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.
Not that I have to tell you guys this, but on a day that was dominated by talk of a Saints Super Bowl victory and everyone chattering on about advertisements, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins put on what was the Game of the Week, Month, and probably even Year.
For those that missed yesterday's matinee showdown, well, you missed a beauty. Those that are sick of the hype over Capitals/Penguins games might have once had an argument that these games didn't quite live up to the enormous hype provided by NBC, "The Media" and the NHL itself.
But now? Forget it.
I'm normally loath to use the term "haters" because it, like the use of "fail" as a noun or "epic" to describe anything of even slightly-higher-than-average magnitude, contributes to the degradation of the English language, but if you still can't stand Sid Crosby or Alex Ovechkin(notes) or the Pens or Caps or hype after that game, you are clearly drinkin' Haterade, and are worthy of scorn.
This game was everything both hockey purists and the NHL could ever want a regular-season game to be; and that's really difficult to pull off.
(Coming Up: Ovechkin kills goal cam; Toskala finally a Duck; Niclas Wallin(notes) is finally a Shark; Flames survive minus Dion, Olli; more Red Wings injuries; Milan Jurcina(notes), goal-scorer; J.P. Dumont(notes) answers coach's criticism; clutch college goal of the season; Blake Wheeler(notes) vs. Ryan O'Byrne(notes) in an anti-fight; and creative ways to get Carey Price(notes) out of Montreal.)
It featured the two greatest players alive going toe to toe, and the better one emerging victorious, almost entirely through his own will to win the game. It featured eye-popping highlights from said players.
It featured a dizzying, determined comeback from a three-goal deficit by the home team that just happened to be going for its 14th consecutive victory in its home building. That home building, by the way, was surrounded by what I believe NBC said was 17 feet of snow, and still the Washington faithful turned out in droves.
Crosby and Ovechkin combined for five goals and an assist. Both of Crosby's goals were wonderful displays of his signature finesse (and Malkin's setup on the second goal was absurdly great). Each of Ovechkin's scores highlighted a different reason he's the best and most dynamic player alive. The straight-ahead speed on the breakaway, the ability to be in the right place and make something from nothing on the backhander, the explosive power of his shot on the one-timer. It was a brilliant showcase for both players.
Clearly these are two teams that dislike each other, and that kind of ill will makes for exciting hockey. Track down some reaction shots from when the Caps won it. The Penguins looked downright pissed to lose in a game that -- had it been against, say, the Lightning -- would have merely disappointed them.
The Caps, for their part, celebrated like they'd won a playoff game. These games certainly have that type of gravity.
And best of all: no shootout.
There are two more games between the Capitals and Penguins this season. The Penguins will visit Washington on March 24, and the Caps head to Pittsburgh on April 6.
On those days, it is your duty as a hockey fan to get those buddies who are vocal about their dislike of this great sport (we all have them) to watch this game. If they're not sold, they never will be, and you shouldn't be friends with them in the first place.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Vesa Toskala(notes) joined the Ducks yesterday after taking the week to sort out some immigration issues. Apparently the US government looked at his stats and couldn't believe he was a professional goaltender.
Atlanta Thrashers: Speaking of Finnish goalies joining teams, the Thrashers recalled Kari Lehtonen(notes) from a two-week AHL conditioning stint. A stint in which he went 1-1-2 and posted a GAA of 2.67 and .899 save percentage. (Hint: They're probably going to try to deal him.)
Boston Bruins: Johnny Boychuk(notes) got blasted in the face with a puck on Saturday. He's out until after the start of the Olympic break with a fractured orbital bone. Because what the Bruins needed were more injured defensemen. (P.S. Plan the parade, the Bruins won a game.)
Buffalo Sabres: Not a good week for the Sabres. The once-staunch defensive team lost all four of its games since Feb. 1, including losses to both the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets, by the score of 17-9.
Calgary Flames: Looks like all those trades are working out for Calgary after all. Since 86'ing both Dion Phaneuf(notes) and Olli Jokinen(notes), the Flames have taken five of six points and allowed just four goals on 63 shots. All this after they lost 11 of 12. Solid.
Carolina Hurricanes: Cam Ward(notes) has a back injury (not to be confused with his other two back injuries in the last eight months or so) and the ‘Canes are "very concerned about this injury." Look out Edmonton, the Hurricanes are coming for the first overall pick ...
Chicago Blackhawks: Everyone's traveling everywhere these days ahead of the Olympic break, but the Blackhawks have been in particularly tough. They just snapped a three-game losing streak that was probably the result of their recent eight-game, 8,000-mile road trip. Plus Saturday's win over the Blue was the second of a home/road back-to-back.
