Could this six-game slump be a ‘good’ thing in the long run for the Washington Capitals?

Aside from a literal example in Alex Ovechkin’s scrum with Brandon Dubinsky, the Washington Capitals didn’t show much fight against the New York Rangers tonight. Madison Square Garden was the sight of the Capitals’ sixth consecutive loss by a staggering score of 7-0.

This is the first six-game losing streak for the Capitals since March 2007, according to Katie Carrera.

Upon their fifth straight defeat, Joe wondered if it was time for the Capitals to worry. On one hand, there are certainly some troubling signs. The typically torrid Washington offense has only produced eight goals in that six game skid while their now-shaky goalies allowed 22 (although the seven allowed tonight by Semyon Varlamov certainly makes that number a little worse). It’s expected that their penalty kill isn’t elite, but one power-play goal allowed per game (six power-play goals allowed in 24 penalty kills during the skid) is pretty troubling. More worrisome might be their normally high octane power play, which only produced three goals in 26 opportunities over those six games.

So, yes, there is some reason to be worried. But let me throw out a wildly different hypothesis: maybe such a slump is exactly what Washington needs?*

In the last few seasons, Ovechkin and the Capitals cruised through regular seasons as their chests grew increasingly puffy and their arrogance skyrocketed. While I think that they brought plenty of effort in that stunning series against the Montreal Canadiens, the bottom line is that a first round defeat was tremendously disappointing.

The thing is, the team didn’t need to face much soul searching or adversity in the 2009-10 season until they ran up against a brick wall in the form of Jaroslav Halak. I’m sure a Capitals fan will dig up some obscure flu bug that hit the team during winter months (or something), but the bottom line is that teams tend to develop true chemistry with their backs up against the wall.

So why not have your first “gut check” moments in December rather than in April, when the margin of error is close to zero? It’s not safe to say that every championship team hit a low point like the Capitals are experiencing, but there is some precedent to the concept of bonding through tough times. The 2008-09 Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t even look like they were going to make the playoffs until as late as February, for example.

Look, I’m not saying that every contending hockey team benefits from the “palate cleansing” experience that comes from a losing streak. But for a team that is becoming the “San Jose Sharks: East” (considering their red-hot regular season runs and playoff disappointments), they might benefit from learning how much they hate losing before they can win the games that truly matter.

* Or maybe they just need offensive defenseman/catalyst Mike Green to return? The hockey media’s go-to Caps scapegoat hasn’t played in a game since November 28th; the Capitals won exactly once since then.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: