James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Alzner: Capitals’ playoff letdown is ‘deep somewhere in our heads’

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The mood is a “little sour” in the Washington Capitals locker room right now, and the discomfort goes deeper than losing back-to-back games for the first time in more than a year.

With it being early in 2016-17, maybe the Capitals aren’t totally over falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins after a resounding run to the Presidents’ Trophy.

“Last year, we were just so hungry all over the ice, and that’s why we had so much success. We just haven’t been as hungry right now,” Karl Alzner said, according to the Washington Post. “I don’t know if it’s because deep somewhere in our heads, we did that all season long and it still didn’t work for us, so maybe it’s just taking some time to build back up and as the season goes on, we get better. I don’t feel that in the front of my head, but maybe deep in the back, that’s kind of what’s going on. We’re better than how we’ve been playing.”

Credit Alzner for his candor, because that’s a remarkable admission of vulnerability.

Buying in

Not every member of the Capitals look at a few bumps in the road as a bad thing. Braden Holtby told the Washington Post that “a little bit of adversity never hurts to build a team,” and considering the rigors of an 82-game season, he’s likely correct.

As CSN Mid Atlantic notes, Barry Trotz understands the peaks and valleys of a lengthy campaign … but he still expects his players to buy-in.

“We’ve got the right elements to do what we can do. But there has to be a level of everybody [being] all in. You can’t be half in,” Trotz said. ” … You can’t let your foot off the gas in this league or you find yourself in a hole sometimes.”

Climbing that mountain once again

One can relate to the Capitals’ troubles in a way.

A negative type might feel a bit like Sisyphus here, wondering if it’s worth it to roll that boulder up a hill all over again after that playoff loss pushed them down. “We did that all season long and it still didn’t work for us,” as Alzner said.

Maybe the Capitals are over-thinking this a bit.

They have a few days off to ruminate on things, but the compressed three-game road trip coming up might be valuable in demanding all of their thoughts.

It’s tougher to find time for an existential crisis when you face three away contests in Western Canada during just four days. From the sound of things, it might be the perfect type of challenge for this group.

P.K. Subban clearly had a blast as Titans’ 12th man

P.K. Subban
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When P.K. Subban shows up at your event, you expect to be entertained. And he basically always delivers.

His trend of delighting Nashville Predators fans continued on Sunday, as he made a glorious appearance as the Tennessee Titans’ “12th Man.”

If you close your eyes and picture a scene, you probably wouldn’t be that far off; it still doesn’t make this any less fantastic. (Even if the Titans eventually dropped a 34-26 loss to the Colts.)

The photo he posted on his personal Twitter account was great:

This GIF of him using a sword feels like it will get some mileage on Twitter. After totally convincing other people about your sports/political/hot-dog-being-a-sandwich opinion, and then drop the P.K. dagger:

Was the Titans jersey not lasting for long predictable or unexpected?

Opinion: this was the Titans game to attend since they fell a yard short of beating the Rams.

Don’t glare: Heritage Classic start time delayed

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Update: Puck drop is now scheduled for 4:53 p.m. ET.

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It’s not a familiar situation for the NHL, but it has happened before: a weather delay for a hockey game.

The Winnipeg Jets confirmed that the start time for their Heritage Classic game against the Edmonton Oilers has been delayed. The glare of the sun appears to be too much.

At the moment, it is not yet known how severe the delay will be. Puck drop was originally scheduled for just after 3 p.m. ET.

That’s a bummer, but at least it inspired a joke that would probably make Ilya Bryzgalov smile:

Warm-ups were moved to 4 p.m. ET. PHT will keep you posted if there are any other changes.

Great news: Jacques Demers back at home after hospital stay

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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers is back at home after going to a hospital Saturday.

Demers’ Senate office would only confirm that the 72-year-old Demers, a Canadian senator, was at home Sunday, but didn’t provide any details about the reason he went to the hospital.

Demers had suffered a stroke in April, but he was at the Canadiens’ home opener Tuesday night, smiling in a wheelchair while handing a torch to captain Max Pacioretty to close out a pregame ceremony.

Demers led the Canadiens to their most recent Stanley Cup in 1993. He also coached the Quebec Nordiques, the Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues.

Demers was appointed to the Senate in 2009 by then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but later left the Conservative caucus in December to sit as an Independent.

At the time, he said he was uncomfortable with some of the fallout from the Senate expenses scandal and didn’t like to have to vote the Conservative party line all the time.

Goalie nods: Talbot vs. Hellebuyck vs. the elements

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So, let’s assume that the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets will eventually play in the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field on Sunday.

Every indication is that Cam Talbot and Connor Hellebuyck shall get the nods for their respective teams. Most assume, with the firepower on hand, that this could be a high-scoring game.

Hellebuyck isn’t flustered about all the goals the Jets have allowed so far, as he told NHL.com.

“It’s not something you’re really worried about,” Hellebuyck said. “It’s early in the year, it happens to a lot of teams. If you look at the trends in the past 10 years, there’s always a lot of goals being scored at the beginning of the year.”

They’re not just facing dangerous offenses. They’re also dealing with the conditions, as the game was already delayed by the glare of the sun.

Goalies are already accustomed to having their views compromised by screening forwards. Will Hellebuyck and Talbot squint through the Heritage Classic?

Elsewhere …

Wild at Islanders – Darcy Kuemper vs. Thomas Greiss

Coyotes at Rangers – Louis Domingue vs. (probably) Henrik Lundqvist

Canucks at DucksRyan Miller vs. (likely) John Gibson