Vancouver Canucks v Washington Capitals

Washington’s young goaltending thriving while offense struggles to find its way

It’s been talked almost to death how much the Capitals offense isn’t the same high-flying, run-and-gun brand of hockey that many of us grew up seeing in the 80s. After all, in past seasons we grew accustomed to seeing Alex Ovechkin score 50 or more goals in a season and figured that that trend could continue for years to come.

Fast forward to this year and with the Caps becoming a bit more focused on the defensive side of things, their offense is drawing attention to itself all over again. The difference being that it’s getting noticed for not being the prolific juggernaut it was in seasons passed. There is one part to their game that is decidedly better and yet it’s still not getting its proper amount of respect.

Goaltending.

Going into this season, the Caps and GM George McPhee steered clear of going after an experienced goaltender because they felt comfortable with who they had in place already. With Semyon Varlamov and up and coming fellow youngster Michal Neuvirth, fresh off back-to-back Calder Cup victories in the AHL, the Capitals management felt that investing precious cap space in a veteran goaltender was money poorly spent. Even in spite of injuries to both Neuvirth and Varlamov at different points this season, leading to the emergence of another youngster in Braden Holtby, their play is making Caps management look very smart.

We’ve seen Neuvirth and Varlamov essentially split duties this season. Neuvirth carried the Caps for the first two months of the season putting up a 15-6-4 record with a 2.55 goals against average and a .911 save percentage and earning one shutout. That win total still leads the team and his other numbers are solid for a NHL starter.

Where Neuvirth seems to get the offensive support, Varlamov is putting up the flashier numbers. He’s got a 9-7-4 record, which is decidedly unimpressive but it’s not totally his fault. Varlamov has team leading goals against numbers 2.13 and save percentage with .928 as well as two shutouts. Varlamov since getting healthy has been outstanding for the Caps and evidence that their dedication to defense is paying off. If the offense was a bit better for him in his starts, that record would look a little nicer.  Even Braden Holtby’s limited action this year has yielded solid results with Holtby going 4-2-2 with a 2.47 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

The Caps carousel of goaltending has done its job to this point in the season. They’re young (Neuvirth and Varlamov are 22 years-old, Holtby is 21) and they’re going to be prone to having the occasional bad game, but one area that Caps coach Bruce Boudreau seems to be handling well is how to juggle time and performances from his goalies.

It’s still a high-risk venture for the Caps to be counting on guys this young in goal to carry them deep into the playoffs and to win a Stanley Cup, but if last year’s playoffs showed us anything it’s that unknown goalies have as good of a chance to go deep as the franchise guys do. Look at the starting goalies that have been in the Stanley Cup finals the last few seasons:

2010: Michael Leighton, Antti Niemi

2009: Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Osgood

2008: Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Osgood

2007: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ray Emery

2006: Cam Ward, Dwayne Roloson/Ty Conklin/Jussi Markkanen

Out of that list Fleury, Giguere, and Ward are the only big names and at the time, Cam Ward was but a young guy still relatively unproven. Osgood was a famous name but in 2008 he was playing backup to Dominik Hasek before seizing the starting job during the playoffs in 2008. We’re not about to say the playoffs are a crap shoot, but the Capitals plan of letting youth be their guide isn’t one without past results to back them up.

For now, Varlamov and gang are making life easier on the Caps and if they can continue to do that in the playoffs it’ll be a load off the minds of everyone in Washington.

NHL to arbitrate co-owner’s case against Predators

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 11:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettmann attends Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bridgestone Arena on April 11, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A judge has ruled against a co-owner of the Nashville Predators in his bid to keep his lawsuit against the franchise in a Tennessee court and allowed the case to go back to the NHL for arbitration.

According to online court records, Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle issued her ruling Friday after hearing arguments July 20. But her ruling dismissing David Freeman’s request for a stay of arbitration had not been posted as of Friday afternoon. At least parts of the order likely will be sealed or redacted.

The Tennessean first reported the ruling.

The former Predators chairman and Commodore Trust sued Predators Holdings LLC and current team chairman Tom Cigarran on June 23 seeking $250 million in damages for his original 48 percent stake in the team being diluted.

Related: Predators’ messy legal battle may go to arbitration with NHL

‘Thank you, Mom’: Bobby Ryan pens emotional letter to his late mother

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 21:  Bobby Ryan #6 of the Ottawa Senators prepares for the game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 21, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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A week after announcing on Twitter that his mother passed away, Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan penned an emotional letter in the Players’ Tribune, thanking her for having such a profound influence on his life.

A story from Sportsnet in September of 2013 detailed how Ryan’s childhood completely changed after his father committed a horrendous act of domestic violence that would eventually land him in prison, but not before the family was uprooted from New Jersey to California, and their names changed.

