamed on NHL.com .

Knuble will appear in person and in front of a live audience at Sirius XM’s Performance 1 Studio radio theater in Washington, D.C. Sloan will join via telephone as both players take questions from those in attendance and those calling in. Sirius XM will air the event live from 7-9 p.m. ET – the documentary for the first hour followed by the studio Q & A that will be hosted by Sirius XM’S Glenn Younes – on NHL Home Ice XM 204 and SIRIUS 208.

The show encourages NHL fans to call in with questions during the live special. The number to submit questions is 1-877-645-6696.

Sounds like it should be an interesting listen, whether you’re a Caps fan who may or may not need to heal those wounds or a fan of hockey in general.

I haven’t come across anything that indicates that this would be a continuing series, but if it’s successful, I’d love it if the series extended to other disappointed teams (maybe the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks?) as well as clubs from other eras of hockey. Either way it’s a great idea and hopefully the execution matches the concept.

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    Penguins stun Capitals with Game 1 comeback

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    With the Pittsburgh Penguins entering Game 1 of their second-round series without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin, it looked like a great opportunity for the Washington Capitals to jump on them early.

    Through 45 minutes it seemed like that was going to happen.

    Braden Holtby was stopping everything in net. Alex Ovechkin scored 25 seconds into the third period to give the Capitals a two-goal lead. They were in a great position to take the first game of the series.

    Then, for already the third time this postseason, the Capitals allowed a two-goal lead to turn into a loss when the Penguins scored three consecutive goals in four minutes to storm back for a 3-2 win.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    The Pittsburgh comeback started with a Patric Hornqvist deflection of a Justin Schultz shot to finally beat Holtby.

    Then the Sidney CrosbyJake Guentzel connection took over.

    Crosby tied the game just three minutes after Hornqvist’s goal when he one-timed a shot off the rush that beat Holtby through the five-hole, and then Guentzel gave the Penguins the lead when he was able to get his stick on a Crosby shot to beat Holtby. Both Crosby and Guentzel have seven goals on this postseason, while Guentzel has factored into eight of the Penguins’ past nine goals over the past two games. He has scored five of them. Overall this postseason he has 15 total points (seven goals, eight assists) in seven games. This after after leading the league in postseason goal-scoring a season ago.

    The Penguins have now won consecutive games without Malkin after taking Game 6 in Philadelphia on Sunday. That game also saw the Penguins erase a two-goal deficit thanks to four third period goals. Malkin traveled with the team to Washington, skated with the team on Thursday, and could be available for Game 2 on Sunday afternoon. The extra day off between games could be helpful for him.

    Meanwhile, Penguins goalie Matt Murray was tremendous when he needed to be on Thursday night and played a huge role in the comeback, even if it might get lost in the third period goal-scoring outburst. The two goals he gave up were on odd-man rushes following defensive breakdowns in front of him (including one just 17 seconds into the game when Evgeny Kuznetsov was able to walk in alone), but other than that he was nearly flawless the rest of the way, stopping 32 of the 34 shots he faced.

    Game 2 is Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

    ————

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    NHL reportedly asked Brad Marchand to stop licking opposing players

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    Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman regals readers with many great nuggets in his regular “31 Thoughts” column, but this bit on how the NHL reportedly responded to Brad Marchand‘s obnoxious kissing/licking of Leo Komarov from Game 1 (see the video above) might just take/taste the cake:

    22. After Game 1 of the Toronto/Boston series, the Bruins got a, “We’d prefer if you could tell Brad Marchand to stop licking people” phone call from the NHL.

    Seems fair enough?

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    That said, you wonder if the NHL might have sent the Boston Bruins pest a better message by, say, handing him a fine for unsportsmanlike conduct? The league could have attached a helpful message, such as: “There are better ways to tell Leo Komarov that you like his cologne.”

    (One can only imagine how harsh the discipline might have been if Sean Avery was the one committing this … infraction.)

    As a reminder, Marchand addressed his actions after that Game 1 win, not exactly apologizing for his actions:

    You could say that Marchand had the last laugh being that the Boston Bruins ended up winning the series in Game 7 thanks to last night’s 7-4 win. Then again, Komarov didn’t get to dress for that game, so it doesn’t seem totally fair.

