The Washington no-conference title/LCS (yes, including the Capitals and Nationals) streak is bonkers

ICYMI: The Washington Nationals season ended on Thursday with another choke job, blowing an early three-run lead to fall to the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the NLDS. Another year, another Washington team coming up short.

Among the 4 Washington teams (Capitals, Nationals, Wizards, Redskins), none have reached the final four (conference final/LCS) since the Adam Oates/Peter Bondra/Olaf Kolzig Caps reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1998, where they lost to the Red Wings.

NBC Sports Washington went through what has been nearly two full decades of futility. Here are some highlights:

*Only city with three or more pro sports teams to not reach final four of league playoffs since 2000.

*16 straight losses in elimination games, where said Washington team would’ve advanced with a victory.

*Among the 13 cities with four teams, every team but Washington has made at least five appearances in a league final four.

It’s surprising but it’s not when you think about it. Yes, the Ovechkin Capitals inability to advance past the Second Round is well-documented, as is the Nationals “if they don’t underperform in the regular, just wait until October” thing they’ve had going on during the Bryce Harper era that stretches back to 2012. But if I wasn’t entrenched in that baseball/hockey world, where maybe my eyes are more untrained, I’d say ‘yeah, they’ve been good long enough to have made a run at some point.’ Meanwhile the Wizards and Redskins have ranged from anywhere from playoff one-and-done to mediocre to downright terrible.

Of course, this could all come crashing down come spring if the Capitals were to make a run, which is all entirely possible. While they lost a little bit from last year, there’s still plenty in the tank to make a run. No pressure, Ovi.

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Matt Niskanen sent apology text to Crosby following playoff cross-check

This was probably a top-five dumbest hockey story of all-time back in the spring.

In case you don’t remember, here’s a refresher for you. During the first period of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round between the Penguins and Capitals last season, Sidney Crosby was going to the net, gets slashed/high-sticked/lacrosse-style stick-checked (whatever it was it was nothing major) by Alex Ovechkin then loses his feet, runs into Matt Niskanen whose stick meets his face. Niskanen goes to the box for cross-checking, Crosby leaves the game and goes into concussion protocol (then missed Game 4 of the series, which Pittsburgh won in seven games) and all hell breaks loose everywhere but inside the glass of this hockey game.

To sum it all up, it was essentially an Internet Outrage Industrial Complex special.

It also gave us this beauty.

So Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of the first Pens-Caps showdown of the season, Crosby told reporters he received an apology text from Niskanen in the aftermath, basically saying it was all water under the bridge and, well, a complete non-issue, upon which few would disagree.

Again, there was so little to this story yet it somehow managed to gain legs and spread like wildfire, something not uncommon to say the least.

Hopefully this closes the book on this story. Until the next “wow, why are we dedicating so much air time and column inches to this” saga…

Wingers : 1-5

1 – Patrick Kane

The only winger I see as a slam dunk, no-its-not-up-for-debate top-5 player on the planet. Kane’s last two seasons have been his two best, recording 89 points last season after posting a league-high 106 in his Hart Trophy-winning campaign of 2015-16. Chicago’s top line of Kane, Artem Anisimov, and Artemi Panarin have carried the Blackhawks the last two seasons. While Panarin is gone to Columbus, I get the feeling Kane will be just fine.

2 – Jamie Benn

Benn makes up half of one of the league’s top tandems along with Tyler Seguin, whose impact on Benn’s numbers since he came to Dallas in 2013 I highlighted when I ranked the league’s best centers on Monday. Those numbers – 324 points in 322 games over the past four seasons, which ranks third in the NHL – are a combination of Seguin’s impact plus Benn coming into his own as a player through the prime years that are the mid-to-late 20s. Before dipping to 69 points last season in what was a disappointing year for just about everyone in Dallas, Benn won the Art Ross trophy in 2014-15 with 87 points before posting 89 in 2015-16, which was second in the league.

3 – Vladimir Tarasenko

Three wingers have won the Hart Trophy since the 2004-05 lockout (Kane, Alex Ovechkin, Corey Perry). Tarasenko could be the fourth. The 25-year-old has played four full seasons in the NHL and seems to get better every year, his points going on a yearly progression of 43-73-74-75 over that span. His goals over the last three seasons have gone 37-40-39. He’s due for a Rocket Richard Trophy.

