Blue Jackets’ schedule gives them the opportunity to finish strong

With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

Columbus Blue Jackets schedule analysis

Total mileage: 42,831 (15th most miles in NHL and second most in the Central Division)

Back-to-back games: 16

Toughest stretches

The schedule is not kind to the Blue Jackets in January. They have a tough five game stretch that starts on New Year’s Eve against the Capitals and continues into a four game road-trip against the Sharks, Kings, Ducks, and Blackhawks. Worse yet, the three games in California will be in four nights. As if that wasn’t enough, later in the month Columbus faces their longest road trip of the season. Between January 21 and February 3, the Jackets visit six playoff teams on their six game road trip: Detroit, Nashville, Tampa Bay, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. Again, the Jackets will be faced with three games in four nights during their California swing.

Easiest periods

Usually, a team’s easiest stretch during the season would be their longest homestand. But when you’re longest homestand is only five games and features the likes of the Predators, Bruins, Canucks, Kings and Lightning—well, that’s not an easy stretch for any team. There’s a four game homestand between January 13-19 that should give Columbus an opportunity to earn a few points at home (even though there’s an odd home back-to-back situation).

But the time to watch Columbus will be the end of the season. In the early part of March, they have a home-and-home with Phoenix, a home-and-home with the Blues, and dates against the Avalanche and Oilers. Then they finish the season with games against the Panthers, Blues, Coyotes, Avs, and Islanders.

Overall outlook

All in all, the Blue Jackets have an average schedule. Their total mileage for the season is average, it’s the middle of the pack for the Central Division. Their 16 back-t0-backs sound like a lot around the NHL, but only rank them third in the Central Division.

If the Jackets can keep their head above water for the first half of the season, they’ll be in a great position to streak towards a playoff spot at the end of the season. They’ll have plenty of winnable games in the last month of the season—so if they’re in the hunt, they’ll have a chance to make up ground against any of their competitors. Of course, the trick will be to stay in the hunt when they have a few tough stretches against tough teams.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

Getty
6 Comments

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

Getty
7 Comments

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.

Ovechkin vs. Crosby shifts into high gear, Carlson clobbers Malkin

Leave a comment

You have to love when sports deliver on – if not exceed – the hype.

The second period of Game 1 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals has been brilliant and nasty, possibly more than many hockey fans dreamed.

It began with the Penguins getting the big edge; Sidney Crosby scored two goals in the span of 52 seconds and Braden Holtby needed to make some tough stops to keep it at 2-0.

MORE: Video of Crosby’s hot start

That put a damper on the great crowd at the Verizon Center for a bit, but the Capitals ended up responding.

Part of that was a physical response, with Dmitry Orlov delivering a big hit on Tom Kuhnhackl and John Carlson absolutely leveling Evgeni Malkin. The narrative got almost too obvious moments later, as Alex Ovechkin fired a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 2-1.

Fleury made a tough stop or two of his own once it was 2-1, so while the pace is picking up, the two goalies seem like they’re alert to the challenge as well.

There was plenty of nastiness with 18.9 seconds remaining in the second, setting the stage for what could be a thrilling third period … and maybe more?

Buckle up.

Video: Crosby scores two goals in 52 seconds vs. Capitals

5 Comments

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins came roaring out of the gate to start the second period after a 0-0 opening frame against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

Crosby scored two goals in just 52 seconds to give the Penguins a sudden 2-0 lead. One feels some pity for any fans who didn’t get to their seats just to start the frame … though in the likely event that they are Capitals fans, they might have been spared.

To Braden Holtby‘s credit, he made a couple tough saves moments later to keep it 2-0. It’s been a hectic first few minutes of the second after that relatively mundane first 20 minutes, so hang on tight.

Check out video above; you can also watch the pair of goals in the GIF combo below: