Getty Images

The Buzzer: Kucherov and Kane ride again

2 Comments

Three Stars

1. Nikita Kucherov

Kucherov helped the Lightning pass the 90-point standings barrier (before any other team has hit 80), while passing the 90-point mark himself. With an impressive one goal and three assists, Kucherov now has a ridiculous 92 points in just 58 points.

PHT’s covered the “Kucherov is awesome” thing quite well recently, from his fantastic performance on Thursday to his wider dominance from a historical perspective.

It’s probably not shocking, what with the Lightning winning 6-0 against Dallas, that the Bolts generated other quality top three considerations. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves to pitch a shutout, already his fifth of the season. He has an outside chance of tying or exceeding his career high of eight from last season.

Steven Stamkos deserves another honorable mention, scoring two goals and one assist, with one of his tallies being the GWG, and Stamkos also fired six shots on goal. Yeah, it was a good night for quite a few Lightning players.

Kucherov stands above the rest with four points, but he also has two straight four-point nights, and had a three point-game before that, so that’s 11 points in his last three contests. Wow.

2. Auston Matthews

Speaking of players who’ve already received attention, Matthews crossed the 100-goal barrier on Thursday, which you can read about on a broader level in this post.

Matthews is now at 101 goals, actually, as he scored two goals and one assist in Toronto’s win against the Vegas Golden Knights. Matthews fired six SOG in this one, so he was quite active in that victory.

In 43 games this season, Matthews has 27 goals and 26 assists for 53 points.

3. Patrick Kane

With a goal and two assists, Kane didn’t just barely extend his 16-game point streak, he truly powered another Blackhawks win.

But, seriously, that 16-game point streak.

By generating an assist, Kane has had a helper in 15 consecutive games, breaking a tie with Stan Mikita for the Blackhawks’ franchise record. He’s the seventh player with an assist streak of 15 games or more in NHL history.

This marks Kane’s fifth 50+ assist season, putting him on a list of the best passing wingers of all-time. Yeah, there are a lot of ways to carve up the great play of runs like that of Kane and Kucherov.

Highlights of the Night

After this fake-out by Stamkos, Andrew Cogliano might prefer being traded to anonymity.

What a rifle of a shot by Elias Pettersson.

Ilya Kovalchuk does his Brooks Orpik impression.

If you need a smile, and this doesn’t bring that to your face … I just don’t know how to help you.

More Factoids

  • Some significant team streak news, too. The St. Louis Blues won again, stretching their winning streak to eight games. They hold a game in hand over Dallas, so the Blues are now ranked third in the Central. On the other end of the positive streak spectrum, the Avalanche finally won, ending a grueling eight-game skid.
  • Not all streak news was positive. The Sharks fell to the Capitals, so they’re run ended at six wins in a row.
  • Moving to players, T.J. Oshie collected his 500th point, while Chris Kunitz played in his 1,000th game.

Scores

FLA 3 – CGY 2 (SO)
NYI 3 – CBJ 0
DET 3 – OTT 2
TBL 6 – DAL 0
NSH 3 – MTL 1
COL 4 – WPG 1
CHI 5 – NJD 2
STL 4 – ARI 0
TOR 6 – VGK 3
VAN 4 – LAK 3 (SO)
WSH 5 – SJS 1

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.

Ovechkin passes Fedorov as highest-scoring Russian NHL player

Getty
3 Comments

At 33, Alex Ovechkin is really starting to collect impressive milestones. He added another remarkable one on Tuesday, as he scored his 1,180th point, breaking a tie with Sergei Fedorov for the most regular-season points by a Russian-born player in NHL history.

In a less customary fashion for Ovechkin, he reached this record with an assist, as he collected a secondary helper on a T.J. Oshie goal. This pushes Ovechkin to 644 goals and 536 assists, and he has time to add to that total against the Vancouver Canucks during Tuesday’s game, the 1,055th of his already-incredible career.

Refreshingly, while this was a secondary assist, Ovechkin had plenty to do with Oshie’s goal, as he created havoc in a way that — honestly? — feels more reminiscent of a younger Ovechkin, who was more “all over the ice” than the current, office-dwelling model.

Speaking of reminiscing, this milestone opens the door to look back at what Ovechkin’s accomplished so far, Fedorov’s arguably-too-easily-forgotten greatness, and even the brief time they spent together as Capitals teammates.

