NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Washington Capitals host the New York Rangers at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
It’s safe to assume the New York Rangers didn’t envision the start of the season like this. Through their first five games, all on the road, they have just one win (1-4-0). In those losses they’ve allowed an average of six goals per game including a 9-2 loss to San Jose that saw rookie Tomas Hertl score four times.
For new head coach Alain Vigneault, it’s been a rough introduction to life as the Rangers’ boss. More importantly, it’s been a disturbing start for star goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist sporting a goals-against average over 4.00 and a save percentage under .900 will give anyone’s head a shake and worse still, they’ll be hurting for offense with Rick Nash out with a concussion. That sets up for a potential rough night against a Capitals team that has reigning MVP Alex Ovechkin leading the way.
Ovechkin’s start to the season has been strong having scored six goals with nine points through the team’s first six games. Centers Nicklas Backstrom (8) and Mikhail Grabovski (6) have been right there with Ovechkin on the point production as well.
Goaltending hasn’t been Washington’s strong point to start the season either, but they’ve had better production with 17 goals compared to New York’s 10. If nothing else, that puts the onus more on Lundqvist to play strong tonight to save his team from yet another road loss. With Brad Richards and Derek Stepan providing the only consistent offensive punch, King Henrik will need to seize the throne.
These two teams have met in the postseason in four of the past five seasons. They should have each other’s strengths and weaknesses down pat.
Update (12:20 p.m. ET)
Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto is out with the flu. John Moore will reportedly take Del Zotto’s spot on the power play.
Brayden Schenn had a big game in Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.
He scored a goal and had two assists in the defeat, but he also dropped the gloves with rookie Jakob Chychrun.
As you can tell by the video at the top of the page, Chychrun went after Schenn because the Flyers forward flattened Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone (Chychrun got two additional minutes for instigating and a 10-minute misconduct).
The fight occurred just as Martin Hanzal scored to the go-ahead goal in the game.
The officials reviewed it to see if it would stand or not (ultimately it did).
The momentum swung Arizona’s way after that, as they scored 1:39 later to extend their lead to 4-2.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
–How do you decide who gets to be the last player off the ice after warmups? Play rock, paper, scissors of course! (Top)
—Connor McDavid has the city of Edmonton buzzing again. (The New York Times)
–The fight against Alzheimer’s means a lot to Leafs president Brendan Shanahan. (Sports Illustrated)
–Justin Bieber played hockey with a pro team in the UK and pulled off a serious celebration. (BarDown)
–Would Wayne Gretzky have set all those records if he was playing in today’s NHL? Mike Brophy weighs in. (CBC.ca)
–Six forgotten players that are off to fast starts in 2016-17. (USA Today)
How would you describe the Nashville Predators’ Stanley Cup bandwagon at the moment? A few flat tires? One of those abandoned school buses at a dump?
An unlikely occurrence – Peter Budaj winning four straight games for the Los Angeles Kings, all in overtime, all seriously in 2016 – puts a spotlight on an unsightly start for Nashville following a 3-2 OT decision.
In other words, it was another night where the Predators (early or not) didn’t look the part of Stanley Cup contenders.
Pekka Rinne has often been the scapegoat for Nashville’s losses, and his recent numbers justify some of the criticisms. Thursday doesn’t fall into that pattern, however. Instead, the Predators wasted a strong performance from their $7 million man, who stopped 42 out of 45 shots.
Budaj? He only needed to make 24 out of 26 stops to keep his unexpected winning streak going.
For the Kings and Predators, very different patterns continued on Thursday night.
Los Angeles has people wondering “How long can they win with Budaj?” and “Is there a team that can finally hog the puck against the Kings enough to expose him?” Don’t blame Kings fans who never want this strange sequence to end.
Nashville devotees, on the other hand, must wonder if they’re stuck in some sort of sick nightmare.
They’ve been a chic pick to win it all, yet they’re now at 2-4-1 with three away contests remaining on a challenging five-game road trip.
It’s early, but the headaches just keep multiplying for the Preds.
Are the Detroit Red Wings for real or are they headed toward a humbling regression? We might have to wait until their goalies look human before that question can really be answered.
For yet another game, Detroit’s netminder was outstanding, with Petr Mrazek helping the Red Wings beat the St. Louis 2-1 via a shootout (and a pretty stressful shootout in that).
It took eight rounds until Henrik Zetterberg managed Detroit’s second and decisive tally of the “skills competition,” and now Detroit is on a six-game winning streak.
Mrazek made 31 out of 32 games through overtime and was only beaten by Alex Steen in that shootout, stopping seven of eight attempts. He’s faced more than 30 shots on goal in all six of his appearances in 2016-17.
It is not as if there has been a big drop-off when Jimmy Howard has taken the net, either. Howard has only given up one goal in his two games, winning both of them.
Are the Red Wings asking a lot of Mrazek and Howard? Yep. Just take a look a this lopsided possession chart from Natural Stat Trick for another reminder.
You can see why skeptics murmur about this six-game winning streak being fool’s gold, but the Red Wings keep finding a way to win. Usually, it’s their goalies who have been doing the heavy lifting.