Pre-game reading: Remembering Rick Rypien on #BellLetsTalk day

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— Up top, actor Jon Hamm will host the NHL100 Friday in Los Angeles, part of the All-Star Game festivities. Hamm is from St. Louis and is a long-suffering fan of the Blues, a franchise that’s come “tantalizingly close” a few times but has yet to win a Stanley Cup.

— It’s “Bell Let’s Talk” day today, an effort to raise awareness about mental health. It’s a hard day in many ways, because we remember people like Rick Rypien, the former Vancouver Canuck who took his own life due to depression. The Winnipeg Free Press told Rypien’s story in 2011, shortly after his death, and it’s worth a read. (Winnipeg Free Press)

— Former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk has been open about his battles with mental illness. He even released a book in 2014 called The Crazy Game: How I Survived in the Crease and Beyond. But as forthcoming as he is now, he still remembers when he used to keep everything to himself. “I’ve had so many former players reach out to me and say, ‘Clint, I had no idea. What could I have done?’ They felt terrible because I was their teammate and they weren’t there to help me, but they didn’t know. I hid it. I hid it from everybody. I lived in silence.” (Regina Leader-Post)

— The Boston Bruins have the highest score-adjusted Corsi in the NHL. Usually, that goes hand-in-hand with winning. So why don’t the Bruins have a great record? In large part, because of this: “The Bruins currently rank dead last in shooting percentage, scoring on an anemic 7.1 percent of the shots they take.” (FiveThirtyEight)

— Elliotte Friedman published his latest “30 Thoughts” yesterday, and it included this thought: “Calgary’s Brad Treliving is the only NHL GM without a contract into next season. He won’t discuss it, and neither will the organization. One exec (from elsewhere) noted that the Flames are comfortable with the way they approach this and don’t consider it to be “ominous.” I suspect it’s because they’ve decided to fire coaches and don’t want too many extra salaries on the books. That’s fine, but in the NHL world, it’s weird. Before the season, Columbus gave two-year extensions to its management team, not wanting them going into this season on the ends of their deals. In Vancouver, it’s led to constant job speculation with Willie Desjardins. In St. Louis, there’s some question how it’s affected the Blues’ struggles because players know Ken Hitchcock is to be replaced by Mike Yeo.” (Sportsnet)

— On Rangers rookie Pavel Buchnevich, who’s still learning the language after half a season in North America. Said teammate Jimmy Vesey: “He’s a funny kid, and his broken English makes him even funnier. But he’s done really well. I couldn’t imagine being in his position with not much English, and he’s settled in nice.” (New York Times)

Enjoy the games!

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.