The Washington Capitals are going through such a profound defense-oriented transformation that people have developed the habit of calling them the “Trapitals.” As a person who enjoys splicing two words together to make puns, I approve of the nickname. (The method, however, makes one worry about the entertainment value of the playoffs. If the Capitals really decide to ditch their all-out attack for the same old shell, we might be in store for some real clutching-and-grabbing come April.)
Then again, you cannot go into a shell unless you have a goalie who’s up to the task. Michal Neuvirth once again refuted Dan Bylsma’s “shaky” claims from the HBO “24/7” series as he shut out the Penguins offense for the second game in a row. Of course, it could be that the Caps simply have their media-fed rival’s number, as Pittsburgh has only scored three goals in their four games against the Caps this season.
Washington 1, Pittsburgh 0
Neuvirth made 39 saves to earn that goose egg, while Alex Ovechkin unleashed an absolute howler to beat Marc-Andre Fleury for the game’s only tally. Fleury was pretty alert in making 23 stops, but had no chance against that Ovechkin shot.
This win places the Capitals one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Southeast Division crown, although the Bolts hold two more wins and two more games in hand. Washington finished a challenging five-game road trip 3-2.
It’s tough to question the Penguins’ hustle, but they better hope that the acquisition of James Neal helps spark their offense. They showed a lot of grit and hard work in this game, giving the Capitals a run for their money while pounding pucks at Neuvirth, but there has been a glaring lack of offense without their go-to centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. On the bright side, Pittsburgh remains in fourth place with 77 points, the second highest total in the East.
It’s refreshing that hockey fans have, for the most part, moved on from debating Tyler Bozak‘s merits.
The general feeling is that the Toronto Maple Leafs use him in appropriate ways these days, so we can simply enjoy his work as a pretty spiffy hockey player.
Speaking of spiffy, check out the sweet moves he made against the Minnesota Wild for the goal above. Feels like you could dub over a Chris Berman “whoop” or two in there, right?
(If you’re into that kind of thing.)
Here’s that gaudy move in isolation and in GIF form:
Even with two games in hand, some might be surprised to see the Washington Capitals tied with the Boston Bruins in standings points in early December.
That’s the case on Wednesday Night Rivalry, as a somewhat up-and-down Capitals team (which is glad to welcome T.J. Oshie back) hosts a Bruins squad that’s riding a three-game winning streak.
It should be an interesting matchup on NBCSN, which you can also watch online or via the NBC Sports App.
Click here for the livestream.
No one wants to hear “It could be worse” when injuries are really piling up, but … uh, it could be worse for the New York Rangers.
At least, it could have been worse for Rick Nash. The team announced that he’s only expected to miss about a week after undergoing an MRI related to a groin injury.
It’s been a redemptive season for Nash, so it’s nice to see that it isn’t getting totally derailed. Granted, injuries like these can linger even if a guy returns to the lineup, so we’ll need to see if he gets back to 100 percent.
The Rangers certainly aren’t at full-strength right now. Their laundry list of injured forwards is quite daunting, even for a team with vaunted depth at that position:
(It sounds like Pavel Buchnevich is still quite a ways from returning, sadly.)
Alain Vigneault sells the biggest benefit of these issues: opportunities for other players – including Oscar Lindberg – to step up.
“I just think this is part of the NHL and it is what it is. It’s there and you deal with it,” Vigneault said . “You get a lot of players at different times that wish that they can get more ice time to prove that they can have a bigger role and that they can do more. Well, no better time than the present for us right now.”
Thanks to two knee injuries, the Montreal Canadiens suddenly seem pretty slim at center.
The team announced two unfortunate and strangely similar timelines for important centers: both Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais are expected to miss six-to-eight weeks with their knee issues.
It will be a challenge for Michel Therrien to make everything work, to the point where you wonder if maybe he’ll move a player from the wing to center (hey, Max Pacioretty DOES want an elevated role, if you believe the rumors about discontent).
Tomas Plekanec becomes that much more important to the Canadiens, and one might assume that Andrew Shaw may go back to the middle. LNH.com’s Arpon Basu listed some options, in case you’re more of a visual learner:
Yeah, not ideal.
The road ahead
It isn’t all bad news when you look at Montreal’s overall situation.
For one thing, they gave themselves a nice cushion, as they currently lead the Atlantic Division by five points. With four games in a row and six of seven at home, they may be able to manage these tough losses pretty well in the short-term.
The real challenges might come late in December and early in January. They play seven road games in a row – though with a break around New Year’s – and nine of 10 away from Montreal from Dec. 23 – Jan. 12.
While they’ve suffered some minor bumps in the road so far, this is their truest test of 2016-17. It should be interesting to see how they handle this.