Six points back of eighth place in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals are already long shots to make the playoffs.
With four tough road games up next on the schedule, the postseason dream could be all but shattered by the end of the week.
“It’s the biggest week for us,” captain Alex Ovechkin said Sunday after beating Buffalo, 5-3, at the Verizon Center. “We can end the season this week (or) we can continue to fight for the playoffs.”
Washington plays Tuesday in Pittsburgh against the red-hot Penguins, then has back-to-back games Thursday and Friday in Winnipeg, and finishes the trip Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the desperate Rangers.
The Caps haven’t been very good away from home this season, winning just four times in 13 games. If that trend doesn’t change, they’ll almost certainly miss the playoffs for the first since 2006-07. With that could come many changes, including possibly a new general manager. George McPhee has been in the position since June of 1997.
You know, with Connor McDavid hogging so much attention, it’s about time that Jack Eichel provided us with another awesome goal.
That tally came at the Colorado Avalanche’s (and especially Semyon Varlamov‘s) expense as that was the Buffalo Sabres first shot of the game.
Patrick Roy apparently felt like this just wasn’t Varlamov’s afternoon, as Colorado’s head coach decided to pull him after Varly allowed two goals on as many shots. Evander Kane nabbed the other goal for Buffalo.
You can watch the goal in the video above, which reminds us that “Eichel Tower” might not be a unique pun.
Another shot of it:
Check out Kane’s goal, too:
To be fair to Varlamov, Calvin Pickard has already allowed a goal as well. The Sabres are currently off to a 3-0 lead, and maybe a small roll considering how well they played against Montreal on Friday?
Both the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins are finding new ways to win these days, and while they might not be as obvious contenders as they once were, each team can still be dangerous.
Sunday’s NBC game proves enticing for plenty of reasons, yet the most obvious is that if the postseason began today, these two squads would face off in an intriguing first-round matchup.
The Bruins have taken the first two games between these teams in 2015-16, but they might be forced to face the Red Wings without crucial forward Patrice Bergeron, who may have been injured during an unlikely fight with Blake Wheeler.
Detroit features Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk as usual, although Dylan Larkin is a new, ultra-speedy forward who is worthy of plenty of attention in his own right.
While Jeff Blashill continues to establish himself following up Mike Babcock, Claude Julien recently hit a milestone with his 500th win and earned plaudits from CSNNE.com as one of the best coaches in the league.
(Speaking of milestones, Brad Richards is expected to play in his 1,100th game.)
Boston currently holds the second spot in the Atlantic with 66 points in 55 games played, but Detroit is right behind them with 65 in as many contests. With the Tampa Bay Lightning hovering nearby, each team likely recognizes this as an important game.
The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings prefer to lean on workhorse goalies Cory Schneider and Jonathan Quick respectively, but Sunday presents a change of pace.
In the Kings’ case, Jhonas Enroth is playing in part because of (what Los Angeles hopes is) a minor injury to Quick.
It’s true that the under-sized goalie sports a mediocre 4-4-1 record, but he’s given the Kings legitimate chances to win games considering his impressive (especially for a backup) save percentage of .925. Perhaps he can earn a few more reps if he plays well in what may be a tight game?
Speaking of earning more reps, Keith Kinkaid must continue to work to prove that he’s able to make the jump from AHL goalie to at least an NHL backup. The Kings aren’t likely to make it easy for him, either.
Avalanche at Sabres: Semyon Varlamov vs. Robin Lehner
Bruins at Red Wings: Possibly Tuukka Rask vs. Petr Mrazek
Blues at Lightning: Best guess – Brian Elliott vs. Ben Bishop
Flyers at Rangers: Steve Mason vs. (possibly) Henrik Lundqvist
Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.
Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.
(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)
Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …
It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.