Big, strong Russians put the boots to Team USA

The Russians celebrate against Team USA  (Photo by Markku Ulander/AFP/Getty Images)

HELSINKI, FINLAND – In a classic Cold War battle, the Russians had the better strategy, beating Team USA 2-1 in a grinding war on ice. The Americans’ top line of Auston Matthews, Colin White and Matthew Tkachuk was held off the scoreboard, despite an inordinate amount of ice time given to them by coach Ron Wilson. And while Tkachuk, a top prospect for the 2016 draft, hit a crossbar and came close on several other great chances, the crease in front of goalie and Washington Capitals prospect Ilya Samsonov was largely a no-go zone for Americans.

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Ovechkin and the Capitals look like early Stanley Cup favorites

Mike Brophy
Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Okay Washington Capitals, you sold me.

In a season when no team – until now, that is – has separated itself from the rest of the pack as a serious Stanley Cup frontrunner, the Capitals have made a believer out of me. Not going to bet my house or vast fortune on a single bet in Las Vegas at this point – there’s far too much hockey yet to be played – but I could very well envision the Capitals parading the Stanley Cup around the ice next June.

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know it is easy to single out a team that recently reeled off nine straight wins, but the Edmonton Oilers won six straight between Dec. 2 and 14 and I didn’t hear anybody anointing them as legitimate Cup threats.

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Year in review: Top 10 trades of 2015

Brandon Saad (via Columbus Blue Jackets/Twitter)

Be it trade deadline deals or big off-season moves, 2015 wasn’t short on big names getting moved in the hockey world. Cap crunches and playoffs misses yielded the trades of core players, while some big name deals had the hockey world shocked at how quickly things can change.

Here are your top 10 trades of 2015: Read more

Watch Braden Holtby’s amazing, shutout-preserving glove save on Evander Kane

Jared Clinton
Braden Holtby (via NHL/YouTube)

Washington Capitals netminder Braden Holtby is a clear cut frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy and he’s going to be turning even more heads after he made one of the best saves of the season Monday.

Down 2-0 late in the third, the Sabres had an extra attacker on the ice when a shot from the blueline deflected on its way to the net and took a fortuitous bounce onto the tape of Buffalo winger Evander Kane. Kane, alone at the side of the net, shifted the puck from his backhand to his forehand for what looked like a sure goal.

Holtby had other plans. In a second, he shot across the net and absolutely robbed Kane with a fantastic glove stop: Read more

Advanced stats show Panthers, Penguins trending up, Capitals, Canucks trending down

Florida Panthers (Getty Images)

As the month winds down, it’s time to look at which teams have been hot (or not) going into the New Year. Most people would take that to mean who got the most points during December, but with the NHL’s new numbers movement we can dig a little deeper than that. What’s more interesting is which teams actively improved (or degraded) their game regardless of results and identifying which teams are trending in the right or wrong direction.

Most people generally use shot rates to measure the direction a team is going as they can be good indicators of a team’s true talent level. Shot rates fluctuate throughout the year and that movement is worth keeping an eye on. That’s what this trend report is all about because how a team is playing lately is usually a good indication of what’s to come in the future.

Here are three teams going in the right direction and three teams trending the other way: Read more

Power Rankings: Capitals pile up the wins in a variety of ways

Ken Campbell
The Capitals celebrate their sixth straight win.  (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals can win it any way you’d like. Get down a couple of goals? Not a problem, they’ll just pour it on and come back. Need to get down and gritty? They’ve got that covered too, winning their sixth straight game on the weekend with two goals from their bottom-six forwards and using their backup goalie Philipp Grubauer.

That’s why the Capitals have become a fixture at or near the top of thn.com’s Power Rankings this season. The Capitals have teased us before with great regular seasons, but this one just seems to have a different feel to it. These guys look like they’re for real.

And they go into the Christmas break as the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference standings and in our Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)

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Watch Alex Ovechkin burn Anton Stralman with great move, score highlight-reel goal

Jared Clinton
Alex Ovechkin (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

At some point in his career, one would expect the human highlight reel known as Alex Ovechkin to slow down, right? Well, if that’s coming the ‘Great 8’ certainly isn’t showing any signs as he scored yet another jaw-dropping goal, this time embarrassing Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman en route to the game-tying goal Friday.

Midway through the third period, the Capitals were trailing the Lighting 3-2 while on the power play. Somehow, the Lightning let Ovechkin get wide open along the blueline and he was the recipient of a chip pass from Jason Chimera.

Ovechkin had tons of room, but instead of firing a long-range blast, he decided to pull the puck tight to his body to dance around Stralman. With Stralman now chasing the play, Ovechkin shifted the puck back to his forehand and rifled a quick shot over the pad of Tampa Bay netminder Ben Bishop: Read more

Suspend him or not: Tom Wilson shouldn’t be penalized for being Tom Wilson

Ken Campbell
Tom Wilson pursues Marc Methot (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Ask most fans and players who are not associated with the Washington Capitals who the biggest villain in the NHL is and Tom Wilson would be very, very high on the list. We all know what Kyle Okposo thinks of Wilson. Last spring during the first round of the playoffs, Okposo referred to Wilson as, “an idiot.”

Wilson often hits to hurt and crosses the line with his bodychecks at times. And he chirps, a lot. But it’s hard to believe his reputation wasn’t a major factor with his match penalty and ejection in the Capitals 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Wednesday night. Take a look at the hit on Curtis Lazar that earned him the match penalty and a game misconduct late in the third period and decide for yourself whether Wilson deserved to be ejected.

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