Colorado Avalanche: Great stat from Terry Frei after Saturday's easy win over the Oilers. "This might bring it back into focus: The Avalanche could go 0-25-0 in the rest of this regular season and still finish with more points than it did in 2008-09."
Dallas Stars: The Stars straight up killed the Coyotes on Saturday. How bad was it? They won 66 percent of the draws, they scored four times, and, most embarrassing for Phoenix, Marty Turco(notes) had a 34-save shutout.
Detroit Red Wings: Detroit blew a 3-0 first-period lead in its Saturday loss to Los Angeles, and then lost Tomas Holmstrom(notes) (bruised knee), Pat Eaves (sprained ankle) and Drew Miller(notes) (shot off the ankle) to injury. Not a good game.
Edmonton Oilers: Another shutout loss to the Avs, the third in their five games this season. "We have a nice scouting report on (Craig Anderson(notes))," said Pat Quinn, "but we haven't been able to solve him, at all." So how good can it be?
Los Angeles Kings: Beyond the now nine-game win streak, here's a pretty sure sign everything's clicking for the Kings right now: Even Michal Handzus(notes), who had 26 points in 54 games before the month of February, is scoring like crazy. He has six points in his last two games.
Minnesota Wild: No one in NHL history has played fewer minutes and gotten the win in their NHL debut than Anton Khudobin(notes) did last Thursday, but he made up for it Saturday, allowing just one goal on 39 shots in a win over the Flyers. Nutso.
Montreal Canadiens: The Habs called up an entire AHL line to play this weekend against the Pens and Bruins. David Desharnais(notes), Brock Trotter(notes) and Ryan White(notes) combined for seven shots against the Pens and two more against the Bruins. This isn't the first time the Habs have called up an entire line, however.
New Jersey Devils: Patrik Elias(notes) returned to the lineup Saturday night against the Rangers after missing three weeks with a concussion. He was slotted in with Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) and Dainius Zubrus(notes) and set up Kovalchuk's first goal as a Devil.
New York Islanders: Charles Wang said there has been no progress on the Lighthouse Project since the franchise had a meeting with the Town of Hempstead in September. They allegedly want to stay on Long Island.
Ottawa Senators: And now a video clip in which the crashing halt of the Sens' winning streak at the hands of the Maple Leafs is symbolized by Matt Carkner(notes) getting dropped off on Queen St. courtesy of Colton Orr(notes).
Philadelphia Flyers: Hey Ville Leino(notes), welcome to Philly. Feel free to look around and if you have any questions, just ask. What's that? You want to know when you'll get to play for a team that has six goals in its last four games? Sorry buddy, we don't have a spot for ya.
Phoenix Coyotes: Another victim of the hectic travel schedule: the Coyotes, who played Friday night in Chicago then hauled ass to Dallas for a Saturday game. "When the players are coming back to the bench and the look on their face is ‘Really, I'm trying, but nothing's happening,' that's probably a good indication," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Last night's game, you could tell after the game it took a huge toll on us. That was a hard, hard game, went into overtime, late, late travel. You've got a fresh team sitting here. You know they're going to come hard at you."
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sure the Pens blew a hefty lead but Sid Crosby played out of his mind in the first period and scored two beauty goals. I liked the first one better.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The feeling in Tampa on new owner Jeffrey Vinik is that he's saying the right things and there's a lot of optimism about what that means. They said the same thing about Oren and Koules, FYI.
Play of the Weekend
Play of the weekend came in college hockey this time around. Down 4-3 with time winding down, St. Cloud's Ben Hanowski scored the equalizer. With 0.1 seconds on the board.
The game held up as a tie.
Gold Star Award
Can't help but give it to Alex Ovechkin, who threw a switch and became unstoppable in the third period and OT after scoring in the second period as well. This kid is so good it's really not even worth discussing the best player on the planet. It's Alex Ovechkin. If you can't see that, then you're a homer for whichever team you support and you're wrong.
Ovechkin rules. All hail Ovechkin.
Minus of the Weekend
No fight will likely ever surpass Downey/Norton in the annals of NHL lore, but yesterday's Super Bowl pregame showdown between Blake Wheeler and Ryan O'Byrne comes pretty damn close. Two punches thrown, both by Wheeler, neither landed. O'Byrne literally just stood there.
Embarrassing. There were no winners, and the only losers were the fans.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "MTLjunior" makes what he says is his first trade proposal. As far as this feature goes, we might have a Hall of Famer on our hands. He's worked out two trades to wrangle Carey Price.
Go back to school, kid.