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…

Stat of the Day: Capitals have just three regulation losses since start of December

The Washington Capitals are on quite a run.

After a slow start to the season, the Caps have been virtually unstoppable for two months now, having gone 19-2-3 in 24 games since a 3-0 loss to the Islanders on December 1st to open up the slate of games for the final month of 2016. Washington hasn’t lost in regulation since December 27th, going 12-0-1 over its past 13 contests, the only loss an overtime defeat in last Monday’s 8-7 thriller against Pittsburgh.

Washington, which won the Presidents Trophy last season as the NHL’s best regular season team, has reclaimed the top spot in the league standings with 70 points as of Tuesday, a two-point lead ahead of Metropolitan Division rival Columbus, which holds down second.

The one caveat to this midseason run is the ‘peaking too soon’ argument that gets thrown around when teams play at this level at this time of the year. The run isn’t dissimilar to the level of play Washington was at this time last season en route to finishing with 120 points, which tied the 1972-73 Montreal Canadiens for the eighth-best total in NHL history. The Capitals went on a 32-5-3 run between November 19th and February 22nd of last season, but were bounced in the second round by Pittsburgh in six games.

For this current Capitals roster, it’s now or never, as next year’s team is guaranteed to look much different than this season’s edition. Karl Alzner, T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, and Danniel Winnik are due to become unrestricted free agents while Andre Burakovsky, Evgeni Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov will be restricted free agents. On top of all that, No. 1 defenseman John Carlson’s deal is up after next season and will be in line for a higher wage than his current $3.97 million salary. While Washington will remain competitive, the roster will look much different come 2017-18.

The team certainly seems to be playing as if that’s the message they’re receiving. As for whether this level can be sustained and Washington can advance to the conference finals for the first time of the Alex Ovechkin era remains to be seen.

 

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.

Bruins Face Canadiens for First Time, Scott Stevens Returns to New Jersey, Brian Elliot Faces Blues

Quite a bit to watch on Saturday night as 12 NHL games are being played, including the first game between Boston and Montreal, Flames goaltender Brian Elliot facing the Blues, who traded him over the offseason. Zach Parise and Scott Stevens will make their returns to New Jersey as the Wild face the Devils; Parise, of course, as a player, and Stevens as an assistant coach to Bruce Boudreau.

Here’s the games being played: Toronto at Chicago, 7; N.Y. Rangers at Washington, 7; Montreal at Boston, 7; Carolina at Philadelphia, 7; Tampa Bay at Ottawa, 7; Colorado at Florida, 7; San Jose at Detroit, 7; Minnesota at New Jersey, 7; Pittsburgh at Nashville, 8; Columbus at Dallas, 8; Vancouver at Los Angeles, 10; St. Louis at Calgary, 10.

Players to Watch

Chicago: Richard Panik; Don’t look now but Panik is leading the Hawks with five goals in five games. Patrick who?

Toronto: James van Reimsdyk; Will not be playing against his brother, Trevor, as its being reported the younger van Reimsdyk will miss 5-6 weeks with an upper-body injury, as it’s being reported by Scott Powers of The Athletic. The two have played each other just once.

N.Y. Rangers: Mike Zibanejad; Off to a nice start with five points in four games.

Washington: Zach Sanford; The rookie expected to play Saturday after being out of the lineup on Thursday. Will face fellow ex-BC big forward Chris Kreider for the first time.

Montreal: Tomas Plekanec; The 33-year-old center seems to like playing the Bruins, his 46 points against the archrival is the most he’s scored against any NHL opponent.

Boston: David Backes; First game in the rivalry. In 11 games against Montreal, he has four goals and eight points.

Carolina: Victor Rask; The Swedish center leads the Hurricanes with five goals in four games. He had 48 last season, up from 33 his rookie season.

Philadelphia: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare; The French centerman is leading the Flyers with a 54 percent faceoff percentage. He’s won 24 of 44 draws.

Tampa Bay: Ben Bishop; The Lightning netminder played 23 games in Ottawa from 2011-13 before being traded to Tampa, where his career has since blossomed. He is 117-53-17 since that deal, with a .921 save percentage and 2.26 GAA. Bishop has twice finished in the top three of the Vezina Trophy voting in a Lightning uniform.

