Pre-game reading: NHLers make their Super Bowl picks

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— Up top, watch former NHL goalie Ilya Bryzgalov explain PEMDAS (or, as it’s known in Canada, BEDMAS), which you may or may not remember from elementary school math class. Bryz was a real hit at the All-Star Game this weekend in Los Angeles. He does NOT think a hot-dog is a sandwich.

— It’s the Super Bowl this Sunday in Houston, where the New England Patriots will take on the Atlanta Falcons. The Pats are only 3-point favorites, and NHLers are split on who’s gonna take it. Roberto Luongo is a big NFL fan, and he’s got a feeling about the underdogs: “I’m taking the Falcons. I don’t know, I think New England’s schedule has been a bit too easy this year, so they haven’t really faced like a juggernaut. I don’t know. I’ve just got a feeling Atlanta is going to somehow pull it out … 32-27.” (NHL.com)

— Flyers GM Ron Hextall explains the thought process behind making youngsters like Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny healthy scratches: “When these decisions are made, the coaches analyze everything up, down and all around. These decisions aren’t made lightly. They’re made with a lot of thought and I’m happy with those two kids. … It’s what the coaching staff deems the right thing right now and I’m fine with it. In terms of the minutes these kids have played this year, they’ve played a decent amount of minutes. I’m happy.” (Courier-Post)

Not all goalies are thrilled with the timing of the NHL’s decision to make streamlined pants mandatory. But all goalies must wear them starting tomorrow, regardless. The guy in charge of the changes, Kay Whitmore, explained it like this: “We addressed the safety concerns and felt it was the right decision to implement as soon as possible, regardless of the fact that it was midway through the year.” (NHL.com)

— Last year, Andrew Shaw was suspended one playoff game for using a gay slur. Now he’s the Montreal Canadiens’ “Hockey Is For Everyone” ambassador. Said Shaw: “I volunteered to do it. I thought it would be a good opportunity to help out. What I went through last year, you know, I learned from it. Words affect people more than you think. It’s something I learned. With what I learned last year, it’s a good position to be in. I can take what I’ve learned from my experiences and help others learn the value of words.” (Yahoo Sports)

— Could the NHL send players to the Olympics in South Korea and still keep playing games at home? It sounds unlikely, but Postmedia’s Michael Traikos reports: “One of the options being discussed behind closed doors is whether to have a team-by-team policy regarding player participation. That way star players get to attend the Olympics, but teams don’t have to close up shop at a time of the season when the NHL has its least competition.” (National Post)

Enjoy the games!

Related: Bettman argues that Olympic participation hurts NHL product

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.