Mikael Samuelsson and Alex Edler are among Canucks players hoping to get healthy for next season

There are a lot of drawbacks to coming painfully close to winning the Stanley Cup, but the lingering effects of the literal pain that comes with a deep playoff run might be one of the most underrated issues. The Vancouver Canucks were a banged up team late in the 2011 playoffs and the largely unchanged club will have to come back from injuries in what Ian MacIntyre points out is the shortest off-season in franchise history.

While the team might need to adjust to life without Ryan Kesler for training camp and perhaps the beginning of the regular season, other players hope to shake off their own ailments. MacIntyre caught up with Mikael Samuelsson, Marco Sturm and Alex Edler, the only veterans of eight Canucks skaters participating in an informal skating session as they try to shake off injuries. MacIntyre notes that almost double the number of veterans get things started early during most summers when there is a longer layoff.

Samuelsson saw his playoff run cut short once he was forced to undergo abdominal surgery, but he seemed optimistic about his recovery. Edler played through the pain of having two broken fingers and admitted that he’ll get them re-evaluated since they’re still causing him issues.

Canuck general manager Mike Gillis cautioned last week it would “take time” for players to get back to work.

But the late arrivals, short turnaround time and several injuries migrating from last season to this one – Edler, for example, said Monday two fingers broken in the final still haven’t fully healed and he will be re-evaluated next week – make you wonder if Stanley Cup hangovers afflict only the victorious.

Will the Canucks be behind other teams when the season starts?

“I don’t think so,” Samuelsson said. “Let’s see how we respond this year. Where I was before, guys, myself included, really wanted to get back on a winning note. I don’t think we can have less expectations this year. It’s not easy to go to the finals, but we know we’re one of seven or eight teams that is really good.

“When you feel you have a chance to do something and you have a good team, that’s when in my mind you’re eager. ‘We’re going to go to the finals again’ – that’s maybe not the right approach. You take one step at a time. Start off with a good training camp.”

The Canucks’ schedule might lend itself to some feelings of a hangover when it might just boil down to a tough start. Four of their first five games are on the road, although that’s followed by five of six in Vancouver. The toughest stretch of the early season comes in the beginning of November, though, as they play six consecutive road games against Western Conference opponents. Vancouver should be in good shape if they can be successful during that run and also survive a tracherous February schedule that starts with a four game road run and then finishes with six consecutive games away from Vancouver.

The good news is that the team hasn’t lost many players, but that also means that few players will be well-rested. There won’t be much of an injection of new blood, a problem that’s even more pronounced when you consider the injury history of newly added forward Sturm.

Then again, the Canucks have rolled with the punches from injuries and tough scheduling in recent years, so there’s reason to believe this season won’t be any different. That being said, it might be tough for this team to put together the kind of dominant regular season that they pulled off in 2010-11.

Vancouver should have bigger picture goals than producing another outstanding regular season anyway, though.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.