Ottawa: Guy Boucher; Yeah, yeah, I know. He’s a coach. But the Senators first-year bench boss spent three seasons as the head man in Tampa Bay, going 97-79-20. He led the Bolts to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final in 2011, his first season behind the bench.

Colorado: Patrick Wiercioch; The defenseman has four points in four games.

Florida: Jaromir Jagr; Jagr coming off his 750th goal of the season.

San Jose: Brent Burns; The defenseman has points in five consecutive games to begin the season.

Detroit: Thomas Vanek; Still second on the team with six points.

Minnesota: Zach Parise; Still hanging on 299. How fitting would it be to get 300 in New Jersey, where he spent the first seven years of his career?

New Jersey: Cory Schneider; Has a .938 save percentage and 2.00 GAA in four games. Going to need to keep it up; the Devils have six goals in four games.

Pittsburgh: Patric Hornqvist; He has four points in five games, second on the team behind Evgeni Malkin, who has five.

Nashville: James Neal; Played in Pittsburgh from 2011-14, had 89 goals and 184 points in 199 games.

Columbus: Zach Werenski; The rookie leads the Jackets in scoring.

Dallas: Devin Shore; The 22-year-old tied with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin for the team lead with four goals.

Vancouver: Jacob Markstrom; He’s stopped 68 of 73 shots that have come his way in three games.

Los Angeles: Jeff Carter; His 58.8 faceoff percentage ninth in the league.

St. Louis: Jay Bouwmeester; The defenseman played four seasons in Calgary. His 25:52 average time on ice was the highest among the three teams he played for (Florida 2002-09, St. Louis 2013-present).

Calgary: Brian Elliot; Played five seasons in St. Louis, had a 2.01 GAA and .925 save percentage in 181 games.

#HatTrickChallenge

James Neal: Hasn’t found the net in four games. Breaks out against his former team.

Game of the Night

Montreal at Boston: It’s never a dull one when these two teams face each other.

Lock to Win

Minnesota: Zach Parise gets his 300th goal against the team that drafted him and the Wild continue to roll.

 

 

Thoughts Are Mine Only: Alex Radulov Breaks Four-Year Scoring Drought

These thoughts are my own only. Just in case you were wondering.

The title is self explanatory. Just meaningless thoughts you probably could care less about, plus some links, stats, observations, and whatever else gets thrown in there. It’ll be worth your while. Or maybe it won’t be. Only way you know is if you check it out.

*First career goal by Matthew Tkachuk, the sixth overall pick in this past June’s draft by the Flames. The son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk, he’ll be 19 in December. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

*The throwback Pittsburgh white sweaters combined with the classic red trademark sweaters for Montreal. Pure jersey porn at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.

*Montoya’s save percentage through three games: .962.

*Alexander Radulov’s 48th goal in the NHL came on Tuesday. It came 1,654 days after No. 47. The gap between No. 44 and 45 was 1,462 games.

*Huge loss for the Coyotes if Mike Smith is out for extended time. He hasn’t been a world beater by any stretch since his 2011-12 campaign that ended with a Western Conference final appearance, almost winning a Vezina Trophy. A shoddy defensive team but one that dazzles with the puck, Arizona needs a 2012-like Smith in order to fulfill expectations some hold of them being a ‘surprise team’; not unlike how Seymon Varlomov was for Colorado in 2013-14, or Price for the Canadiens in 2014-15.

*Taylor Hall was the best player on the ice for the Devils on Tuesday night, their first win of the season.

*Marian Hossa got his 500th goal in Chicago’s win over Philadelphia. He’s got five years left on his deal, so there should be plenty more.

*Another great hockey information website gone too soon. General Fanager has shut down, as website founder Tom Poraszka was hired by the expansion Las Vegas franchise.

*Non-hockey thought: As soon as the Cubs seem like they’re ahead, they fall behind. Dodgers won, 6-0, to go ahead 2-0 on Tuesday. Still say they win the Pennant, but there’s that small part of me that says they screw it up.

Links

Remember that time there was massive college hockey power in Maine? Of course you do. Well, they might just be back.

You get confused by the way supplemental discipline is handed out in the NHL? No need to worry, Matt Larkin of The Hockey News has you covered.

The talk out there is that hockey is becoming a young man’s game.

Finally gave a listen to Bob McKenzie’s new podcast, aptly name the ‘Bobcast’. It’s good. Even throws in some life tips towards the end.