Nicklas Backstrom on Henrik Lundqvist

Three reasons for concern in Washington


Of all the teams that are off to poor starts, it feels like the Washington Capitals have managed to fly a bit under the radar.

Maybe it’s because the Caps haven’t been blown out to the extent the Rangers have. Or they haven’t had to fire the coach like the Flyers. Or they haven’t had horrendous goaltending like the Oilers. Or there aren’t major trade rumors surrounding them like the Sabres. Or they’ve actually managed to win a game (two, in fact), unlike the Devils.

But make no mistake, things have not been good in DC. The Caps dropped a 2-0 decision last night at home to the Rangers, pushing their record down to 2-5-0 after seven games.

With that in mind, here are three things that have to be concerning for the club and its fans:

1. Even strength, the Caps have scored just eight times.

The other eight goals they’ve scored (for a total of 16) have come on a power play that probably can’t keep clicking at a rate of 30.8 percent. Overall, Washington ranks 20th in the NHL in offense, averaging 2.29 goals per game.

Now, to be fair, there may be an element of bad luck to all this — the Caps have actually averaged a respectable 30.3 shots per game.

“We have our chances out there and we just, to be honest with you, can’t score,” captain Alex Ovechkin said after being shut out by the Rangers.

Still, you have to wonder how much the Caps are missing their second-leading scorer from last season, Mike Ribeiro.

2. Ovechkin can’t do it all.

The captain’s six goals lead the club; Mikhail Grabovski is second with three; nobody else has more than one.

Not to mention, Grabovski — essentially Ribeiro’s replacement — got all three of his goals in the season-opener and has been held to just two assists in the six games since.

The Caps could really use guys like Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer and Mike Green to put some pucks in the net.

3. It’s not about to get any easier.

The Caps host Columbus Saturday then head out on a five-game trip to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Philadelphia.

No, those some of those teams they’ll play on the trip aren’t the best, but road games are road games and that’s a lot of miles they’ll have to travel.

Where will the Caps be in the standings when they get back? Seven games in — including five home games — they’re already in a hole.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?