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The Columbus Blue Jackets entered this season with the goal of making the playoffs for just the second time in their franchise’s history. When that happened, the question was if they would come away with their first playoff win. They did.
There were times when it looked like they would do more than that. The Blue Jackets managed two come-from-behind victories in the series to make the Penguins sweat. They still have never won a playoff series. That just gives them a new, higher goal for 2014-15.
- Going into this season, the Blue Jackets’ offense was a concern. Would Nathan Horton be healthy for enough of the season to make a difference? Could Marian Gaborik find his game in Columbus? The answer to both of those questions was largely no, but the Blue Jackets still averaged 2.76 goals per game, up from 2.40 in 2013. Ryan Johansen, 21, was a big reason for that as he broke out with with 33 goals and 63 points in 82 games.
- It also helped that Columbus finally got a relatively healthy season out of defenseman James Wisniewski, who tied for eighth among NHL blueliners with 51 points in 75 contests.
- Sergei Bobrovsky struggled early in the campaign after winning the Vezina Trophy in 2013, but bounce back to post a strong 2.38 GAA and .923 save percentage in 58 starts. Columbus seems to have found a netminder that can lead them for years to come.
- For the most part, Brandon Dubinsky really shined in playoffs, both offensively and defensively. He managed to hold his own against Sidney Crosby at times and ended up with six points in six games.
- The fact that neither team could hold a lead was a big storyline in the first round series, but it was a problem for Columbus throughout the season. The Blue Jackets went 22-5-3 when leading after one period, which might sound great, but actually put them 20th in the league. They had the 18th best winning percentage when leading after 40 minutes.
- At the time of elimination, the Blue Jackets led the lead with three shorthanded goals in the playoffs. They scored nine in the regular season.
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).
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.
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).
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.