4 – Nikita Kucherov

With Steven Stamkos injured last season, Kucherov carried the Lightning in the second half of the season. His usage spiked down the stretch last year, and the 24-year-old responded with as good a finishing kick as there was in the league over the final six weeks. Kucherov recorded 36 points over the final 23 games of the season.

5 – Alex Ovechkin

We’re at the stage of Ovechkin’s career where he’s beginning to knock down records and pass big names on the all-time lists. At 558 goals, he should pass Guy Lafleur (560), Mike Modano (561), Mats Sundin (564), and Joe Nieuwendyk (564) before Thanksgiving and could catch Mike Bossy (573) by Christmas. His 33 goals sent a few shockwaves after three straight seasons of 50-plus and four consecutive Richard Trophies (he has six overall in his career). Ovechkin’s offensive production at five-on-five was down, but was still one of the best in the league on the powerplay, and his shooting percentage (10.5) was the second-lowest of his career. So yes, there were drops in terms of shot volume, goals, and points, but nothing dramatic.

Second Look: Crosby and Ovechkin play on same line

This is what makes the All-Star Game such a spectacle. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the two greatest players of the generation of which they played, playing together on the same line, setting each other up for goals.

Who wouldn’t want to watch this?

The two stars, who have been bitter rivals since coming into the league in 2005 and bitter division rivals since the NHL realigned in 2013, finished with a goal and assist apiece en route to the Metro winning the four-team three-on-three tournament that was the game. Both picked up their points in the first game, a 10-6 win over the Atlantic. Crosby got the first goal on an assist from Ovechkin before Crosby returned the favor, setting up Ovechkin for a goal with a second to play.

Alex Ovechkin first of a few stars to reach 1,000 points in coming future

Alex Ovechkin scored his 1,000th career point on Wednesday night in the first period of the Washington Captials 5-2 win over Pittsburgh on a goal that coincided with the 545th tally of his career, which put him past hockey legend Maurice Richard for sole possession of 29th place on the all-time list.

He became the 84th player in NHL history to record 1,000 points in the league.

The milestone, of course is another mark in the amazing career of Ovechkin, who will go down as one of the great goal scorers to ever play the game. He reached 1,000 points in 880 games, one of just 37 players to reach four figures with one team.

Going into the game, Ovechkin was one of five NHLers within 45 points of the milestone. The Russian won the race, with Henrik Sedin the closest to him, at 996. He also beat out Sidney Crosby, who along with Ovechkin has been the face of the league since the two came into the league following the 2004-05 lockout. Crosby stands 17 shy, at 983.

Daniel Sedin (965) and Shane Doan (956) are the others within striking distance. Sedin, whose twin brother is four points shy, might not reach it until next season. Doan, however, might not reach the mark. Doan has just 11 points in 40 games this season, and there’s speculation he might retire at the conclusion of the season.

Ovechkin is the only player to score 1,000 points in a Washington uniform. Few will argue his place as the most important player in franchise history, not to mention the best, as well. He’s one of six active players with 1,000 career points, joining former Capital Jaromir Jagr (remember that?), who is second all-time at 1,893, Joe Thornton (1,367), Jarome Iginla (1,284), Marian Hossa (1,114), and Patrick Marleau (1,055).

As for who follows this group of five (if you include Doan) on the horizon? Well, there’s not much. Henrik Zetterberg (864) is next on the list after Doan, but is unlikely to reach 1,000, at 36 years old and heading into the twilight of his career. Jason Spezza (837), Eric Staal (816), and Evgeni Malkin (804) are the next ones on the list, but all three will need at least a couple of seasons to get to the milestone.

Alex Ovechkin can match Maurice Richard on goal scoring list tonight

With the Washington Capitals visiting the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night, Alex Ovechkin will be visiting the city in which Maurice Richard starred back in the middle of the 20th century, building a resume of work that still makes him among the greatest goal scorers ever.

So why is that relevant?

