Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins

Matt Bradley assesses Washington Capitals, says former teammate Alexander Semin ‘just doesn’t care’

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There are a lot of players in the NHL who become lightning rods of criticism, whether it’s fair or not. Washington Capitals sniper Alexander Semin might just be the poster child for the “enigmatic, super-talented Russian winger” now that Alexei Kovalev is sequestered in the KHL.

There aren’t many people in the hockey world who hold Semin’s attitude in high regard, even if almost everyone makes sure to throw in the caveat that he possesses world-class skills. (It’s the hockey equivalent to “having said that …” in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”)

The latest person to throw Semin under the bus is Matt Bradley, a particularly relevant commenter since the two forwards were in the same Capitals locker room for six seasons. Lindsay Applebaum of Capitals insider transcribed a startlingly honest interview Bradley (now a member of the Florida Panthers) conducted with Ottawa radio station Team 1200. The 33-year-old forward spoke his mind regarding his former team in a way that his flat-out unusual for NHL players who usually seem like graduates from the University of Cliches.

First, let’s get to the juiciest bits in which he singles out Semin.

Asked to describe the discipline problems without naming names:

“I don’t mind saying Alexander Semin’s name, because he’s one guy who has so much talent, he could easily be the best player in the league, and just for whatever reason, just doesn’t care.

“When you’ve got a guy like that, you need him to be your best player, or one of your best players, and when he doesn’t show up, you almost get the sense that he wants to be back in Russia. That’s tough to win when you’ve got a guy like that who’s supposed to be your best player not being your best player, or one of your best players.”

Ouch. It’s one thing to hear an armchair NHL head coach say those types of things about Semin at a bar, but it’s stunning to realize that such a sentiment is shared by a teammate (especially a long-time one such as Bradley). It’s not as if Bradley was ripping apart all of his former colleagues, either; he was mostly positive about Alex Ovechkin.

“I never worry about Ovi. He’s an all-in guy. He’s young, he makes his mistakes, the same as anyone would. I often try to put myself in his position. And you’ve got to remember, he’s 25 years old, he’s got a guaranteed $120 million, he’s on top of the world, and he still for the most part makes the right decisions. I don’t worry about him, I don’t worry about most of the guys on that team. That’s why I think in the end they’ll do well.

“Ovi has some growing up to do as far as taking care of himself and things like that, but as far as his want to win, he really does just want to win the games, and he doesn’t care if he scores or not. That isn’t an act. He’s a great guy, great player. I’d never say anything bad about him.”

Bradley was outspoken on a range of subjects. He shared his big picture praise of Bruce Boudreau, but also stated that the personable coach relied on his big money players even when they weren’t producing (another dig at Semin, maybe?). That was also the common theme of his discussion of the Capitals’ second round sweep to the Tampa Bay Lightning, saying “our locker room was maybe a little bit too nonchalant, and guys weren’t disciplined the way they should have been.” (One interesting note is that I didn’t come across any direct criticisms of Mike Green, which seems like an uncommon occurrence.)

As fun as it is to linger on the Semin comments, it’s important to note that Bradley also voiced the sort of critiques that have been levied at the franchise before. Are the Capitals really nonchalant during the playoffs? Does Boudreau lean too heavily on star players, even if they might be underachieving? In the grand scheme of things, those are more important questions to answer than the idea that a millionaire doesn’t care about the sport that allows him to make millions.

Much like Japers’ Rink, I agree with some of the criticisms regarding Semin’s game but think that some of the character issues are a bit overblown. Do you think that Bradley’s criticisms of Semin – and the Capitals in general – are fair? Let us know in the comments.

Sharks scratch Flames’ big lead, Calgary wins anyway

Calgary Flames' Mikael Backlund (11) chases down the puck against San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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If you turned off Thursday’s Calgary Flames – San Jose Sharks game early, you’ll probably be stunned to see that Calgary won 6-5 via a shootout.

For instance:

  • A Sharks fan may have bitterly called it a night when Calgary went up 4-1.
  • Conversely, a Flames devotee might have retired after San Jose took a 5-4 lead, possibly with a broken remote.

The Flames only trailed for about two minutes before scoring the last “real” goal of the game, eventually taking their third straight win thanks to a shootout triumph.

It’s been a strange ride for Calgary, with its most recent win happening after Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were punished with a healthy scratch. As strange as this game was, the “charity point” can leave both teams looking through a lot of film, yet with something gained as well.

Ultimately, the message may very well be: don’t sleep on these teams.

(In less positive news, Karri Ramo is injured, and it doesn’t look good.

Jonas Hiller closing out the game on a hot streak could be pretty important if Ramo’s out for some time.)

By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick helps him make more history

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

(He also passed Jean Beliveau for 39th all-time in goals with his 509th, as NHL.com notes.)

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Update: Minnesota managed three goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington got the edge 4-3.