Wednesday Night Hockey: Memorable goals from Crosby, Ovechkin

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

We’re in Year 14 of the Crosby vs. Ovechkin debate. Now in their 30s, both are still at the top of their games and the last three Stanley Cups have been won by either the Penguins or Capitals.

Both Crosby and Ovechkin have delighted us with numerous moments since they entered the NHL in 2005-06. Highlight-reel goals, assists, moves and moments. As they renew their rivalry again Wednesday night, we decided to pick out our favorite goals from both over their future Hall of Fame careers.

Let us know your top moments from each in the comments.

SEAN

Both of these goals are very similar in nature. When a player of elite talent grabs the puck and picks up steam flying through the neutral zone, that situation won’t end well for the opposing team.

Ovechkin’s goal begins as he picks up a rebound in front of Braden Holtby. He loops around the Capitals net and starts driving up ice. It’s basically a 1-on-3 situation and Ovi knows from the moment he puts his head up that he’s doing this by himself. Rick Nash shows why he’s never won the Selke Trophy an Ryan McDonagh is just hoping he can get his stick or body on it, but to no avail.

Crosby takes the pass from Mark Recchi as he’s entering the neutral zone. He’s not bothered by Blair Betts’ backchecking or Jason Ward’s desperation stick check and then splits a hole between the Rangers defense before beating Henrik Lundqvist. The goal was point No. 37 for Crosby during a season where he would finish with 120, winning his first Art Ross Trophy.

JAMES

During the nascent days of Hockey Twitter, there was a certain level of animosity toward all of the attention Crosby and Ovechkin received. “What about our guy, these two haven’t even done anything yet?”

Such resentment was always silly because the two stars delivered essentially since day one – both eclipsed 100 points as rookies – but their incredible displays in trading “dueling hat tricks” in Game 2 of their memorable, eventual seven-game series in 2008-09 really silenced a lot of critics. (Granted, it also fueled a new obnoxious narrative, as Ovechkin’s successes soon were dismissed in light of Crosby’s greater team triumphs, a plot that’s only now been softened.)

One remarkable thing is that the actual goals were pretty easy to forget, as the sheer force of the narrative – and the exhilaration of the series – really lingered. All three of Crosby’s goals were “workmanlike,” as he was essentially hacking away close to the net. Meanwhile, Ovechkin basically scored from “his office” for his first two goals, while his third was a great one-on-one move off of the rush.

Both players would go on to do bigger and better things from team standpoints in particular, yet this was their glorious answer to that Michael Jordan – Larry Bird “H-O-R-S-E” commercial. Like any classic moment, it holds up today.

ADAM

I am going with this goal in 2009 against the Montreal Canadiens with the behind-the-back pass off the boards to himself at center ice, and then scoring while being hauled down on his way to the net. It is just a completely freakish play that I think gets a lost in the shadow of the goal he scored against the Coyotes in his rookie year. Which was also insane.

Crosby is tough because he doesn’t score as many highlight reel goals. He usually scores the rebound goal, or the deflection, or is just so much better than everyone else that he gets to the puck before anyone else does and just straight up beats the goalie. Think my personal favorite goal of his was probably in his return from the concussion because, one, he scored it like five minutes into the game, and two, it was one of his vintage backhand goals where he just skates by everyone and delivers an unstoppable backhand shot.

[WATCH LIVE – 7:30 P.M. ET]

SCOTT

Here you have Alex Ovechkin sapping the will out of his opponents. He splits Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh and scores off his knees with a filthy wrist shot. The goal itself is incredible, and then Girardi’s face on the replay said it all: “What am I even supposed to do about that?” Hacked, hauled down and still scored. Ovechkin at his finest. 

A goal that ignited a nation. After Canada’s disappointment in Turin in 2006, Crosby restored a country with one quick flick of the wrist. It wasn’t his flashiest or even most impressive. But it was his most important. With everything on the line, Crosby did what Crosby does.

JOEY

There’s so many different way you could go when choosing a favorite Ovechkin goal because he’s the best goal scorer of this generation, but how about this individual effort against the New Jersey Devils? Not only does he make defenseman Jon Merrill look silly, he also owns goalie Cory Schneider just seconds later. There’s not many players in the world that can pull that off. 

Crosby grew up cheering for the Montreal Canadiens because his dad was drafted by the team in 1984. So naturally, he had to do something remarkable when he played against them for first time in his NHL career. We’ve all come to appreciate Crosby’s ability to use his backhander, and that’s exactly what he used to beat Jose Theodore in the shootout. Bonus: he totally obliterated the water bottle on top of Theodore’s net. Incredible.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

What is the Kings’ long-term outlook?

Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings
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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Los Angeles Kings.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The Los Angeles Kings currently revolve around two cornerstone pieces, captain Anze Kopitar and defenseman Drew Doughty.

