Crosby will make trip with Penguins on season opening road trip, but don’t get your hopes up

The good news is that Sidney Crosby is slated to join his team as they travel to Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary for the first three games of the 2011-12 season. The bad news is that it’s still extremely doubtful that he’ll play in any of the opening three games. That’s not really bad news—that’s more likely to fall under the “expected” news column.

Penguins head coach Dan Byslma told Alan Robinson of The Canadian Press that the team expects their captain to accompany the team to Vancouver to start the season.

“We’ll be starting with everybody going on the trip that’s part of our group that’s with us at that time. Unless their rehab needs to be at a facility that’s not part of the trip, they’ll be going on the trip with us. So I anticipate that to be the case for Sid.”

Even with the necessarily disclaimers, people are going to get excited that Crosby may appear during the first trip of the season. Don’t bet on it. Remember, the Pittsburgh captain has just started skating and still hasn’t been cleared for contact as of yet. The next step in the recovery process will be to show doctors and the training staff that he can go through multiple workouts without suffering any setbacks or feeling the side-effects from January’s concussion.

Crosby also admitted that even without the contact, he’s still understands that it’s going to take even more time before he gets back to the way he was feeling before the injury last season. He doesn’t sound like he expects to be at that point when the season opens next week:

“Everything seems to be coming slowly, but I think that each day all of that gets better and better. It’s tough. I’m kind of going based on December of last year and how I felt. I’m not going to get to that level this week.

“It’s just a matter of being realistic with how much you want to improve every day, but also paying attention to everything that’s important — so that transition is as smooth as possible.”

On the ice, the Penguins will depend on the players they still have on the roster to get the season started on the right foot. Evgeni Malkin is showing signs that he’s fully recovered from the season-ending knee injury he suffered last season. Behind Malkin, Jordan Staal would realistically be the #2 center on just about any team not named the Penguins. One of the big differences is that the depth on the team will suffer until Crosby makes a return and everyone can slide back into their normal roles.

Of course, the biggest difference is that they’re losing arguably the best player in the NHL. (Easy Caps fans, I said “arguably”)

Whether he plays sometime in October or has to continue to wait for the symptoms to subside, the good news is that Crosby hasn’t suffered any setbacks throughout training camp. In a recovery process that has seen its share of problems and uncertainty, no news is good news. Now, the only question is when he’ll be able to travel with the team and actually play with them as well.

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.