Jason Brough

The pressure builds: Caps are now 4/1 Stanley Cup favorites


The expectations for the Washington Capitals to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history keep getting higher.

The other day, it was revealed that the majority of NHL head coaches believe the Caps will win it all. Today, online bookmaker Bovada released its latest Cup odds, and the Caps have gone from 6/1 favorites a month ago to 4/1 favorites.

The Blackhawks are next at 5/1, followed by the Kings (15/2), Stars (11/1) and Lightning (14/1).

The difference between the Caps and those four teams is that the Caps have never won the Cup.

That’s why, no matter how many points Barry Trotz’s juggernaut racks up during the regular season, he knows it won’t matter if it all comes crashing down in the spring, like it did in 2010.

“Let’s face it, we are going to be judged by what we do in the playoffs,” Trotz said, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Currently, only the Blues, Maple Leafs, Sabres and Canucks have a longer Stanley Cup drought going than the Caps do. Of those five, only the Leafs have ever won the Cup.

Yeo met with the Wild’s analytics guys, and it was ‘interesting’

Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo argues a call in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The Minnesota Wild are 6-10-3 in their last 19, and unlike parts of last year, they can’t blame the goaltending or injuries for their struggles.

In fact, without Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper, the Wild might have dropped even further out of a playoff spot by now. Both netminders were excellent in December and January.

Not so excellent were the Wild’s possession stats. In the last 19 games, here’s where Minnesota ranks in score-adjusted Corsi, per Puck On Net:


Now, granted, possession isn’t everything. You’ll note Colorado and New Jersey in that group of five, and the Avs and Devils have been doing OK lately.

But the All-Star break did give Wild coach Mike Yeo an opportunity to meet with the club’s analytics staff, and what he learned was “interesting,” according to Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Per war-on-ice.com, Minnesota’s shooting percentage in its last 19 games is just 6.7. Only Montreal and Edmonton have a lower conversion rate in that time span, so the assertion that the Wild “just haven’t been finishing” is an accurate one. However, given the aforementioned possession stats, so too is the assertion that there are “areas we have to be a lot better.”

The Wild return to action tonight in Brooklyn against the Islanders, then play the Rangers Thursday in Manhattan and the Blues Saturday in St. Louis — a tough three-game trip coming out of the break.

And it doesn’t get any easier when they get home, with Dallas, Washington, and Boston paying visits next week.

Related: Why this Wild slump may be different

Malcolm Subban feels he’s ‘taken a huge step forward’ from last year

Malcolm Subban

It remains to be seen if Malcolm Subban will get a game with the Boston Bruins during his emergency recall. Jonas Gustavsson returned to practiced today, a good sign his stay on injured reserve due to an elevated heart rate could be a short one.

But at the very least, Subban’s recall gave reporters a chance to see how things are going for the 22-year-old netminder.

And it sounds like things are going pretty well.

“I feel like I’ve taken a huge step forward in my play from last year,” Subban told CSN New England.

“The style I used to play before was more of an inconsistent style. [Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa) loved the style that I used to play, but he’s trying to incorporate a lot of techniques in my game that will make me a better goaltender. It’s being a little calmer in the net and letting the puck come to me, and not jumping around as much. It certainly helps a lot more in practice because it’s not as tiring.”

Those remarks are consistent with the development of a lot of young goalies. Less reliance on athleticism, more on technique. According to Bruins coach Claude Julien, Subban has been “really good in Providence” and “a lot more consistent.”

Subban’s only NHL start came last season, and it did not go well. But the 24th overall pick in 2012 remains an important asset for the B’s, either as a future starter in Boston or as a significant trade chip.

Postponed Caps-Ducks game could be played April 10

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, it “sounds like” the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks will make up their postponed game on April 10, the day after what supposed to be the last day of the regular season.

The two teams were originally scheduled to play Jan. 22 in Washington, until a snowstorm changed things.

It was noted by the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan that the NBA’s Washington Wizards have changed their start time on April 10 to noon, which would allow the Caps and Ducks to play in the evening at Verizon Center.

The Ducks play in Colorado on April 9, while the Caps are in St. Louis. All 30 teams are in action that day. The first day of the playoffs is April 13.

Two other postponed games — Flyers at Islanders on Jan. 23; Pittsburgh at Washington on Jan. 24 — still need to be rescheduled as well. Though at least neither of the visiting teams are from the West Coast.

After 37-game absence, McDavid is ‘ready to go’

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) Connor McDavid practiced Monday with the Edmonton Oilers, and the rookie center says he is ready to return after breaking his left collarbone.

The No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft got hurt when he was ridden hard into the boards in the second period of a 4-2 victory against Philadelphia on Nov. 3. He has missed 37 games, almost half a season.

“He is ready to go,” coach Todd McLellan said after McDavid centered a line between Jordan Eberle and Benoit Pouliot in practice.

McDavid, who spent the last week practicing with the Oilers’ AHL team in Bakersfield, was asked if he was nervous heading into just the 14th game of his NHL career.

“Anxious is probably the better word,” he said. “I’m excited. It feels like my first game all over again.”

He said he’s not going to let the injury play on his mind when the puck drops Tuesday night against Columbus.

“The doctors wouldn’t let me play if I wasn’t 100 percent,” he said. “They say it’s safe to play, so it’s safe to play.”

McDavid, 19, has five goals and 12 points in 13 games. He also has a plus-four rating with six penalty minutes.

He hasn’t played one shift with Eberle, who was out for the start of the season with a shoulder injury. By the time Eberle came back, McDavid was out.

McDavid believes they’ll mesh well.

“He has got those quick great hands and a deceiving shot that fools goalies a lot of the time,” McDavid said. “If you get him the puck in a good spot, you know he’s going to finish it.”

Eberle says it may be easier for McDavid to get back to game speed given that all NHL players are coming off the All-Star break.

“With his speed and the way he thinks the game he’ll be fine,” Eberle said.

McLellan said the plan for McDavid is to “open the door and say go,” but said they’ll be watching his minutes to see how he is doing.

“The way he skated today I’m not as worried about Connor as I am the other 19 that have been off a week,” he said.