Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
You often hear about teams in the middle of long losing streaks not being "as bad" as their recent record indicates. And certainly that's the case with the Washington Capitals who, after finally beating someone (the hapless, helpless Senators), are about to run roughshod over the Eastern Conference.
They have Alex Ovechkin(notes). They have Alex Semin. They have Nicklas Backstrom(notes). They have Mike Green(notes). They have an excellent collection of complementary forwards. They have some defensemen that range from solid to young and improving to Tom Poti(notes). And they have, in theory at least, reasonable-if-unspectacular goaltending.
Not that any of that has mattered lately. Instead, they floundered offensively, gotten killed in their own zone and been pushed around on special teams.
But the streak is over, Bruce Boudreau can finally wipe the ketchup off his face. Now they're going to get better, and it's pretty easy to see why.
(Coming Up: Lambert vs. Chris Osgood(notes); Dale Weise(notes) has a drinking problem; the greatest hockey Christmas ornament ever; Daymond Langkow's(notes) career likely done; Mitchell out; Ducks make a Selanne gamble; a Rick DiPietro(notes) injury (!); Patrick Kane(notes) and Marian Hossa(notes) getting closer; Espen Knutsen meets Cecil family; Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) reads the standings; Luongo gets ugly; Nabby-to-the-Bolts; the Sharks drop the gloves; celebrating and bemoaning which Nik Zherdev; and how John Tavares(notes) can end up in Edmonton.)
Remember, this eight-game losing streak of theirs, during which they only picked up two loser points, came as everyone got sick or injured or both, and that led to them scoring just 11 goals in these nine games as they allowed 27.
Say what you want about Washington's defensive play -- and whether Bruce Boudreau should be trying to implement a more sound defensive system when the team's bread has been buttered with offense lo these last three years -- but it's not "3.4 goals a game" bad. And obviously, there's no way that offense is even half as bad as 1.4 a game.
It's one of those everything-that-can-go-wrong-will things. This much bad luck, or whatever you want to call it, had to end at some point, and now this team is in line for a big, big statistical correction. They'd scored on just one of their previous 18 power plays coming into last night. This is a team that, in the two full seasons under Boudreau, has never slipped below 25 percent for the season. And even despite this horrible cold streak, it was still 21 percent. Eighth in the league.
Along those same lines, Ovechkin has two goals in his last 17 games. On 79 shots. Do you think there's a universe in which that guy keeps a shooting percentage of 2.5 going for any more considerable length of time? He's bound to score like seven in four games within the next week or two, just to round out that statistical correction.
But here's how bad that losing streak got: The Capitals actually surrendered their division lead for a day or so. This is almost unheard of in the Southeast, where they've had a stranglehold since Boudreau came aboard. And this team is so good (relative to their competition) that even after losing EIGHT games in a row, they were still comfortably in a playoff spot in the East and technically tied for a home ice spot.
That should give you an idea of just how good this team is, was and will continue to be. That eight-game losing skid literally doubled their season loss total. They'd won 18 of their previous 26. A team doesn't just back into a winning percentage approaching .700.
But perhaps most important is that now, after all the talk and the articles and the HBO documentaries highlighting every grisly detail of this losing streak -- and laying their faults bare for the world to see -- they're going to have a gigantic chip on their shoulder.
A pissed off Washington Capitals is the last thing anyone in the Eastern Conference needs.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Randy Carlyle wanted to jumpstart the offense, so he put Teemu Selanne(notes) on a line with Ryan Getzlaf(notes) and Corey Perry(notes) in Saturday's game with Carolina. It worked, too, since Getzlaf scored twice. The problem was, no other line scored. And also the penalty kill was awful. And Jonas Hiller(notes) gave up three goals. But other than that, an aces plan.
Boston Bruins: Yup, Boston beat Washington 3-2 to snap a three-game winless skid, but boy was that game ever boring and ugly. The Caps outshot their hosts 26-2 in the final period, which, from my understanding, isn't very good.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres headed to Florida riding a 4-1-1 streak, and they got absolutely pushed around by the Panthers and Lightning, losing by a combined score of 9-3. When you're only pumping one goal past that Tampa defense and goaltending situation, you've got big problems up front.
Calgary Flames: Daymond Langkow's career is probably over. No one knows what's wrong with him, and at 34 years old, you have to wonder how much he'd have left in the tank even if he did come back, like, tomorrow.
Chicago Blackhawks: Both Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa are closer to coming back from injury, but they weren't good to go against the Kings last night. Viktor Stalberg(notes) also missed the game. The Blackhawks are in rough shape right now.