They were central figures during two Stanley Cup seasons in 2012 and 2014 and remain vital to the organization. The Ilya Kovalchuk experiment ended when they placed the veteran winger on unconditional waivers for the purposes of terminating his contract in mid-December.

But now the focus has shifted, and general manager Rob Blake is tasked with finding new pieces to help usher in a different era of Kings hockey.
Blake and his staff aim to build through the draft and own 11 picks in the upcoming draft, including three in the second round, two in the third round and two in the fourth round. The Kings currently sit in the bottom five of the NHL standings and will have a premium first-round pick depending on the results of the lottery at the conclusion of the NHL season.

The Kings also made two selections in the first round of the 2019 draft and have a top-five NHL farm system, according to The Athletic’s prospect rankings this past summer.

Los Angeles won’t return to glory overnight, but they have the ammunition to rebuild their foundation and become a contender in the Western Conference once again.

Long-Term Needs

The Kings need to hit on their upcoming draft picks, simply put. The decisions made by the front office in the upcoming offseason could define the success of the franchise. It will be the difference between a three-year rebuilding process or 10-year absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Los Angeles also has to manage the salary cap over the next few seasons. Its patience will be tested, but the organization needs to wait until Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter’s lucrative contracts expire after the 2021-22 season. Goaltender Jonathan Quick’s deal expires the year after.

With new talent on the horizon, the Kings are in a position to clear out bad contracts but should avoid long-term commitments until a new core is established at the NHL level.

Long-Term Strengths

The good news is Kopitar and Doughty are still performing at a high level. The captain led the team in scoring with 62 points, surpassing his total from last season in 11 fewer games. Doughty leads the team in ice time, averaging a shade under 26 minutes per game and was close to eclipsing the 40-point mark for the sixth straight season.

In addition, Sean Walker secured a spot on the blueline with strong play in the first 70 games of his career. The undrafted defenseman also showed ability on the offensive side of the ice with 24 points, most of which came at even strength.

Most importantly, Todd McLellan looked to be making strides in his first year as head coach. The Kings finished (maybe) the season with an impressive seven-game winning streak and went 10-2-1 in the final 13 games.

The team has a lot of flexibility going forward and now it’s up to Blake to make the correct decisions, and McLellan to execute that plan on the ice.

MORE ON THE KINGS:


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Brian Burke, Mike O’Connell feud over claims about Joe Thornton trade talks

Burke, O'Connell feud over Thornton trade
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Hockey fans have fond memories of Brian Burke’s feud with Kevin Lowe, and now it seems we have a sequel. Burke and former Bruins GM Mike O’Connell are in a war of words over alleged Joe Thornton trade talks. The biggest winners? Us.

Consider it a very short three act play or … boxing match, maybe more appropriately?

Round 1: Burke recalls trying to bring Thornton to the Ducks, “babysitting” O’Connell

Burke provided refreshingly candid answers to fan questions during an April 2 Twitter Q&A. The thread is worth your time, as Burke discusses the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Phil Kessel, Roberto Luongo, and Gary Bettman.

But it was a two-part bit about Burke trying to bring Thornton to the Ducks that got the ball rolling.

Burke explained that he’s “still bitter” that the Ducks didn’t land Thornton, and believes he offered O’Connell a better deal than the Bruins ultimately received from the Sharks.

Most fascinatingly, Burke even gave specifics about what he was willing to offer. Now, one can speculate about who would have been in the Ducks top five in 2005. Would Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry possibly been available for Thornton?

But either way … wow.

As a reminder, the Bruins ended up receiving Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau, and Brad Stuart for Thornton. As Bruins fans would like to forget, Thornton continued to be a star for the Sharks, including winning the 2005-06 Hart Trophy.

[PHT Time Machine: The Eric Lindros trade that didn’t happen.]

Round 2: O’Connell says Burke’s Thornton claims were a “fabrication”

Things got juicier between O’Connell and Burke on Tuesday.

O’Connell told The Athletic’s Joe McDonald (sub required) that Burke’s hypothetical offer didn’t happen, and that the details were a “fabrication.”

“The details surrounding this story are fabricated and I can confirm that no such offer was made to me as I never informed Anaheim of my intentions to trade Joe Thornton,” O’Connell said. “Unfortunately, certain personalities never let the truth get in the way of their ultimate goal, self-promotion.”

Whew! (Shakes hand to indicate serious heat emanating from this rivalry.)

Round 3: Feud sizzles to a new level as Burke counters

Not to be outdone, Burke responded to O’Connell’s claims in a fiery appearance on ESPN on Ice with Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski. Burke made a key point by noting that current Ducks GM Bob Murray was in Burke’s office when he made the offer(s).

