Oates on Washington’s penalty problems: ‘Can’t blame the refs’

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The Washington Capitals have a problem with penalties.

They’ve taken 76 minors this season and boast the league’s seventh-worst penalty kill, at 76.1 percent.

While those two figures don’t fully explain Washington’s woeful record — 5-10-1, dead last in the NHL — they do explain a good part of it.

Just ask head coach Adam Oates.

“How many times are we going to have this conversation? It’s on us,” Oates told the Washington Post after Thursday’s 3-2 loss to New Jersey, in which the Caps were whistled for six minors in the third period.

“We talked about it at the end of the second period. They were yelling at the end of one of the calls we got in the second period. We talked about being disciplined and playing, watching our sticks.

“One of them or two you might question, but we still had too many penalties.”

For a detailed breakdown on what’s exactly ailing the Caps — penalty-wise — here’s CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley:

Of the 76 minor penalties the Caps have taken this season, 12 have been for interference; 12 for tripping; 11 for holding; eight for shooting the puck over the glass; seven for hooking; six for roughing; five for high sticking; five for boarding; three for unsportsmanlike conduct; two for crosschecking; two for slashing; one for embellishment and one for concealing the puck.

“It could be [fatigue] at the end of a shift, it could be lost focus; it could be any number of things,” Oates said. “It could be a temper, it could be [bad] habits. …You’re not going to win giving the other team more power plays every night. You’re not.”

What’s odd is that, historically speaking, Washington hasn’t really ever had major issues with penalties. The Caps had the 10th-fewest minors called against them last year and the sixth-fewest total penalty minutes.

Oates said it’s a disturbing trend, but that the Caps have nobody to blame but themselves — especially not in last night’s third period.

“You can’t blame the refs for six [penalties],” he said. “You can’t. That’s on us.”

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.