Yep, some of you probably forgot that Fedorov actually suited up with Ovechkin, but it happened. Fedorov played 70 regular-season and 21 playoff games for the Capitals between 2007-08 and 2008-09, beating Henrik Lundqvist for a game-winner that stood as his last NHL goal:

Ovechkin reached his new record in fewer games than Fedorov, but when you consider that Fedorov slogged through the worst of the “Dead Puck Era,” it really undersells just how great they both were during their peaks. Both players also piled up a ton of playoff games during their illustrious careers, so it’s fun to look at everything side-by-side:

Ovechkin: 644 goals, 536 assists, 1,180 points in 1,055 games.
Playoffs: 61 G, 56 A, 117 pts., 121 games.
Awards: Calder, Three Hart, Three Pearson, Seven Richard, One Art Ross, One Conn Smythe. One Stanley Cup.

Fedorov: 483 goals, 696 assists, 1,179 points in 1,248 games.
Playoffs: 52 G, 124 A, 176 points, 183 games.
Awards: One Hart, Two Selkes, One Ted Lindsay/Pearson. Three Stanley Cup victories.

Two incredible careers, and Ovechkin’s bound to join Fedorov in the Hall of Fame. It will be fascinating to see where Ovechkin’s numbers end up.

One thing that remains after all these years is swagger. Russian Machine Never Breaks notes that, in a Reddit AMA with Lars Eller, Ovechkin was asked which goalie was the toughest to play against, and part of his answer included ” … it doesn’t matter, I still score.”

Ovechkin finished the game with that one assist, while the Capitals managed a 3-2 win against the Canucks.

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.

Capitals sign goalie Pheonix Copley to $3.3M, 3-year deal

by Stephen Whyno (AP Hockey Writer)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — The Washington Capitals will soon have some decisions to make about their future at goaltender.

The Capitals signed backup Phoenix Copley to a $3.3 million, three-year extension Monday that keeps him under contract through the 2021-22 season at a salary-cap hit of $1.1 million. It’s a move that gives the defending Stanley Cup champions some stability in goal but raises questions about their plans.

Starter Braden Holtby is only signed through the end of next season, and Washington has top prospect Ilya Samsonov and 2014 second-round pick Vitek Vanecek in the system. With Copley in the fold, the decision is looming between committing long term to Holtby and turning the net over to Samsonov.

”It’ll work itself out, I think,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. ”We’ll see how Samsonov comes and what our situation is cap-wise and the signings we determine to make.”

Holtby won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender in 2016 and rebounded from a rough stretch last season to backstop Washington to the first title in franchise history. But he stands to get a significant raise from $6.1 million per year and will be 31 when his next contract begins.

Given that the Capitals have already committed big dollars and term to center Evgeny Kuznetsov, wingers Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie and defensemen John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov and also have center Nicklas Backstrom‘s contract up after next season, there is no guarantee the room is there for Holtby.

”It’s human nature to think about it,” Holtby said. ”But outside of maybes, you have no idea. It’s a long ways away. A goaltender’s life can change pretty quickly, so you’ve got to stay in the moment and just play.”

Samsonov was the 22nd pick in 2015 and considered one of the best goalie prospects in hockey. He got off to a rough start in his first season in North America with Hershey of the American Hockey League but the 21-year-old Russian has played much better since. With Vanecek also in the mix, it could pave the way for a trade before the Feb. 25 deadline.

”I like Vitek, too. Samsonov is coming,” MacLellan said. ”Holtby is Holtby. He’s an All-Star goalie. And Copley is finding his way as a good No. 2, so I think it’s important for us to have depth as an organization, protect yourself on injuries.”

Copley has exceeded expectations in his first season as a full-time NHL backup, going 10-5-3 with a 2.98 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. The 27-year-old from North Pole, Alaska, came into the year with a 4.32 GAA and .829 save percentage in two games with the St. Louis Blues.

The Capitals turned to Copley almost by default after trading Philipp Grubauer to Colorado. Coach Todd Reirden said Copley has earned extra starts.

”There are four different occasions that I can tell you about that we could’ve used Braden in that situation and we chose to use Pheonix and he produced right after it,” Reirden said. ”That’s how you earn the coach’s trust and the players’ trust and the player battle for him hard because they know the effort he puts in every day in practice.”

Teammates saluted Copley before practice when Reirden told them about the extension, which came after he made adjustments with goaltending coach Scott Murray since training camp.

