Kukla's Korner Hockey
Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals has captured his first Vezina Trophy, awarded to the “goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position,” as selected by NHL General Managers. Prior to 1981-82, the Vezina was awarded to the goaltender(s) whose team allowed the fewest goals during the regular season, the current criterion for the William Jennings Trophy.
Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz has captured the Jack Adams Award as “the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success,” as selected by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association.
from Isabelle Khurshudyan of The Washington Post,
“I’m pretty content with the core,” MacLellan said Monday. “I think the ninth, 10th forward are where we’re going to look to improve.”
The Capitals won’t have room to do much else, and the success of the regular season shouldn’t be completely ignored either. Just three players are unrestricted free agents: forwards Jason Chimera and Mike Richards and defenseman Mike Weber. MacLellan said he’ll prioritize re-signing the team’s four restricted free agents — Marcus Johansson, Dmitry Orlov, Tom Wilson and Michael Latta — before considering whether the unrestricted ones have a place next season.
But in identifying how a largely successful team needs to improve, MacLellan pointed to the bottom half of the forward corps as needing “a little work,” specifically in becoming more offensively reliable.
“You know, we’ve talked about it: It’s turned into a top-nine league,” MacLellan said. “I don’t know that we had a pure top nine. Maybe we had a top eight or a top seven-and-a-half or however you want to value that, but I think we were a little short on the top nine.
“I think you need two-way guys, guys who can play both ways. Ideally for us, I think we need some offense out of it.”
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
What happens next for this Caps squad will be interesting, as it always is. Some fans will lobby for Washington to blow up its roster, similar to the way many St. Louis Blues fans felt a year ago after their team made yet another first-round exit. But like the Blues of a year ago, Washington would be wise to consider the manner in which St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong tackled last offseason, making important moves like the T.J. Oshie-for-Troy Brouwer trade, but resisting making sweeping changes or blowing up the core. He chose to believe once more in what he had, and his team came back for another try.
It's what I believe Caps GM Brian MacLellan should do. Make some moves, yes, but not drop a grenade on the whole thing. "There's no way I would blow them up," said a rival Eastern Conference hockey executive. "You don't do that to a 120-point team. But I do think they need more team speed. That showed itself against Pittsburgh."
For starters, the blueline was exposed by the Penguins' speed in this series. After the top three of John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner, this is a blue-line corps that thins out in a hurry. This is the area I would try to seriously upgrade this summer.
from Frank Seravalli of TSN,
Nick Bonino delivered the Heimlich Maneuver when he scored six minutes into overtime for the Penguins, eliminating the Capitals in six games in their best-of-seven series with a head-spinning 4-3 win at a Consol Energy Center that was both bonkers and manic in the same game.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are now halfway home. They’ve checked off eight boxes on the shirts they wear underneath their equipment that say ‘Just Win.’ Eight to go.
“I really think they’ve got a shot at it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
When this grueling journey began 30 days ago, Trotz felt the same about his team. He handicapped that there are maybe 10 heavyweights in the NHL who have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup in any given year.
“I thought we were going to be one of them,” Trotz said.
Instead, Pittsburgh will host Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference final beginning this weekend for the right to play for Lord Stanley’s mug. And the Capitals squandered their fifth 100-point regular season in the last seven years alone.
Game highlights are below...
from Dan Steinberg of DC Sports Bog at the Washington Post,
Now remember all the ways this team had distinguished itself in the regular season. Instead of question marks in goal, Washington had a Vezina Trophy frontrunner. Instead of uninspiring fill-ins centering the second line, Washington had a brilliant all-star. Instead of kids, there were veteran leaders everywhere. And instead of defensive holes, Washington’s blue line was deep and sturdy.
All those pillars trembled in the playoffs. Holtby tied the NHL’s mark for regular season wins, but Penguins kid goalie Matt Murray matched him in this series. Evgeny Kuznetsov became the first player other than Nicklas Backstrom or Alex Ovechkin to lead Washington in scoring in more than a decade; he had only two points in 12 postseason games. The veteran leaders sometimes stumbled; Williams led Washington in postseason penalty minutes, while Brooks Orpik got himself suspended for three games. As for the blue line, with Orpik out, the depth included Nate Schmidt and Mike Weber, who were each victimized on crucial goals.
And so what will be remembered was no Tuesday’s frantic comeback, but the result. Look, this isn’t a historical failure, and it won’t be as haunting as that 2010 loss to Montreal. The Penguins have 22 wins in their past 27 games, and will be favored to reach the Stanley Cup finals. But this was Washington’s best and most balanced regular season team, certainly of the Ovechkin era and maybe in franchise history. It was a team built for the postseason, with a blend of scoring, defense, leadership and depth. It had, as Jason Chimera said Tuesday, “that special feeling all year.”
It was special because it felt different. Thanks largely to a few inexplicable blips — those stretches of alarmingly poor play — the ending is the same. Now the Caps have 11 months to try to do something different yet again.
The Penguins defeated the Washington Capitals 4-3 in OT tonight to win the series 4-2.
GIFs of tonight's goals can be viewed in the game post.
The Capitals tied the game...
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
The Pittsburgh Penguins will try to finish off the Washington Capitals in Game 6 on Tuesday night here at Consol Energy Center, but the visiting team has thoughts of bringing this series back home for seven.
Here’s what to watch for in Game 6, which begins at 8 p.m. ET:
The Capitals were able to keep their top line of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie mostly away from Sidney Crosby in Game 5 because they had last line change. They won’t have it Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.
Kuznetsov says he’s ready for the challenge if he does indeed find Crosby across from him.
"I would like to make a funny answer but it’s not the time for jokes right now,’’ said Kuznetsov with a smile when asked about the Crosby matchup. "If we play our game, it doesn’t matter against who we play. All four of their centermen are pretty good. Somebody thinks Matt Cullen is a fourth-line center, but he’s got lots of goals, he’s played pretty well. So we just have to play our game. Today, we don’t have to look against who we play.’’
Having the last line change is an opportunity for the Penguins to put No. 87’s unit on Kuznetsov if they want, although Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan is also cognizant of not chasing matchups that could affect the natural flow of his four-line rotation.
via NBC Sports Group press release,
PENGUINS-CAPITALS GAME 5 ON NBC IS SECOND-MOST WATCHED NON-STANLEY CUP FINAL NHL PLAYOFF GAME SINCE 1993
Saturday’s primetime presentation of Game 5 between the Penguins and Capitals on NBC (7:08-11:05 p.m. ET) is the second-most watched non-Stanley Cup Final game on record (since 1993), averaging 4.164 million viewers. The game also posted a 2.40 HH rating, making it the second-highest rated non-Stanley Cup Final game ever on NBC (since 2006). Saturday night’s game trails only last year’s Western Conference Final Game 7 matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks on NBC in both categories (5/30/15; 4.601 million viewers and 2.61 HH rating).
- Through all available games on NBC, the playoffs have posted 1.983 million average viewers (up 8% from NBC’s comparable coverage of the playoffs last year);
- Pittsburgh – Game 5 produced a 19.8 rating in Pittsburgh to rank as the highest-rated Penguins game on NBC in the market since the 2013 Eastern Conference Final (6/1/13; 23.2);
- Washington D.C. – Game 5 produced a 7.7 rating in Washington D.C. to rank as the highest-rated Capitals game on NBC in the market since the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs. Boston (4/22/12; 8.7);
- NBC was the No. 1 network in both Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. during the game.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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