Starting goalie: Anton Khudobin
Starting goalie: Braden Holtby
Starting goalie: Anton Khudobin
Starting goalie: Braden Holtby
NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with a doubleheader on Thursday night. In the early game, the Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins at 7:30 p.m. ET and then the Vegas Golden Knights visit the Los Angeles Kings at 10 p.m. ET. To watch the BOS-WSH game online, click here. For VGK-LA, click here.
Only the New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights have a winning streak as long as the Boston Bruins at the moment. Wins in five straight and in 14 out of their last 18 have helped Bruce Cassidy’s charges surge up the Atlantic Division standings and find themselves tied for second with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The key to that streak? Not getting complacent.
“We just need to keep playing the way we have. I think that’s been resulting as wins. You don’t want to get complacent and just satisfied with [the way] things have been lately. I think you want to keep pushing yourself, and that’s what great teams do,” said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask via NBC Boston. “They always, they don’t take anything for granted. They always push each other, and I think that something, you know, to put some wins together we have to, you know, show that, show everybody that we’re capable of keeping that up for the rest of the season.”
The nightcap will feature a terrific Pacific Division battle between the Golden Knights and Kings. Vegas continued their historic run with a 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday night, extending their points streak to 10 games.
”Our biggest trait is we’re resilient and don’t give up,” said Golden Knights netminder Malcolm Subban, who made 27 saves. “When a team’s working really hard like we do, it’s tough to generate chances. We’ve been really consistent.”
NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with Wednesday Night Rivalry as the New York Rangers play host to the Washington Capitals at 8 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.
The NHL’s Christmas break is over and now we begin the quick one month sprint until the next break for all 31 teams — the All-Star Game in Tampa in late January.
Teams will begin having their bye weeks in January, so there will be plenty of rest time for players over the next month, which is good because bad hockey is baaaaad, while good hockey can be oh so good.
The Capitals and Rangers resume action on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden separated by four points in the crazy Metropolitan Division. Points are always important, but especially so after Christmas and even moreso in that division this season when a win could help you jump from out of the playoffs into a postseason spot.
Just look at this and realize that the last-place Philadelphia Flyers would be fourth in the Atlantic right now:
It’s going to be real interesting to see how that division shakes out with a potential five teams getting into the dance in April. It will also be fun to watch the Metro’s general managers wheel and deal before the Feb. 26 trade deadline should they feel they need to add in order to secure or maintain playoff position.
After the game be sure to stick around on NBCSN for the third episode of Rangers-Sabres “Road to the Winter Classic” at 11:30 p.m. ET.
Players of the Night:
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders: Barzal recorded his first career NHL hat trick against the Winnipeg Jets and took over the rookie scoring lead with 35 points. Not a bad day.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning, John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks, James Reimer, Florida Panthers, Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights, and Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: Each of these goaltenders recorded shutouts on Saturday night. Vasilevskiy got his fourth of the season, stopping 22 shots to tie Sergei Bobrovsky for the NHL lead in shutouts; Gibson made 29 saves, including one you will see below on Sidney Crosby; Reimer stopped all 38 shots sent his way by the Ottawa Senators; Fleury kept the Capitals in check, stopping 26 shots for his first shutout of the season; and Jones dethroned the Kings, stopping all 28 shots he faced.
Dallas Stars penalty killers: The Stars appeared dead in the water after Jamie Benn and Dan Hamhuis took penalties in overtime against the Nashville Predators, but Ben Bishop and Co. weathered the storm, which included 31 seconds of 5-on-3 time, and ended up taking the game in a shootout on Tyler Seguin‘s winner.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks: Kane became the fifth player in Blackhawks history to record his 300th NHL goal on Saturday.
Highlights of the Night:
John Gibson did this to Sidney Crosby tonight:
Barzal’s hatty deserves its spot here:
Alexander Radulov‘s shootout goal was pretty filthy:
Factoids of the Night:
Vegas keeps, well, Vegasing.
Brock Boeser smashes Pavel Bure’s record by 15 games:
“Merry Christmas to me,” Brock Boeser said, probably.
Bruins 3, Red Wings 1
Islanders 5, Jets 2
Oilers 4, Canadiens 1
Lightning 3, Wild 0
Panthers 1, Senators 0
Devils 4, Blackhawks 1
Ducks 4, Penguins 0
Hurricanes 4, Sabres 2
Blue Jackets 2, Flyers 1 (SO)
Golden Knights 3, Capitals 0
Avalanche 6, Coyotes 2
Stars 4, Predators 3 (SO)
Sharks 2, Kings 0
Blues 3, Canucks 1
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!
The Washington Capitals are doing that thing again.
It seems every year they find a way to work themselves into the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. They’ve finished first in their division seven times out of the past 10 seasons and second twice. Only once — a fifth-place showing — have they been outside the top two during the past decade.
It’s become as predictable as it is remarkable.
And this year, at first glance, it’s sort of surprising.
But the Caps also took, what at least appeared to be at the time, a big hit on the backend over the summer.
Offensively, not much has changed (although they did lose Marcus Johannson’s 24 goals) but losing Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk to free agency and Nate Schmidt in the expansion draft left a sizeable hole to be filled on the blueline.
Statistically speaking, they’ve also regressed from the numbers they put up last season when they amassed 55 wins.
They had the fourth best Corsi rating in the NHL last season, a statistic that made sense giving their winning prowess. Yet this year, with 21 wins, they sit 23rd in the category they dominated last season.
The same story plays out in expected goals, where they sat ninth last season yet are in 26th place now.
Analytically, a lot of their success this season doesn’t seem to add up, and yet they’ve won eight of their last 10 games and are currently on a three-game heater.
So why are they tied for first place in the Metro? There are a few answers to be had.
In the scoring department, several players have stepped up. Jakub Vrana has 10 goals in 33 games after three in 21 games last year and Tom Wilson is just three points shy of the 19 points he put up in 82 games last season. Brett Connolly and Alex Chaisson are also scoring at better rates and Washington sits eighth in five-on-five scoring.
What is also helping is their high shooting percentage.
At 9.22 percent, the Caps sit in fifth in the league, and their PDO, when you combine their shooting percentage and team save percentage, sits at 101.98, good for the third spot in the NHL.
And the Caps have proven they can keep that number high. Only two teams finished with over nine percent last season, and the Caps were one of them.
And Holtby, is well, Holtby, which has been especially helpful given Philipp Grubauer‘s struggles to return to last year’s form so far.
So the Caps, for the most part, are in a good spot.
The biggest question that will surround the Caps, assuming they hold serve, is if they can replicate it in the playoffs.
Despite winning a slew of regular season games, the Capitals just can’t figure out how to do the same in April and May.
In nine of the past ten seasons they’ve made the playoffs, they’ve failed to even sniff the Eastern Conference Final, never mind a Stanley Cup final berth.
But that’s another story for another day, as it were.