”A lot of it’s adjusting to the speed, and the little changes from league to league,” Copley said. ”My plan is just to continue to get better every day, continue working with Scottie and just make sure my game is growing continually.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

WATCH LIVE: Bruins take on Capitals

Getty Images

NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Washington has won 14 straight games against Boston. That represents four straight season sweeps (this game would make five), with the Bruins’ last win over the Capitals coming on March 29, 2014. Braden Holtby has been in net for 12 of the wins during the current streak, and is 16-2-0 in his regular season career vs. the B’s.

Without Alex Ovechkin (served 1-game suspension for skipping All-Star Game), the Capitals came up with a much-needed win on Friday, defeating the West-leading Flames 4-3 to snap their seven-game losing streak. It was their first win since beating Boston on Jan. 10.

On Thursday, the Bruins surrendered 1-0 and 2-1 leads before losing to the Flyers 3-2 in overtime. Boston has now lost both of its games since the All-Star break, three in a row, and five of its last six overall (1-2-3 record). Head coach Bruce Cassidy was critical of his defensive group, and his captain in particular, after the most recent defeat:

“Listen, he’s the captain of the hockey club. He won a Stanley Cup here by being a defensive stalwart, one of the best penalty killers in the league, so yes, he’s part of that group, and the biggest part of it. He’s a terrific leader. The next game, he [needs to] understand what makes us successful. We’ll have a conversation about it. But he is the leader back there. [Chara has] got to get Charlie [McAvoy] to buy in, got to get [Brandon] Carlo, he has, and that has to continue. Kevan Miller, I put him in that group too. They have to lead back there and understand what it takes to be successful right now for us. Right now for us [that] is team defense.”

This will be the 999th game of Patrice Bergeron’s career. Number 1,000 will come on Tuesday at home against the Islanders. At age 33, the four-time Selke Trophy winner is having the best offensive season of his career, averaging 1.26 points/game (44 points in 35 games). If Bergeron stays healthy (already missed 16 game so far), he could top his career high of 73 points, set in 2005-06 at age 20.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET – NBC]

What: Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals
Where: Capital One Arena
When: Sunday, Feb. 3, 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
Live stream: You can watch the Bruins-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Peter Cehlarik – David KrejciJake DeBrusk
Joakim Nordstrom – Trent Frederic – David Backes
Sean KuralyNoel AcciariChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Kevan Miller

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas BackstromT.J. Oshie
Jakub VranaEvgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson
Dmitrij JaskinTravis BoydBrett Connolly
Andre BurakovskyChandler StephensonDevante Smith-Pelly

Michal KempnyJohn Carlson
Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikJonas Siegenthaler

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

John Forslund, Mike Milbury, and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass analyst) will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Kathryn Tappen will host studio coverage alongside Eddie Olczyk and Keith Jones.

WATCH LIVE: Capitals – Maple Leafs on NBCSN

Getty

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Yes, every team hopes to enter the All-Star break on a high note, but the Capitals rank among those with the most incentive to churn out another win.

They’ve lost six consecutive games, and since it looks like Alex Ovechkin‘s playing on Wednesday (thus meaning he’s suspended for a game on Feb. 1), falling to the Maple Leafs would really make for a dour way to begin a little hockey vacation.

With the Bruins and Canadiens not all that far behind the Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic, don’t expect Toronto to take it easy on Wednesday. Considering all of these factors, it should be fascinating to watch these two teams duke it out.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs
Where: Scotiabank Arena
When: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Capitals – Maple Leafs stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin — Nicklas BackstromT.J. Oshie
Jakub VranaEvgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson
Dmitrij JaskinLars EllerBrett Connolly
Chandler StephensonTravis BoydAndre Burakovsky

Dmitry OrlovJohn Carlson
Michal KempnyMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikJonas Siegenthaler

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

MAPLE LEAFS

Patrick MarleauAuston MatthewsMitch Marner
Zach HymanJohn TavaresKasperi Kapanen
Connor BrownNazem KadriWilliam Nylander
Par LindholmFrederik Gauthier — Trevor Moore

Morgan RiellyRon Hainsey
Travis DermottNikita Zaitsev
Martin MarincinIgor Ozhiganov

Starting goalie: Frederik Andersen

Gord Miller (play-by-play), Brian Boucher (analyst) and Ray Ferraro (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call.

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.