Nathan Walker

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PHT Morning Skate: The scariest goalie masks in history

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–The Pittsburgh Tribune looks at five things we’ve learned from Pittsburgh’s early struggles. The issues they have this year aren’t the same as last year’s. (Pittsburgh Tribune)

–Earlier this season, Mark Streit and the Montreal Canadiens parted ways after a short time together. Now, the Swiss defenseman has announced his retirement from professional hockey. (Swisshockeynews.ch)

–ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski lists the 15 scariest goalie masks in NHL history. Gary Bromley would’ve received my vote, but he finished second on the list, while Rangers goalie Gilles Gratton was number one. (ESPN.com)

Steve Mason added some spooky details to his new goalie mask. The Jets goalie has some of his teammates as zombies pictured on his new lid. (NHL.com)

Brian Boyle is getting ready to return to the Devils lineup for the first time since being diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. How will New Jersey use him? “Eventually, with a guy like him, you’ve just got to put him in. He’s done all the rehab, all the individual skates and now he’s had some consecutive practices. As long as he reacts well, we’re going to put him in soon.” (northjersey.com)

–Predators backup goalie Juuse Saros had a good season between the NHL and AHL last season, but he’s really come out of the gate slowly this year. Keep in mind, he’s still 22 years old, so there’s no need to panic just yet. (predlines.com)

–The Sabres have a four-day break in the schedule, which should give them an opportunity to clean up parts of their game. “We’re tied with the most games played up to this point. So it’s a good time to get a break, a good time to change the mood after a disappointing loss (Saturday) and just try to reset and get fresh for the week ahead,” said head coach Phil Housley. (buffalohockeybeat.com)

Nathan Walker was one of Washington’s best players in training camp. Unfortunately for him, that hasn’t given him much of an opportunity to play this season. Barry Trotz’s explanation as to why he’s not playing Walker also doesn’t really add up. (russianmachineneverbreaks.com)

–Team USA hockey player Meghan Duggan shares her musical play list with ESPN.com. There’s some Krewella, OneRepublic and even some Rihanna on there. (ESPN.com)

–There’s plenty of moves that have yet to pan out for their respective teams. The Coyotes went out and got new players like Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jason Demers, but it hasn’t resulted in many victories. Here are some off-season moves that just haven’t worked out yet. (spectorhockey.net)

–On the flip side, The Score looks at four players that are off to great starts in their new cities. Patrick Marleau is off to a nice start with the Maple Leafs and Mike Smith has been solid between the pipes for Calgary. (The Score)

–There are so many different ways for a young player to make it to the NHL, but there isn’t just one way. Hannah Stuart looks at the different ways that hockey players can develop into regular NHLers. (fanragsports.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Australia’s Nathan Walker joined Ovechkin in making history with Capitals

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No doubt about it, Alex Ovechkin‘s hat trick (-plus) was the standout achievement of the Washington Capitals’ 6-1 drubbing of the Montreal Canadiens.

It wasn’t the only moment that made you really check the history books, and in this other case, it creates a new entry.

Nathan Walker, the first Australian born player to be drafted, played in his first NHL game. And in that first NHL game, he also managed his first goal. Watch the goal in the video above this headline.

Go ahead, let out a “Crikey.” His family probably won’t even mind.

If that wasn’t perfect and bizarre enough, consider that Australian Ambassador to the U.S. Joe Hockey(!) made sure to congratulate Walker.

As a reminder, Walker shares the night with Ovechkin. The all-world sniper enjoyed back-to-back games (actually, periods) with hat tricks and ended the night with seven goals in two games. (More about that here.)

It was a remarkable night for history being matched a century later – or for the first time – as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ scoring ways were also once in a generation-and-maybe-change.

Alex Ovechkin’s latest historic feat: hat tricks in consecutive periods

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Update: The Capitals ended up beating the Canadiens 6-1. Alex Ovechkin finished with four goals, giving him seven in two games.

Australian forward Nathan Walker made some history of his own, in more ways than one, so check that out here.

***

The reports regarding the demise of Alex Ovechkin’s elite sniping ability appear to be greatly exaggerated.

After generating a hat trick in the third period of the Washington Capitals’ 5-4 shootout win to open the season against the Ottawa Senators, Ovechkin carried over that hot streak in a big way to begin Saturday’s match versus Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens.

