Blue Jackets

The Big Question: Which team is the biggest disappointment?

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The Big Question will be a weekly feature on PHT where we ask a question, provide some background and ask you, the reader, to weigh in with your opinions.

Today’s question: Which NHL team is the biggest disappointment at this point in the season?

Three candidates to get things started:

Buffalo Sabres (16-15-3, 11th in the Eastern Conference) – Committed a ton of owner Terry Pegula’s money over the summer, acquiring Robyn Regehr from Calgary and adding free agents like Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino. So far the investment hasn’t paid off. Besides Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, it’s hard to find a Sabre that’s played particularly well. A lack of team toughness and inconsistent goaltending from Ryan Miller are two subjects that have been much talked about.

Washington Capitals (17-14-2, 10th in the East) – Started out with seven straight victories, went in the tank, saw their coach get fired, and now just seem to be treading water. Like the Sabres, the Caps made a number of moves in the offseason, adding gritty forwards Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer, veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik, and goalie Tomas Vokoun. Of course, much of the payroll remains tied up in Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin, two ultra-talented forwards that aren’t producing like they should. Making matter worse, the team’s top defenseman, Mike Green, has missed most of the season with injuries.

Columbus Blue Jackets (9-21-4, last place in the NHL) – Another team that jacked up payroll over the summer, the Jackets traded for sniper Jeff Carter and signed offensive defenseman James Wisniewski. The one area GM Scott Howson didn’t address was goaltending, deciding to roll the dice with Steve Mason. Unfortunately for Howson, the gamble was a poor one. It took nine games for Columbus to get its first win, and at that point the team’s confidence was already crushed. No group has suffered more heartbreaking losses than the Jackets in 2011-12. Their latest debacle came Thursday when they blew a 4-1 lead in Nashville, losing 6-5 on a Predators goal with nine seconds left in regulation.

Other “most disappointing team” candidates include Los Angeles, Anaheim, Tampa Bay and Montreal.

I’d have to go with the Blue Jackets, if only because there was so much optimism before the season started. Now their playoff hopes are all but over, and it’s not even January. That’s sad.

‘It’s embarrassing,’ says Gulutzan after lopsided loss to Oilers

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 21:  Head coach Glen Gulutzan of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on November 21, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Battle of Alberta was a tad lopsided Saturday.

The Edmonton Oilers scored early. They scored often. And despite holding a distinct advantage in shots on goal and puck possession, the rival Calgary Flames couldn’t get much going until the third period and by then the damage had been done.

The Oilers, tied in points with the San Jose Sharks, are one point back of the Anaheim Ducks for the Pacific Division lead after their 7-3 win over the Flames. Laurent Brossoit also collected his first career NHL victory.

This game wasn’t even six minutes old when Jordan Eberle scored to give Edmonton a three-goal lead. Chad Johnson was promptly pulled from the Calgary net, making one save on four shots faced.

The Flames were bad from the start. They didn’t get any better in the second period, falling behind five goals after 40 minutes and watching as the likes of Eberle and Connor McDavid piled on for a regular-season series sweep of Calgary.

Flames coach Glen Gulutzan had some strong words to describe the play of his team, which still holds down a wild card spot in the West.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said, per the Calgary Sun. “Our resolve to stick to it wasn’t there.”

“That’s a bunch of games in a row now where we’ve fallen behind and haven’t been able to get any push-back. And in our rink, it’s unacceptable,” added Mark Giordano.

The coach was utterly perplexed by his team’s breakdown on Edmonton’s third goal, which started off as a rush in the neutral zone and finished with Eberle, wide open down the right wing with a clear path to the net, beating Johnson on the shot.

“I don’t know what we were doing,” said Gulutzan. “I actually have no explanation for what our ‘D’ were doing on the third goal. It was a complete mistake.”

That should be concerning for the Flames.

They hold a playoff spot, but just barely with the Vancouver Canucks one point back and with two games in hand.

Talk about a Wild comeback for Minnesota

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The Minnesota Wild took back sole possession of the lead in the Central Division, thanks to a thrilling comeback win over the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

Minnesota trailed 3-1 early in the second period. Jason Zucker closed the deficit in the middle period, before they took the lead for good thanks to a frenzy of three goals from Erik Haula, Ryan Suter and Zucker in 1:59 late in regulation for a 5-3 victory.

“When we came in in between the second and third, knowing we were only down a goal, and knowing our history, we didn’t think we were out of it,” said coach Bruce Boudreau, per the Pioneer Press.

And so the Wild remain one of the hottest teams in the league, leading Chicago by two points.

While it’s a comeback for them, the Ducks don’t quite see it the same way.

“It’s not what they did, to be honest. We self-imploded. Gave up too many opportunities, left our goalie out to dry,” said Cam Fowler.

Additional bad news for the Ducks, however, was that goalie John Gibson left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury, and didn’t return.

 

Bust a move: Capitals win includes unlikely OT hero and dad’s dancing in Dallas

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The usual suspects contributed for the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Down a pair of goals entering the third period, Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie helped ignite the comeback on the power play.

But then an unlikely hero emerged.

Jay Beagle scored his 10th goal of the season and the overtime winner to give Washington a 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars. That aforementioned goal total matches his previous career high from two seasons ago.

He initially accomplished the feat over the course of 62 games. This time, he hits 10 goals in 46 games played.

Officials needed to review the play, although replays quickly showed the puck over the line from the Beagle shot in the slot.

The comeback win led to a memorable post-game celebration.

Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home.

The Capitals maintain their lead in the Metropolitan Division ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

This game versus the Stars included some feisty moments, particularly in the first period when tempers boiled over. Tom Wilson and Brett Ritchie dropped the gloves for a lengthy fight. Three seconds later, Daniel Winnik fought Antoine Roussel.

Ducks goalie Gibson leaves game versus Wild with upper-body injury

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Goaltender John Gibson #36 of the Anaheim Ducks in action during the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Anaheim goaltender John Gibson has left Saturday’s game against Minnesota with an upper-body injury.

A short-angle shot from Mikko Koivu appeared to hit Gibson in the upper chest with 5:39 to play in the first period. The goaltender immediately went down on one knee and was quickly attended to by a trainer. Gibson gingerly skated to the bench and went straight to the locker room.

Anaheim announced that Gibson is doubtful to return.

Gibson is 7-1-1 with two shutouts in his past nine starts. He was replaced by Jonathan Bernier.

Gibson stopped four of five shots he faced while making his fourth straight start.