Alex Ovechkin

Ovechkin, Capitals steal a strange one in shootout


If hockey was a sport based on merit alone – and thus devoid of bounces and luck – you’d have to think that the Boston Bruins would have creamed the Washington Capitals tonight. In a way, though, the teams’ strange game matched the flow of an old school professional wrestling match with Washington eventually gaining the 3-2 shootout win.

Caps hook the tights

Consider the Capitals in the role of the “heel” or villain – and not just because of a questionable hit by Jason Chimera on Adam McQuaid. They essentially snoozed through the first 40 minutes, managing just nine shots in that time yet keeping the score 0-0. Then one could say that Alex Ovechkin did his best Ric Flair impression, “hooking the tights” with two opportunistic assists to give him 14 points (10 goals, four helpers) in his last 12 games.

(Hey, you can say what you will about Ovechkin’s overall disappointments and the team’s tough season, but what about his work during the stretch run? It’s getting harder to say he isn’t “clutch” considering that he’s seemingly only being productive in clutch times in 2011-12.)

Naturally fitting in with the theme of the Capitals’ up-and-down season, the Bruins scored two quick goals to make it 2-2. Consider that turnaround the hockey equivalent to Hulk Hogan “hulking up” at what seemed like the brink of defeat.

Eventually Brooks Laich was the one who scored the “pin” by beating Tim Thomas with a beautiful backhand shootout move, but it was a wild one before that.

East bubble update

Regardless, the Capitals generated those crucial two points, although they technically remain in ninth place:

7. Ottawa: 88 points, 34 regulation/OT wins with five games left
8. Buffalo: 86 points, 31 regulation/OT wins with five games left

9. Washington: 86 points, 36 regulation/OT wins with four games left

The Capitals currently hold the tiebreaker advantage over Buffalo, which means the Sabres will likely need to finish with at least one more point to take the final spot (assuming that the Senators don’t stumble out themselves). It’s not an impossible request, but as we’ve discussed before, Washington is going to need some help to get in the playoffs. Especially since it appears that Tomas Vokoun aggravated his groin injury on just his first game back Thursday.

Luck was certainly on their side for most of Thursday night, though.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
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Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.