Kesler makes Ducks better, but are they good enough?

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Ryan Kesler wants to win a Stanley Cup. And you can hardly blame him. Turning 30 this summer, the former Selke Trophy recipient has suffered some painful defeats in his career. He lost the 2010 Olympic gold medal-game, and he lost twice with a chance to win the Cup in 2011.

Which is why he agreed to be traded from Vancouver to Anaheim, a deal that’s being seen as a big win for Ducks general manager Bob Murray, who adds one of the premier two-way centers in the NHL to play behind Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Getzlaf.

Having a pair of top centers is how teams win the Cup. The Kings have Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. The Bruins have Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. The Blackhawks have Jonathan Toews and, well, that’s why everyone’s wondering what the ‘Hawks will do with their vacant 2C spot. Jason Spezza? Paul Stastny? Pressure’s on, Stan Bowman.

Of course, there’s more to winning the Cup than having two top centers, and it’s more than fair to wonder if the Ducks — a team that’s won just a single postseason series in the last five years — really have what it takes.

Let’s start with the blue line, which even Murray admits is lacking that elite defenseman that almost always plays for the Cup winner.

“You watch the Kings, for example, and you watch how Drew Doughty has emerged as a superstar,” Murray said recently. “Do we have a defenseman who can be that way? When we won the Stanley Cup, we had [Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger]. That’s in the back of my mind all the time. Where is that guy, can you find that guy, and can you afford that guy?”

Maybe they already have that guy in 22-year-old Cam Fowler. But that’s a big maybe. Fowler’s good, but can he be Doughty good? Can he be Duncan Keith good? Zdeno Chara? Nicklas Lidstrom? Again, these are the guys that win Cups. They might even be the most important part of a championship team. You could make that argument.

Then there’s the Ducks’ goaltending situation. Jonas Hiller won’t be back, leaving the starter’s job to either John Gibson or Frederik Andersen. To be sure, goaltending could in fact turn out to be a real strength for Anaheim. But that’s not an experienced duo. It’s another big question mark. (Murray reportedly has no interest in Ryan Miller.)

Kesler gets the Ducks closer to winning it all. He gets himself closer. How close, exactly, we shall see.

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.