NHL on NBCSN: Hawks, Preds have very different agendas

NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Nashville Predators at the United Center at 8:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

No matter what happens, the Chicago Blackhawks will enter the postseason with the first seed in the Western Conference, but they still have one thing left to fight for before the playoffs start: the Presidents’ Trophy.

“We still want to keep moving forward, whether we’re looking at Pittsburgh or still looking at how we play,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago.

Chicago has a four-point cushion on the Pittsburgh Penguins with a game in hand, so you’d think that the Blackhawks already have the Presidents’ Trophy all-but locked up. However, Pittsburgh has won 20 of their last 22 games and has shown no signs of letting up, so a mediocre finish from the Blackhawks could cost them their final regular season goal.

They’ll face a Predators team that has lost seven consecutive games and doesn’t have a ton left to play for as a squad. At the same time, there are young players with Nashville that have something to prove and likely see a tough team like Chicago as an ideal opponent to showcase their skills.

One example of that is 18-year-old forward Filip Forsberg. There was plenty of hype surrounding him when he made his NHL debut on Sunday and he’s going into this game looking for his first NHL point.

“He’s got really good hands and a heavy shot,” Predators coach Barry Trotz recently told The Tennessean. “I love the fact he loves to shoot the puck, and I think he has really good instincts when he has the puck. Just like every young player, he has to learn to play without the puck a little bit.”

We’ll see if Forsberg and the other players competing for jobs next season can give the surging Blackhawks trouble tonight.

Probable goaltenders: CHI – Corey Crawford (17-4-4, 1.92 GAA, .926 SV%) | NSH – Pekka Rinne (14-16-7, 2.35 GAA, .914 SV%)

Top scorers: CHI – Patrick Kane (20-27-47, 42 GP) | NSH – David Legwand (11-12-23, 44 GP) and Shea Weber (8-15-23, 44 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Chicago – Forwards: Patrick Sharp (shoulder – questionable) Goaltenders: Ray Emery (leg)
Nashville – Forwards: Patric Hornqvist (upper body), Brandon Yip (lower body), Paul Gaustad (shoulder), Mike Fisher (hand), Gabriel Bourque (upper body), Colin Wilson (shoulder) Defensemen: Kevin Klein (undisclosed)

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.