Sens’ Ryan faces career crossroads

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In good times and bad, it seems like odd moments just seem to follow Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan.

He’s made good on his status as the No. 2 pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, yet he’s also the guy who was selected after Sidney Crosby. Being overshadowed by big-name Canadian players probably became old hat for Ryan over the years, as his impressive feats (four 30+ seasons in Anaheim) were glossed over a bit because Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were even better.

Of course, then the awkwardness shifted to being dismissed compared to other Americans, as he was a controversial snub for the 2014 Olympic team.

Big payday coming?

With all of this in mind, it’s easy to forget that Ryan ranks as one of the best young power forwards in the league. He also carries the rare strength of being a fairly reliable peformer among more brutish finesse players who often see their production come and go.

This brings up a tough question heading into the 2014-15 season in which his current contract expires: how much, exactly, is he worth?

At 27, Ryan is currently scheduled for unrestricted free agency. It’s difficult to imagine him hitting the free market, as even the best available UFA talent usually consists of players who’ve already reached their 30’s.

Seriously, take a second to study the players who hit free agency during the prime years who actually made a difference and didn’t defect to the KHL. All things considered, Ryan could command quite a ransom if he makes it that far, which is probably a strong argument for why he should think long and hard about whether or not he wants to stick around in Ottawa.

Should he stay or go?

One big argument “for” is that he’d remain one of the team’s biggest stars. There’s something to be said for being the “big man on campus,” which is a title Ryan would likely share with Erik Karlsson and maybe another player or two.

Unless they can convince him to maintain his relative bargain $5.1 million cap hit, the Senators might benefit from seeing what he can do in 2014-15, too. Ryan remains a potent scorer (23 goals in 70 games last season), even with all the turbulence of last season, from being snubbed to being traded. Sure, an elite season could prove costly, but if his reps want a big contract anyway … why not make sure this is the right fit?

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Whatever way this shakes out, it should be an interesting – maybe even intense – situation to watch.

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.

Ovechkin vs. Crosby shifts into high gear, Carlson clobbers Malkin

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You have to love when sports deliver on – if not exceed – the hype.

The second period of Game 1 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals has been brilliant and nasty, possibly more than many hockey fans dreamed.

It began with the Penguins getting the big edge; Sidney Crosby scored two goals in the span of 52 seconds and Braden Holtby needed to make some tough stops to keep it at 2-0.

MORE: Video of Crosby’s hot start

That put a damper on the great crowd at the Verizon Center for a bit, but the Capitals ended up responding.

Part of that was a physical response, with Dmitry Orlov delivering a big hit on Tom Kuhnhackl and John Carlson absolutely leveling Evgeni Malkin. The narrative got almost too obvious moments later, as Alex Ovechkin fired a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 2-1.

Fleury made a tough stop or two of his own once it was 2-1, so while the pace is picking up, the two goalies seem like they’re alert to the challenge as well.

There was plenty of nastiness with 18.9 seconds remaining in the second, setting the stage for what could be a thrilling third period … and maybe more?

Buckle up.

Video: Crosby scores two goals in 52 seconds vs. Capitals

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Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins came roaring out of the gate to start the second period after a 0-0 opening frame against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

Crosby scored two goals in just 52 seconds to give the Penguins a sudden 2-0 lead. One feels some pity for any fans who didn’t get to their seats just to start the frame … though in the likely event that they are Capitals fans, they might have been spared.

To Braden Holtby‘s credit, he made a couple tough saves moments later to keep it 2-0. It’s been a hectic first few minutes of the second after that relatively mundane first 20 minutes, so hang on tight.

Check out video above; you can also watch the pair of goals in the GIF combo below:

Penguins’ Guentzel makes ‘kick save’ to stop Capitals

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It doesn’t get much better than a player making the type of save you’d only expect from a goalie. OK, how about this: when it happens amid the high stakes of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel had already been distinguishing himself with a red-hot scoring start to the postseason, but he made a big difference in a way that won’t show up in the box score (aside from maybe as a blocked shot) for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals.

In one of the few golden opportunities in a notably tight first period, Guentzel made a “kick save” to keep it 0-0. He also managed to avoid giving the Capitals a penalty shot in the process, so this was quite the effort from the impressive rookie.

Video will be added soon. Here’s the moment in GIF form first: