Inside the Eastern Conference Standings – November 25

Every now and then, we’ll take a look at each conference’s standings to see if there are any trends or quirks that explain why some teams are failing and others are overachieving. Obviously, these results will reveal bigger truths once we advance later into this season … but it’s still fun and interesting to take a peek at bigger picture numbers.

Check out last month’s edition of the Eastern Conference Standings here.

Which teams are the hottest and coldest? Which teams are road warriors and who depends too much on home cooking? Let’s take a look.

Washington might require the Presidents’ Trophy.

The Capitals are easily one of the most dangerous and talented teams in the NHL once again. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are their usual all-world selves, but the real highlight is that Alexander Semin is (gasp) playing some defense and generally acting like a guy who can make a lot of money this season.

That being said, much like Superman, the Capitals are a little too dependent on The Phone Booth. They are 10-1-1 at home and 5-5-1 on the road.

The road hearty Bruins

At home, Boston is the definition of mediocre: 4-4-2. Yet away from Beantown, the Bruins are bold: 8-2-0 so far. There’s a chowder joke somewhere here, but I’d rather not make it.

The almost equally road hearty Atlantic

The Philadelphia Flyers (6-2-2), Pittsburgh Penguins (8-3-1) and New York Rangers (7-4-0) are all above .500 on the road. So what’s the difference? While the Penguins and Rangers come in at-or-below .500 at home, the Flyers are a robust 9-4-0.

Why the Flyers might be the best in the East

The Caps and Flyers boast identical 15-6-2 records, but Philly’s goal differential (+28) grossly outclasses Washington’s (+11).

The Islanders are lonely

It might not be by much, the Devils have a lot more hope than the Isles right now. If you combine all the other Eastern teams’ losing streaks (nine in a row overall) they don’t match the 14 game drought in Long Island.

Florida must improve at losing

Look, it’s really sad that charity points exist, but that doesn’t mean that a team shouldn’t exploit them. The Panthers are 9-11-0, the only Eastern team without an overtime or shootout loss. Perhaps that explains why they’re the third worst team in the conference despite having a +2 goal differential.

(To be fair, they’ve only played 20 games so far.)

Tampa Bay cannot be ignored, Toronto might get worse

The Lightning played four more games on the road than at home, with only the Islanders suffering from the same negative disparity at this point. That difference might not be enough for them to catch up with the Capitals in the Southeast, but it will certainly help them stay ahead of the other division runner-ups.

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs might tumble even more going forward, having played 12 games in Toronto and only eight on the road.

Mild Devils rebound?

If one seemingly hopeless team can turn things around (aside from the short on games played Panthers), it might be the Devils. For them, a 4-5-1 run in 10 games is actually pretty solid. Small victories, right?

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

Getty
1 Comment

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

Getty
1 Comment

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

26 Comments

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).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

8 Comments

Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.