Well, Ovechkin currently stands at 30th place on the all-time goal scoring list with 543 tallies. Richard, who played from 1943-60 and retired as the all-time leader in goals, sits in 29th at 544. The 31-year-old sniper could tie the legendary Canadien with a goal on Monday night, in the same city – albeit a different barn – that Richard played in.

Above all, this would another feather in the cap of the Russian winger, who in his early 30s with plenty of hockey left in him yet is already widely considered one of the greatest goal scorers ever. Richard, while just 29th on the all-time list, is on the short-list of those whom a case can be made for being the best goal-scorer ever. A place where Ovechkin can be – if he’s not already there.

Since Ovechkin entered the league in 2005, there have been 20 seasons of 50-plus goals. He accounts for seven of them, and is the only player to score 50 times in a season since 2012, something he’s done three times. Only Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk have multiple 50-goal seasons over that span, the last of which came in 2007-08, when Ovi’s countryman scored 52 goals for the Atlanta Thrashers.

There will be plenty of milestones to come for Ovechkin, barring injury or other unforeseen circumstances. He’ll likely reach 600 career goals next season and is a virtual lock for 700, a mark reached just seven times in NHL history.

But matching the Rocket will be the latest bar cleared in Ovechkin’s legacy.

Metro Division: Facts, Figures, Predictions

*The Flyers are one of just seven teams to not have a Calder Trophy winner.

*The Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs since 2009. Only Edmonton, who lost to Carolina in the 2006 Stanley Cup final, its most recent postseason appearance, has a longer drought.

*The Capitals are one of just four franchises that were in business prior to the 1979 WHA merger that have no Stanley Cup to its name. The others: Buffalo, St. Louis, Vancouver.

*Philadelphia has the second-highest all-time point percentage (.577) trailing only Montreal (.589). Columbus is the lowest, at .467. The Flyers have the second-most playoff appearances (38) among non-Original Six franchises. The Blues take the cake in that category, with 40.

*The Islanders recorded back-to-back 100-point campaigns the last two seasons, the first time that’s happened since 1980-81, 1981-82; the meat of the Al Arbour era in which the halls (or the LIE) were decked with Stanley Cups.

*John Tavares sits in just 12th place on the Isles all-time scoring list at 471 points, but he can do some serious damage over the next couple seasons. If he matches the 156-point output over the last two seasons (which he should do easily), Tavares will move into the top five on the Islanders scoring list. He’s within 200 of fourth place, a perch held by Clark Gilles, who put up 663 from 1975-86.

*Top three active players in points per game: Sidney Crosby (1.327), Evgeni Malkin (1.18), and Alex Ovechkin (1.151). Nicklas Backstrom is seventh, scoring at a rate of 0.985 in 652 career games going back to 2007.

*Crosby ranks fifth on the all-time list; behind Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, and Bobby Orr.

*Assists per game: Crosby (0.849), Backstrom (0.732), and Malkin (0.722).

*At an average age of 27.2, the Capitals were tied with the 2006-07 Sabres for the third-youngest team to win the Presidents’ Trophy.

*Taylor Hall has posted more than 65 points just once (80, 2014), has played more than 65 games just twice. Thirty goals remains on the bucket list. Peter Chiarelli didn’t trade Jari Kurri.

*Ovechkin’s 525 goals since 2005-06 lead the NHL. But you knew that. The next closest? That would be Jarome Iginla, with 361. 361!!

*Here’s something you didn’t expect: Of the ten 52-goal seasons assembled in that time, Ovechkin accounts for just four. Remember that time Jonathan Cheechoo scored 56 goals? Yeah didn’t think so.

Predictions

1- Washington: Best team in the Eastern Conference, from top to bottom.

2- Pittsburgh: No team has repeated since the 1998 Red Wings. Hearing the Penguins really, really want to be that first team to defend a title since then.

3- Rangers: Jeff Gorton acquires Kevin Shattenkirk in a trade deadline deal.

4- Philadelphia: Warning to college campuses – NHL executives are going to begin raiding your hockey programs.

5- Islanders: Lots of questions marks on the Island.

6- Carolina: Don’t be surprised if the Hurricanes make the playoffs.

7- Columbus: Ditto the Jackets. Zach Werenski wins the Calder Trophy.

8- New Jersey: Not a bad team, just victims of a killer division.