Ryan’s father, Robert Stevenson, was charged with attempted murder for an attack on his wife and Ryan’s mother when Ryan was just 10 years old, according to the Ottawa Sun. Stevenson fled to California and the family eventually followed, before Stevenson was arrested again and incarcerated.

In the Players’ Tribune, Ryan revealed the sacrifices his mother made as the sole provider for the family after the imprisonment of his father, working 16 hours a day “so that I could realize my dreams of becoming a professional hockey player.”

From Bobby Ryan:

As I reflect on our time together, there’s something I really need to tell you — and for the world to hear me say it: Thank you, Mom. Thank you so much.

Thank you for putting your life on the back-burner for several years just so that I could be happy. I know you didn’t have anyone to lean on, but you understood how much I needed you, and so you gave me all of yourself.

Thank you for showing me what it means to be a professional, for showing me that no matter what obstacle you may be facing, the best approach is always to just put your head down and go to work.

Thank you for helping me get through the eighth and ninth grades when neither of us really knew what we were doing with the whole homeschool thing. I still can’t believe we pulled a 3.0 GPA.

Thank you for playing so many roles in my life. You were my only parent for so long, but when it was time you were still able to let me go so that I could learn about the world on my own. I know how difficult that was for you. One of the biggest reasons I am where I am today is because you put me in a position to succeed. And not only succeed, but succeed on my own.

Talbot thinks McDavid is ready to be Oilers’ captain

EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 6:  Connor McDavid #97 and goaltender Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrate their victory against the Vancouver Canucks on April 6, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The game is the final game the Oilers will play at Rexall Place before moving to Rogers Place next season. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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Connor McDavid was only healthy enough to play about half of his rookie season, yet he’s earning plenty of looks as the Edmonton Oilers’ next captain.

It sounds like he has his No. 1 goalie’s vote, as Cam Talbot sang his praises when asked by Sportsnet earlier this week.

I’ve been asked that a lot. I think he is. How ready is anyone, really, for the captaincy at any age? It’s a big jump up and a lot of responsibility, but if anyone’s able to do it, Connor can. He’s so grounded. He was raised really well, he’s got a good head on his shoulders, and he leads by example. He works hard on and off the ice. He’s the kind of guy guys are going to follow in the dressing room. I think if you put a leadership group around him and give him the C, he’ll grow into it and lead this team for sure.

At 19, McDavid would jockey with Gabriel Landeskog to become the youngest captain in NHL history.

It’s not that uncommon for teams to hand the “C” to relatively inexperienced guys when there’s an obvious fit, from Sidney Crosby to Jonathan Toews. McDavid’s already attracted attention to Edmonton – just ask Milan Lucic – so perhaps it would be silly to delay the inevitable?

(Giving him that title may also imply that change is in the air …)

Talbot didn’t just praise McDavid, mind you, as he also said that the Oilers are one defensive piece from really competing.

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In other positive Oilers news, head coach Todd McLellan seems very upbeat about Zack Kassian, according to the Edmonton Journal.

“I’m very impressed with Zack’s approach in life, in general,” McLellan said. “We’ve talked about the Oilers and hockey but from where Zack was, bottoming out (as a Montreal Canadiens’ winger) with his lifestyle (going into the NHL’s Substance Abuse program) and to see where he his with his commitment to conditioning and becoming healthy. That can rub off on other players.”

If all goes well, both McDavid and Kassian could be positive influences in the Oilers’ locker room, even if their roles would likely be wildly different.

Related: 

McDavid would be honored to serve as Oilers captain

McLellan says Edmonton will have a captain by opening night

Maple Leafs sign Marincin to two-year deal to avoid arbitration

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 21:  Martin Marincin #52 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on October 21, 2015 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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A scheduled arbitration hearing between the Toronto Maple Leafs and defenseman Martin Marincin won’t be necessary.

The two sides have settled on a two-year deal with an average annual value of $1.25 million, the Maple Leafs announced Friday. The arbitration hearing was scheduled for Aug. 2. This new deal represents the final restricted free agent signing left for Toronto, as per General Fanager, which also shows the Maple Leafs have about $55,916 in remaining projected cap space.

Marincin, 24, had one goal and seven points in 65 games for the Maple Leafs last season.

His new deal represents a raise from the $700,000 he made this past season on a one-year deal.

The Maple Leafs had also previously avoided arbitration with Frank Corrado and Peter Holland.

Toronto seemed pleased with the progress Marincin made this past season, in which he posted strong possession numbers in more than 900 minutes of ice time at five-on-five.

“He’s a thin guy so he’s got to work extra hard on his body,” Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock told the Globe and Mail during the season.

“He needs an NHL summer. One where you actually commit to being in the league [by putting] some meat on your bones. Then he’s in position to be a real good player in the league. But he’s really come. It’s good for him.”