Dallas Stars: Well this is an interesting way to spin the Derek Dorsett non-goal: "The Columbus Blue Jackets spent much of their time after Saturday's game discussing the officiating. The Stars did not." Well, I mean, no. But why would they? Marc Crawford sure was doing a lot of bitching last week about that penalty shot thing, right? I doubt anyone covering the game from the Blackhawks side noted that Joel Quenneville didn't do much complaining about that call. Very strange.
Detroit Red Wings: Real headline: "Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood hasn't piled up many individual accolades, just wins." That's because he sucks -- always has, in fact -- and the teams he's been on were amazing. I don't see what's so hard about this. His best-ever season from a statistical standpoint is as good as Marty Turco's(notes) fourth. And no one's putting Turco's plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Edmonton Oilers: Is Sam Gagner(notes) a future top-line center for the Oilers? Or a guy who's never going to progress to the point where he can win a draw to save his life, and will thus be relegated to second-line status forever (not that there's anything wrong with that)? Said coach Tom Renney, "I don't know where the end point is for Sam." Thanks Tom!
Florida Panthers: The Panthers had a brief cameo in the HBO 24/7 show last week when they beat the Caps 3-0, and Pete DeBoer is all for a similar thing happening in Florida FOR SOME REASON. "It is intrusive, but the more access -- as long as its not every day -- in which you can show people what goes on is good. I don't think the coaching fraternity gets enough credit from the average fan on what goes on each day." In related news, DeBoer is going to miss Florida's next game with a strained rotator cuff from patting himself on the back.
Los Angeles Kings: Willie Mitchell(notes) is going to miss two or three weeks with an unspecified lower body injury. This after missing 15 games with a broken arm. It has not been a good year for Willie Mitchell.
Minnesota Wild: Since he's come back from post-concussion syndrome, Pierre-Marc Bouchard(notes) has been rocking the M11 helmet, which is supposed to help protect against severe head injuries. He's one of just 12 NHL players to do so. However, the helmet is the best-selling in the entire state, so maybe it'll catch on. No reason why it shouldn't, right?
Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens played at Colorado last night, the first game of a seven-date road trip between Dec. 19 and 31, their longest of the season. The good news is they get to spend New Year's Eve in Miami.
Nashville Predators: After Anders Lindback(notes) got the hook on Saturday, rookie Mark Dekanich(notes) made his first-ever NHL appearance. Immediately after the game, he was sent down again. Hell of a weekend.
New Jersey Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk on if the team is getting worse instead of better: "Yeah. I mean, what do you think? We're still 100 points out of the playoffs." But at least he's got seven points in the last five games!
New York Rangers: Dale Weise has a drinking problem.
Philadelphia Flyers: Nik Zherdev doesn't play defense. I know it. You know it. Everyone alive knows it. And yet this is somehow still a point of contention to the Philly media.
Shows what kind of person he is.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Geno Malkin on this week's 24/7 premier: "I had a microphone on my jersey, and I was talking with my teammates. Next show, maybe they'll show me more." I bet his three goals in his last two games goes a long way toward more airtime.
San Jose Sharks: Prior to Saturday's game with St. Louis, no one on the Sharks had been in a fight for 12 games. They sorted that out though.
St. Louis Blues: Roman Polak(notes) is back tonight, and Ian Cole(notes) was sent down as a result. This is great news indeed! Now the Blues only need 17 or 18 more guys back healthy and they can start being talked about as having a chance to make a brief and unsuccessful run at the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
And despite that the goal only made it 2-1, and the Canucks added two more in the third period, the Vancouver media isn't happy with him. Because they're never happy about anything. He made 27 saves on 28 shots but whatever.
Washington Capitals: The Capitals lost to the Bruins Saturday to extend their losing streak misery to eight games. But hey, at least they didn't take a minor penalty in the game.
Gold Star Award
The Boston Bruins are giving away maybe the greatest all-time promotional item to the first 10,000 fans at tonight's game, a singing Rene Rancourt Christmas ornament.
Minus of the Weekend
Steve Montador(notes) and Jordan Leopold(notes) were a combined minus-7 in the Sabres' two losses this weekend, which just proves the theory that having former Flames anchoring your defense is a recipe for disaster.
Play of the Weekend
I don't know which Nik Zherdev goal from Saturday I liked better, so here's both of em. The breakout pass from Richards was perfect, and that second goal was just from a ridiculous angle.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User PuckInTheNet really wants to help the Islanders rebuild.
Conditional 3rd either 2012 or 2013
Magnus Paarvai (sorry about the spelling)
EDM 1st 2012
EDM 3rd 2012
See boy? The real money is in bootlegging. Not in your childish vandalism.