Five Thoughts: Closure and hockey’s place in the biggest story of the year

Once the Lightning and Capitals wrapped things up after a Lightning victory in overtime in Washington, D.C. it was merely clearing the decks for the biggest news of the year and beyond as far as the rest of the real world is concerned as not too far from Verizon Center, President Barack Obama announced that United States military forces in Pakistan killed terrorist Osama Bin Laden.

With news like that, it’s tough to take a step away and talk about hockey because it’s a day for the families affected by the September 11, 2001 including those in the hockey world can finally have some closure. Closure because the monster behind the attacks on that fateful day is finally gone. We wish peace to those families and pray that this news can ease their grieving hearts nearly ten years later.

1. Garnet “Ace” Bailey and Mark Bavis are two of  those from the hockey world who were on Flight 175 out of Boston destined for Los Angeles but instead were one of the two flights crashed into the World Trade Center. Bailey and Bavis were working as a scouts for the Los Angeles Kings and the former Bruins Stanley Cup winner was much beloved by those who played or worked with him. May peace come to their families and may people also keep Bavis’ memory alive through the Mark Bavis Leadership Foundation.

2. One guy we’ll be curious to hear from is Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. Boudreau was ticketed to be on Flight 175 out of Boston that morning while he was working for the Kings organization. Boudreau spoke about in his book how coach Andy Murray changed his flight to leave on September 10th. It’s an incredible twist of fate for Boudreau and hearing what he’s got to say about this historic news will be worth the sound byte.

3. If nothing else, this kind of news has been the sort of thing that Twitter was made for. With many of the hockey media being in Washington, D.C. tonight for the Caps-Lightning playoff game seeing updates and stories from reporters and writers like Elliotte Friedman from CBC, Greg Wyshynski “Puck Daddy” from Yahoo! Sports, Stephen Whyno from The Washington Times, Craig Custance from The Sporting News, and Caps blog Russian Machine Never Breaks all on the scene to see what happens when history breaks in front of them helped to bring it all home for those of us not in D.C. or at Ground Zero in Manhattan. I can’t encourage you all more to check out the write-ups linked there from everyone. If you somehow managed to ignore this news in lieu of hockey coverage, they’ve all found ways to tie it all together beautifully on the scene.

4. Two teams we’re disappointed to see out of the playoffs now after this news has happened: The Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers. Pardon us for our American pride here but getting one more anthem from Jim Cornelison in United Center in Chicago and anyone singing the anthem at Madison Square Garden after having all this happen last night would be two incredible sights. Here’s to hoping we see a Game 5 in Washington and Caps owner Ted Leonsis pulls out all the stops to help honor America.

5. Make sure to thank anyone and everyone you know who went into the Armed Forces both American and Canadian. The events around the world, especially those follow 9/11, made their commitment to their countries that much more difficult and their sacrifices were not in vain.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.