Sunday on NBC: Streaking Penguins look to keep the Capitals down

3 Comments

This isn’t quite the Penguins-Capitals game we were expecting when the year began — when the two teams square off at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh (12:30 p.m. ET on NBC), it won’t be a battle between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

Instead, it’s about Evgeni Malkin carrying the Penguins on his shoulders against a Caps team looking to stay on top of the Southeast — and a rivalry that’s still heated, no matter what.

The Pens roll into this game on a five game winning streak, and a lot of that is thanks to Evgeni Malkin.

Malkin’s play this season without Crosby and Jordan Staal around is nothing short of amazing. Malkin has always been a superstar, but the work he’s putting in — jumping to the top of the NHL points leaderboard, making sure the Pens don’t lose their way while they’re swamped with injuries — is incredible.

Malkin having 24-goal-scorer James Neal riding shotgun with him on his line gives the Pens a nice one-two punch. With Kris Letang back in action after being out with a concussion, the Penguins have a bit more balance on defense and with Marc-Andre Fleury in goal, they’re never easy to beat. Coach Dan Bylsma has kept everything together in the face of injury disaster and, with guys slowing getting back to action, Pittsburgh’s shaping up to be a threat in the East.

For Washington, Ovechkin’s season hasn’t been nearly as mind-blowing. With how he compares to Malkin, you could argue that Ovechkin isn’t even the best Russian player in this game. Without Nicklas Backstrom to help set him up, Ovechkin will have to hope that his newest right wing, Troy Brouwer, can provide more of the snarl the Caps have lacked in the past to help them grind through games.

Getting improved play from their defense and goaltending would go a long way to helping the Caps. When Tomas Vokoun has been sharp, he’s looked outstanding. (Then there are other times when they’re losing to the Islanders and Hurricanes 3-0.) Without Mike Green (sports hernia) the Caps defense lacks both a real defensive stopper and an offensive weapon.

After going 4-4-0 in their last eight games, the Caps are still looking for consistency. The Pens would love nothing more than to continue their own streak and keep the Caps and coach Dale Hunter doubtful about how the team’s season will play out.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

Leave a comment

Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

1 Comment

The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

1 Comment

Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

Getty
1 Comment

It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.