Northwest Division filled with injuries again

Man-game lost is one of those statistics people don’t really pay attention to—until, of course, it’s decimating their team. Chances are, if you’re a fan or follow the Northwest Division over the last couple of years, watching a team play without a full deck has become the norm. For some reason, this year is just a bad as last.

Last season, four of the top five teams in man-games lost resided in the Northwest Division. Edmonton (494 games lost), Colorado (340), and Minnesota (316) were the “unluckiest” teams in the entire NHL and this year isn’t shaping up much better.

“The Vancouver Canucks managed to reach 101 points in the standings, 10 more than anybody else in the league, despite 297 man games they’ve lost due to injuries.

The Minnesota Wild are up to 346.

Calgary sat at 293 going into last night’s game.

The Colorado Avalanche, who are dropping like a rock and will be here Saturday to engage (or not) in a battle to avoid the Western Conference basement with the Oilers, have more reason to be down there in terms of their M*A*S*H unit.

Colorado entered the week with 358 man-games lost to injury, the second-highest total in the league, behind the New York Islanders’ 487. The New Jersey Devils, at 352 man-games lost, were third.

Colorado is on pace to eclipse the all-time team record for man-games lost in a season — 417, with the 2003-04 edition.”

Things could be worse—but not much in the Northwest. For all of the issues on Long Island this year, people forget this could be a different team if they didn’t have to endure all of their injuries. Both Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo were hurt before the season started and Rick DiPietro did what Rick DiPietro does every year. Doug Weight was injured earlier in the year. It’s been so bad, Radek Martinek has been one of their dependable defensemen.

But no team in the Northwest has been able to hide from the injury bug. Taylor Hall, Ryan Whitney, Ales Hemsky, and Jordan Eberle have all missed enough time to make people notice. The Canucks have lost about 32 defensemen this year and the Avalanche haven’t had a player play in all 68 games. The Wild have lost their captain Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Guillaume Latendresse for extended periods of time. The Flames have lost the irreplaceable Raitis Ivanans since he was knocked out in the first game of the season and a plethora of other players for 10-15 games. It seems ironic that they’d employ the NHL’s current ironman in Jay Bouwmeester.

So if you’re a pending free agent and looking for a new home next year, keep this in mind: The Northwest may have some passionate fans—but it might be the same kind of curse as the cover of a Madden video game.

Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

“He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

“I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

“We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

“It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

“It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.