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Matt Duchene seems to understand a trade is a possibility

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The Colorado Avalanche season has been falling apart for some time now. They have the worst record in the NHL, are on track to be one of the worst teams the league has seen in recent memory, their starting goalie is undergoing season ending surgery, and following their 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday have now lost 24 of their past 28 games.

That failure on the ice has once again fired up the trade rumor machine surrounding some of their top players, specifically forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog.

On Wednesday, Duchene was asked about the potential of a trade and told Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post that he is “open to it” if something happens. Not necessarily because he is hoping for one or asking for one, but just because he knows that is how the business works.

“When I say open to it, I know it’s part of the business, and it’s something that might happen,” said Duchene. “I’m not hiding from it. I’m not running away. I’m not banging my head. I understand it’s part of what we deal with as pro athletes.”

Given the continued regression of the Avalanche organization over the past three years their core players have been the targets of criticism and the focal point of a lot of the team’s struggles because, well, that’s how hockey works. When a team is bad or underachieves the guys at the top take the majority of the blame and can sometimes be the first ones sent out the door when it comes time to clean house.

A couple of weeks ago general manager Joe Sakic said the only players that he would not really consider trading at this point are 2013 No. 1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon and recent first-round selections Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost.

Other than that, everybody would seem to be on the table if the right move came along.

Even though Duchene, 26, is having a bit of a down year offensively (at least compared to what he has done in recent years) he is still the team’s leading goal-scorer with 15 and second-leading point producer with 29 points in 41 games (a 58-point pace over 82 games). He is also still a legitimate top-line player in the NHL and signed for two more years at a very reasonable salary cap hit of $6 million per year. There is a ton of value in that play, and it would be laughably unfair to make a player like him the scapegoat for the flawed construction of the roster, especially when it comes to their forward depth behind their top players and the miserable state of the defense.

Trading a player like that is a massive deal and is one you absolutely have to get right. That brings us back to a question I posed a couple of weeks ago when it comes to the Avalanche and a trade involving one of their core players: Do you trust the people that built a team that has only won 13 out of its first 46 games this season to successfully pull off that sort of potentially franchise-altering trade?

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.