New Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller had a lengthy discussion with Canes captain Eric Staal prior to tonight’s game against Florida.
What words of wisdom did the new bench boss offer?
“I just said to him, ‘I don’t need you to be Superman,'” Muller told The News & Observer. “I told him, ‘I just want you to go out here tonight and be my hardest-working player. Just play hard, have fun, enjoy the game.’
“If he’s a better player, and 19 other guys out there are better tonight than they were yesterday, then we’re a better team. He doesn’t have to take the burden of having to do everything. … All he has to do is go out and lead by example. Play hard, do the little things, great body language and have fun and just be the player that he is.”
Getting Staal out of his season-long funk is at the top of Muller’s to do list. Not many teams rely on or have more invested in a player than Carolina does with Staal — he’s the team captain, the holder of most franchise scoring records (since the move to Carolina, that is) and the highest-paid player by a longshot — Staal makes almost $2 million more than the next highest-paid ‘Cane, Cam Ward.
This could explain why Muller’s taking the “you don’t need to be Superman” approach. Words like ‘burden’ and ‘accountability’ have been synonymous with Staal’s struggles this season, so lightening the mental weight could be the first step in reclaiming his game.
One final thing to consider regarding Staal’s struggles: At last year’s trade deadline, ‘Canes GM Jim Rutherford acquired Cory Stillman from Florida and reunited the Staal-Stillman-Erik Cole line. The trio was stellar down the stretch and a driving force behind Carolina’s playoff push, but Rutherford failed to bring back Cole (who signed in Montreal) and Stillman (who retired after failing to reach a deal with the ‘Canes.)
Considering Rutherford then spent $14.25 million on Tomas Kaberle and Alexei Ponikarovsky, people are now wondering if he shouldn’t have done more to retain Staal’s running mates.
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).
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.
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).
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.