Ovechkin even did something that’s rare for an all-time goal-scorer like himself: scoring hat tricks in consecutive periods.

His first goal was pretty ridiculous, the second came from “his office” on the power play, and then he tipped in a shot for the third.

Check out the first:

While others have used empty-netters to get their hat tricks, it’s also worth noting that all six of Ovechkin’s goals so far have come against goalies (and good ones, normally).

You can watch the hat trick in the video above this post’s headline.

Why 2016-17 might have been an anamoly

Ovechkin, 32, “only” scored 33 goals in 2016-17, prompting many to believe that he would no longer be a runaway Richard Trophy winner. After averaging close to five shots on goal per contest for ages, Ovechkin’s output dipped last season to 3.82 per contest. He also saw a drop in ice time, down to 18:19 after averaging 20 minutes and change for some time.

The Capitals will likely need more out of Ovechkin after an offseason of difficult losses. He’s firing the puck away, so even if the bounces slow down, there’s a good chance that Ovechkin could regain his status as the king of the snipers.

Ovechkin had six shots on goal in that opening win and is letting the pucks fly, which behooves well for him being more than just a quick-starter. Also: there’s that decade of evidence that Ovechkin is almost unstoppable.

Here are highlights of that win against the Senators, featuring his other hat trick:

Ready your awful Australian jokes for Nathan Walker’s NHL debut

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Even as a noted cheeseball joke enthusiast and shameless dispenser of puns, it’s difficult not to shudder at the potential barbs* that are ready to surface as Washington Capitals forward Nathan Walker is primed to become the first Australian to play in the NHL.

Let’s ponder all the bad jokes that could come about. Maybe this will serve as “pulling off the Band-Aid” or purging?

(No, it will probably only make things worse. Sorry.)

“That’s a stick? This is a stick.”

“He protected that puck as if it was in a kangaroo pouch.”

(Just imagine the Outback Steakhouse references if Walker takes a penalty.)

“Walker: Australian for hockey.”

Yeah, this could go poorly. Others have shown better taste in pumping up the 23-year-old’s impending debut.

Also, considering his speed, it’s probably OK for the occasional “Crikey, that guy is fast” comment. Let’s just try not to get too carried away with it. Don’t want to let this boomerang out of control.

Read more about the Capitals forward in this edition of “looking to make the leap.”

* Shrimp on the barbs? Oh no, what have I done?

Johansson knew Capitals had to ‘change something’ after another playoff disappointment

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Change was coming to the Washington Capitals this off-season. Marcus Johansson completely understands why.

Despite another Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top regular season team and status as a Stanley Cup contender, the Capitals fell well short of their ultimate goal. A number of roster moves followed with key players departing by way of trades (Johansson to New Jersey), free agency (Justin Williams, Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk) or the expansion draft (Nate Schmidt).

A number of core players remain, but there should also be opportunities for prospects — like Nathan Walker of Australia — to fill out the remaining spots on the roster, particularly up front.

“That’s part of the game,” Johansson told the Washington Post of the Capitals’ off-season moves.

“Sometimes you have to change things and we had some good opportunities to win these past two years and we didn’t take them and I think this is what comes afterward. They have to change something and guys needed new contracts and stuff like that, so that’s the way it goes. There’s nothing more to say about it.”

Johansson joins a Devils team that had the third worst offense in the league last season, averaging only 2.20 goals-for per game.

The addition of Johansson to the lineup should help turn that in a positive direction. Selecting Nico Hischier first overall should have quite an impact, as well, particularly in the years to come. The Devils were also able to sign puck-moving college free agent defenseman Will Butcher, and he’ll have the chance to earn an NHL roster spot when training camp opens.

That said, for the moves New Jersey general manager Ray Shero has made to improve his team’s offense heading into the upcoming season, the Devils suffered a substantial loss a few weeks ago, as it was announced center Travis Zajac would be out four to six months following pectoral surgery.

Zajac’s most productive season was in 2009-10, but he’s still been a steady contributor to the Devils’ offense since then, with 45 points last season, including six goals and 12 points on the power play.

Related: Johansson ready for ‘underdog’ role after trade to Devils