Get your game notes: Caps at Devils

4 Comments

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the New Jersey Devils hosting the Washington Capitals starting at 7 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

—- Washington has lost four straight (0-2-2) for the fourth time this season; New Jersey has earned a point in five straight games (2-0-3 record) but has lost three of its last four (all shootout losses). The Devils are in danger of missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since they went five straight without an appearance (1982-87). The Capitals’ consecutive playoff streak is also in jeopardy, having last missed the playoffs in 2006-07 (6 straight seasons).

—- The Devils have six games remaining and a chance at a 7-0-1 finish if they can run the table. Twenty-six years ago, the 1987-88 Devils – led by goalie Sean Burke – mounted a 7-0-1 season-ending charge to grab the final Patrick Division playoff spot on the season’s final day, the team’s first playoff berth in New Jersey. The Devils went on to win two playoff rounds, falling one victory short of the Stanley Cup Final.

—- Jaromir Jagr leads the Devils in points (64) this season followed by Patrik Elias (51 pts.) – the two are the only Devils with 50+ points this season (Travis Zajac & Adam Henrique – 43 pts. each are next). Washington is even more top-heavy – Nicklas Backstrom leads in points (73) with Alex Ovechkin right behind him in scoring (72 pts.). Joel Ward is next on the team with 43 points.

—- Three of New Jersey’s last four games have ended in shootout losses (vs. PHX, at NYI, at BUF – with a win over FLA between the Islanders & Sabres game), dropping the Devils to 0-11 in shootouts this season, and to a league-record 15 straight SO losses dating to last March 15. New Jersey’s skaters are a combined 3-for-39 on shootout attempts. Since the NHL instituted shootouts in 2005-06, only three teams have completed a season without winning one, none with more than five losses.

—- If games ended in ties – shootouts removed from the standings equation – New Jersey currently would be tied with Columbus, at 80 points, for the East’s second Wild Card, 1 pt. behind Detroit.

—- Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the last tie game in the NHL (April 4, 2004) – Carolina tied at Florida, 6-6. The Flyers and the Islanders also tied 3-3 earlier in the day.

—- Ovechkin (48 goals) and teammate Troy Brouwer (23 goals) lead the league in goal differential among a team’s first- and second-highest goal-scorer, +25, a difference of 10 more compared to the next-largest margin – Montreal’s Max Pacioretty (35) & Tomas Plekanec (20), +15.

—- Ovechkin’s -36 rating is the worst in the league; Alexander Edler (VAN) & Nail Yakupov (EDM) have the second-worst at -33. Ovechkin can become the first player ever to lead the league in goals and come in last in plus-minus.

—- New Jersey is 14-9-4 vs. the Metropolitan Div. this season while Washington is 10-14-3 in the division.

—- The Capitals rank first in the league in power-play percentage (23.7%), while the Devils rank first in penalty-kill percentage (86.9%). New Jersey has killed off 12 of 13 power plays in its last four games; Washington is 2/12 on the power play in its last three games including going 0/5 in its last game.

PHT Morning Skate: David Letterman shows off awesome playoff beard at Caps-Pens game

Leave a comment

–We’ll start with highlights from Game 1 of the highly anticipated matchup between Washington and Pittsburgh, which the Penguins won 3-2. Sidney Crosby scored twice, while Alex Ovechkin found the back of the net once.

–It appears as though hockey fans in Montreal still aren’t thrilled about P.K. Subban being shipped to Nashville last summer. But what if they had kept Subban? Would they still be alive this postseason? Sportsnet’s Andrew Berkshire says we can’t know for sure, but there’s at least a chance the Canadiens would still be playing in they had Subban instead of Weber. (Sportsnet)

–Speaking of trades that happened last off-season, The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell writes that we shouldn’t be quick to appoint winners and losers of last year’s major trades (Subban to Nashville for Weber, Adam Larsson to Edmonton for Taylor Hall). Campbell writes: “We rush to judge. That’s what we do. Guilty, by the way. So when Adam Larsson has the night of his life in the Oilers Game 1 win over the Anaheim Ducks, the low-hanging fruit gets picked and Larsson becomes everything to the Oilers that Taylor Hall was not. It’s not terribly fair to the guys who were on the other side of the trade, but you pretty much sign up for that kind of scrutiny when you become a part of the NHL Millionaires Club.” (The Hockey News)

–Goalies like Jake Allen, Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist all turned in spectacular performances in the first round of this year’s playoffs. So Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog takes a deeper look at eight goalies that have stolen a playoff series. Vintage J.S. Giguere was fun to watch! (Yahoo)

–Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik is one of the few players that has been on both sides of the Caps-Pens rivalry, but how did it start? “It was Penguins-Flyers when I started. Then when Sid and Ovi came, that’s two of the marquee names. I think that rivalry was manufactured a little bit, especially when we weren’t even in the same division and didn’t play each other in the playoffs until ‘09. A lot of that, I think, was hyped up for TV ratings. But at the same time those guys always seemed to kick it up a notch when they played each other, so it was fun to be a part of. (Sports Illustrated)

–Political speechwriter Stephen Krupin wrote and agreed with many of Barack Obama’s speeches, but there was one he wrote that he just couldn’t get on board with. You see, Krupin is a big Washington Capitals fan, so when the Penguins came to the White House after their Stanley Cup triumph, he had to write a nice speech about his team’s biggest rival. “As with any good speech, the process began with research. I clenched my jaw and read recaps of the Penguins’ remarkable turnaround season. I grew nauseous as I dug through fawning profiles about enemies of the state such as Matt Murray and accomplices such as Phil Kessel.” (Washington Post)

–David Letterman was at last night’s game between the Capitals and Penguins, and he was sporting a pretty impressive playoff beard. See for yourself:

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

7 Comments

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

1 Comment

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

33 Comments

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).