Marian Gaborik tries to find chemistry, fight through tragedies

When you look at everything that has happened, it’s been a long year for New York Rangers winger Marian Gaborik. After leaving some to wonder if GM Glen Sather delivered a rare hit via free agency in 2009-10, Gaborik had a lousy 48-point campaign in 10-11.

If that wasn’t enough to make this an important summer for Gabby, he also found himself impacted by hockey’s tragic summer. Gaborik and the Rangers must attempt to put Derek Boogaard’s death behind them while the winger was so close to Pavol Demitra that Gaborik delivered a eulogy at the fallen player’s funeral on Thursday.

On top of all that, he must work hard in training camp and the preseason to foster chemistry with the Rangers’ next big free agent gamble Brad Richards. Gaborik admitted that moving on from those tragedies won’t be easy, but he believes that receiving Richards’ outstanding passes will simplify things on the ice.

“It’s been a crazy offseason,” said Gaborik, who eulogized Demitra at his funeral Thursday in Slovakia. “To see Boogie go, Pavol and a couple of other guys were lost as well — this summer has been tough, but you have to move on. Obviously I’m never going to forget these guys. I’m always going to have them in my heart, but I have to move on.”

(snip)

“We skated maybe two or three times together, but you can see how [Richards] handles himself on the ice,” said Gaborik, who struggled last season with injuries and inconsistent play leading to only a 48-point season. “He’s a natural playmaker. The plays he makes, they’re just great. You know you’re going to get it on your tape. I think we’re going to get used to each other pretty quickly.”

As long as they’re both healthy,* it’s easy to imagine the two players complimenting each others’ games. The question is: who will be their common running mate at left wing? The team has plenty of options (though maybe few great ones) from a more physical player like Brandon Dubinsky to another scorer such as Wojtek Wolski. It’s likely that cast of left wingers might change considering head coach John Tortorella’s line changing tendencies.

“I know that’s going to be a hot topic along the way here, but I’m going to try different people there,” said Tortorella, who is notorious for changing up his lines often. “Is it another talented player where they just keep the puck? Is it a player that needs to go get the puck sometimes? That’s something we have to figure out along the way here and see what meshes. We’ll see how it goes.”

Personally, I think it’s ideal to keep a fair share of one-two punches together for long stretches of seasons. The salary cap era isn’t very friendly to keeping entire trios together for extended amounts of time, but two forwards getting familiar with each other seems sensible. Tortorella might be best served keeping Dubinsky with his partner in crime Ryan Callahan while pairing up Richards and Gaborik as much as possible. Maybe a Dubinsky-Richards-Gaborik line would have the highest ceiling, but there’s something to be said for having balance in your top two lines (and in general).

On paper, Richards-Gaborik could be one of the league’s deadliest combinations. Considering the amount of green paper the Rangers are spending on those two, things might get a little ugly if they can’t find chemistry.

* – Richards fought through concussion problems last season while Gaborik is one of the most injury-prone star caliber players in the NHL.

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.