*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*

Washington Capitals, 77 pts, 1st in Metro |

A hat trick for Alex Ovechkin Tuesday night gives him 40 goals in 53 games as he now sits at 698 career goals…….. Some will make a huge deal of the $9.2 million cap hit, (it’s just 11% of the cap), but Capital fans should love the Nicklas Backstrom extension signed last month because of the term. Washington will be paying for ages 33-37. Backstrom is such a cerebral player, Washington should get at least three good to very good seasons out of Backstrom……. The most significant development for the Capitals this season is the emergence of Ilya Samsonov. On a rookie deal for one more season, it’s a huge turn of events in extending their window as there’s every reason at seasons end to say thanks to Braden Holtby for all your contributions to the organization and let him walk. There’s no pressure on Washington to have to resign Holtby and tie up huge money into a 30+ a year old goaltender……. An Alex Ovechkin extension will get done this summer and the Capitals core of Carlson, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Oshie, and Wilson are all under contract through at least the 2022-2023 season. Even second-tier level players like Lars Eller are under contract for three more seasons. Not having to pay Holtby opens the door for the Capitals to really go for it over the next two seasons and be active on the trade market………

Countdown to 700

1. Wayne Gretzky – 894 Goals

2. Gordie Howe – 801 Goals

3. Jaromir Jagr – 766 Goals

4. Brett Hull – 741 Goals

5. Marcel Dionne – 731 Goals

6. Phil Esposito – 717 Goals

7. Mike Gartner – 708 Goals

8. Alex Ovechkin – 698 Goals

Pittsburgh Penguins, 71 pts, 2nd in Metro |

Don’t tell me Tom Brady gave the New England Patriots the greatest hometown discount for years……….Salary owed to Sidney Crosby after this season. $9.6 million in 2020-2021, $9 million in 2021-2022, $3 million in 2022-2023, $3 million in 2023-2024, $3 million in 2024-2025. Sidney Crosby’s 12 year contract remains one of the craziest contracts ever signed by a mega-super star of his caliber. Had the superstitious Crosby signed a 10 year, $87 million extension, (an option he had along with a five year deal worth $10.87 million (AAV) per season), he would have been eligible for an extension at age 34 compared to 36 years old…….Matt Murray shined vs the Capitals Sunday afternoon and he received a late notice [hide] that he would actually start. The goaltenders are usually told prior to the team flying out but Murray was not told until they arrived in D.C. that he would be starting Sunday vs the Capitals. Pittsburgh weighed starting Tristan Jarry vs the Capitals to put him in a high-pressured situation, similar to what the Capitals decided to do with Samonsov.  


Columbus Blue Jackets, 67 pts, 3rd in Metro |

A 1-0 shutout win over the Florida Panthers Tuesday night, Columbus improves to 17-2-3 since December 16th. Still two months to play out here in the regular season, but the Blue Jackets have become quite the story and they’ll be a fascinating team to watch at the deadline if they’re still humming along.  This is the perfect type of roster for John Tortorella to coach and he’s getting the most out of it. The .919 level save percentage is something no one saw coming. Aside from losing a boni-fide top-10 player in Artemi Panarin to free agency along with Matt Duchene and Sergei Bobrovsky, Josh Anderson who netted 27 goals last season, has 1 goal in 26 games.

New York Islanders, 66 pts, 1st wildcard |

The Islanders scare no one around the league. 4th in the Metropolitan Division, they might be able to coach/defensive it up to win a round in the right matchup like they did against Pittsburgh last spring, but they’re a couple game breakers away from being a group that scares opposing coaches. Lou Lamoriello is in buy-mode upfront. 

Philadelphia Flyers, 65 pts, 2nd wildcard |

Are the best days behind for Claude Giroux?. Giroux who just turned 32, has his lowest point per game (0.66) since his first full season in the NHL (10 years ago). He’s dipped from 1.24 PPG in 2017-2018 to 1.03 in 18-19 to now 0.66 in 53 games this season. It will be interesting to watch where his level of play goes the rest of the way……. Should Flyers fans feel great at being in the second wild card spot in early February? Absolutely they should when Giroux, Jakub Voracek, James Van Riemsdyk, Nolan Patrick (hasn’t played) have combined for just 38 goals thus far and other factors such as getting .901 save percentage goaltending and losing one of their best young players and most productive forwards (11 goals in 30 games) for the season in Oskar Lindblom who’s dealing with a terrible situation in being diagnosed with bone cancer at age 23.

Carolina Hurricanes, 63 pts, 6th in Metro |

The Hurricanes continue to get looked at by coaches and scouts as a dangerous wild card level team but you have to get in first. The Dougie Hamilton injury might be something Carolina can’t come back from.  A roster up front and especially on the backend that a division winner won’t want to see again in Round 1, but who has trust in the goaltending combo of Mrazek and Reimer……

New York Rangers, 54 pts, 7th in Metro |

The Rangers are walking a slippery slope. They’ve been married to a slow retool since the middle of the 2017-2018 season, but the pressure is mounting with a superstar in the caliber of Artemi Panarin in his prime. You can’t just keep trading talent out of the door to accumulate high picks when you have a talent like Panarin. That’s led to a ton of back and forth on what to do with Chris Kreider who is the top rental forward on the block, but has strong interest in resigning with the Rangers if it’s a route management wants to go. The Rangers plan since the summer has always been to move Kreider but there has been some push back internally. Interest is heavy from Western Conference teams, while there’s some thought the Rangers would have a chance to pull a ‘trade Kreider at the deadline, resign him in the summer’, though, that rarely plays out. Buzz continues to center around St. Louis being a big player in this…….

New Jersey Devils, 46 pts, 8th in Metro |

Hey New Jersey, at least you’re not the Detroit Red Wings (28 pts)……..