    The bottom line is that Marchand revels in this sort of controversy, even as he’s gone from a good player with bad habits to an elite one who still makes questionable decisions.

    Even last night’s Game 7 was an example of the kind of competitor he is. While Kasperi Kapanen shook him off for a memorable shorthanded go-ahead goal, Marchand got the last laugh, celebrating after an empty-netter that sapped any remaining drama from the game.

    While Marchand surely gives the Bruins headaches with his antics and sometimes suspensions – don’t forget that there were years of rumors that his behavior might get him traded, at least before he jumped another level or two – he’s a huge part of a dominant line with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. For all we know, Marchand wouldn’t be the same player if he avoided some of the uglier stuff. Hockey is a violent, emotional sport, after all.

    Still, if you’re the Tampa Bay Lightning, you must be wondering: “Could we be the team to get the better of Marchand?” Few teams have the firepower to match that top line (not to mention a defender to make life tougher for them in Victor Hedman), so maybe the Bolts will find a way to push Marchand closer to becoming a net-positive?

    One thing’s for sure: the NHL will be keeping an eye on what Marchand does, so he better … watch his mouth.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Hall, MacKinnon, McDavid are 2018 Ted Lindsay Award finalists

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    Taylor Hall, Nathan MacKinnon, and Connor McDavid were named the three finalists for the 2017-18 Ted Lindsay Award.

    This award often stands as a fascinating alternative (or supplement) to the Hart Trophy, as this is essential the players’ choice. The NHLPA votes on who is “most outstanding player in the regular season,” while hockey media (The PHWA) determines the Hart based on wording (“player judged most valuable to his team”) that fuels many obnoxious debates.

    [NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

    The Case for Taylor Hall: Hall carried the Devils on his back this season, with the most obvious evidence being the gulf between his point total (93) and the second-best total on the team (Nico Hischier‘s 52). That might carry a bit more weight in Hart discussions, but it’s still very impressive.

    Hall didn’t just hit 30 goals for the first time in his career, he nearly hit 40 at 39. His 54 assists also mark a new career-high, and it’s not as though he didn’t light up scoreboards even when he was scapegoated in Edmonton.

    Hall brought his team up with him, certainly making life easier for Hischier during his rookie season.

    The Case for Nathan MacKinnon: Nathan MacKinnon was right there (1.31) with Connor McDavid (1.32) in putting up point-per-game numbers relative to this era of scoring, generating 97 points in just 74 games. He mixes McDavid’s per-game brilliance with Hall’s “carrying his team to a playoff spot” factor.

    The speedy center tied Brayden Point for the NHL’s most game-winning goals at 12.

    Avalanche coach Jared Bednar rightfully gets kudos for turning the Avs around, but MacKinnon is the guy who made it easier to say goodbye to Matt Duchene (and move on from a historically bad 2016-17 season).

    The Case for Connor McDavid: For the second straight season, McDavid broke 100 points, setting a new career-high with 108 (41 goals, 67 assists). Consider how he scored those points, too; while other 100+ point men Claude Giroux (103) and Nikita Kucherov (100) both scored 36 of their points on the power play, McDavid only generated 20 that way.

    McDavid instead was an even-strength maestro, and even threw in four shorthanded points on top of that.

    Much like Crosby and other star athletes adding wrinkles to their skill sets as time goes along, McDavid keeps getting better. That’s a frightening thing for the league, as he’s already the best.

    McDavid was last year’s winner, by the way.

    2018 NHL Award finalists
    Jack Adams Award
    Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award
    King Clancy Trophy
    Calder Trophy

    Bill Masterton Trophy
    Lady Byng Trophy
    Norris Trophy
    Selke Trophy
    Vezina Trophy

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    WATCH LIVE: Second round begins with Crosby vs. Ovechkin, Sharks vs. Golden Knights

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    Game 1: Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET
    NBCSN
    Call: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire
    Series preview
    Stream here

    Game 1: San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights, 10 p.m. ET
    NBCSN
    Call: John Forslund, Joe Micheletti
    Series preview
    Stream here

    More:
    NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second round schedule, TV info
    NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub
    PHT 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff Roundtable: Slowing the Sharks, X-factors