Burke also revived memories of wanting to battle Kevin Lowe in a fabled barn over the Dustin Penner offer sheet, saying “I wish we were in the same room, if you’re calling me a liar.” You really need to hear the entire clip, which Wyshynski posted:

*Ponders putting on oven mitts, this is all too hot to handle*

So obviously, this is a he-said, Burkie-said situation. We can only take each hockey executive’s word for it, and one could even argue that Murray might feel loyal to Burke.

But, considering the specifics of Burke’s claims, it seems feasible that the Ducks made some sort of offer for Thornton.

Theories

Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle.

It’s also crucial to realize how much a person’s memory can be altered by time. This happened in 2005, and sometimes the seeds of trades are planted far before a deal is consummated. It’s possible that O’Connell flat-out doesn’t remember Burke’s offer(s).

Not only has time passed, but O’Connell also took a ton of heat for the trade. McDonald notes this anonymous reaction from a Bruins player at the time of the trade:

“Are you kidding me? We traded Joe Thornton for three guys who can’t tie their skates.”

The Bruins fired O’Connell in March of 2006, and the Thornton trade undoubtedly served as a catalyst. Such events can leave you a bit scarred, and maybe even prompt you to forget certain details. Maybe phrasing like “babysitting” bothered O’Connell, even if I took it to mean that Burke was checking up on the situation quite often.

Or maybe O’Connell is right in claiming that Burke is making those Thornton trade claims with the “ultimate goal” of “self-promotion?”

One thing’s clear: this is fun

We can only really guess, and perhaps spend this coronavirus quarantine time imagining “What if?” scenarios. Could Thornton have pushed the Ducks into mini-dynasty status, as this was during their Chris Pronger – Scott Niedermayer era? Would the Bruins have landed blue chips rather than “guys who can’t tie their skates?”

(That’s totally unfair to Primeau, Sturm, and Stuart, as they all had lengthy NHL careers. Though I admit I have not received definitive proof of how adept they are with laces.)

The one thing we do know is that Thornton landed with the Sharks and had a great run. And that O’Connell (currently director of pro development for the Los Angeles Kings) and Burke (Sportsnet personality) probably aren’t best buds.

Hey, it’s a lot more fun than talking about escrow though, right?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NBCSN’s Hockey Happy Hour: McGinn stuns Capitals in double OT

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NBC Sports’ Hockey Happy Hour continues this week with matchups featuring unsung heroes.

The Hurricanes battled the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals to a Game 7 in Round 1 of the 2019 Playoffs. In Game 7 in Washington, Carolina rallied from two separate two-goal deficits to force overtime. In the second overtime period, Brock McGinn netted the winning goal that ended the third longest Game 7 in NHL history.

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire had the call of Game 7 from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, April 7
• Hurricanes vs. Capitals (2019 Round 1, Game 7, Brock McGinn) – 5 p.m. ET
• #HockeyAtHome: Episode 1 – NHL Brothers – 6:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday, April 8
• Senators vs. Penguins (2017 Eastern Conf. Final, Game 7, Chris Kunitz) – 5 p.m. ET
• NHL: Pause and Rewind – 6 p.m. ET

Thursday, April 9
• NHL: Pause and Rewind (Encore) – 5 p.m. ET
• Rangers vs. Kings (2014 Stanley Cup Final, Game 5, Alec Martinez) – 6 p.m. ET

#HOCKEYATHOME: EPISODE 1 – NHL BROTHERS – TUESDAY, 6:30 P.M. ET ON NBCSN
Kathryn Tappen and Sportsnet host David Amber will co-host a 30-minute program about brothers in the NHL. The three sets of brothers interviewed and featured in the program are Eric, Jordan, and Marc Staal; Brady and Matthew Tkachuk; and Quinn and Jack Hughes.

NHL: PAUSE AND REWIND – WEDNESDAY, 6 P.M. ET ON NBCSN
The premiere of a one-hour special, NHL: Pause and Rewind, will take a look back at this past NHL season as well as how players are spending their time off in the current league hiatus. Highlighted segments will include a look at the current top five teams in each conference, reflecting on the season’s milestones, including Alex Ovechkin’s historic 700 goal accomplishment, as well as revisiting the Blues’ improbable Stanley Cup victory last season.

NBC Sports commentators conducting player interviews and sharing #HockeyAtHome social content will also be featured throughout the program.

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Happy Hour can be found here.

Third Avalanche player tests positive for COVID-19

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An eighth NHL player has tested positive for COVID-19.

The league announced Tuesday that a third player from the Colorado Avalanche has the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The league says the player is in self-isolation and has not had close contact with teammates or Colorado staff members.

The five other NHL players who tested positive all play for the Ottawa Senators. The Avalanche and Senators played games in California in March before the season was paused.