Negotiations between the NHL and its players union resumetoday in New Yorkas the two try to salvage what already will be a shortened regular season.I think the really unfortunate part of where we are is notonly the fact that weve done significant damage to this season's revenues,NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Nasvhille Tennessean, but the bottom line is, bymissing games, by missing training camp, by being in a labor dispute and a workstoppage, we're certainly risking and threatening a slowdown to some of themomentum that we've had or been able to generate some of the popularity we'vebeen able to build throughout the league, including in some of thenon-traditional markets.And I think the longer-term impact of that dynamic is as scary as anythingelse to us, and something we jointly should have an interest in trying tominimize at this point.One of the many sticking points between the owners and players is thedistribution of league revenue and how to support the NHLs small-market teams likethe Predators, Coyotes, Islanders, Panthers and Blue Jackets.The NHL has proposed a plan in which 190 million will go towardsmall-market teams. The players have crafted a plan that has 260 milliongoing to those teams.Were suggesting using less room on the top end and moreroom on the bottom end as a way of constructing the range that's more friendlyto small markets, Daly said, but also creates a dynamic where there will beless player escrow, so there will be less dollars at risk for the players.For more of Dailys interview with the Tennesean,click here
On Monday, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz dedicated a portion of practice to working on the shootout.
A couple of reasons: The Caps haven’t been good at them this season and that extra point might just come in handy given how tight the standings have become.
On Thursday night, that extra work paid off in a pivotal 2-1 shootout win over the visiting Blue Jackets.
With the win, the Caps improved to 2-5 in games decided by the skills competition. More important, though, it helped Washington grow its lead over Pittsburgh and Columbus to two and three standings points, respectively, with nine games left to play.
“Winning in a shootout, which we have not been good at all year, Holts was the guy,” Trotz said, referring to Braden Holtby, who had not won a shootout in five tries. “That was great. That extra point might be huuuge. It might be absolutely huge.”
Of the practice, Trotz said: “It’s paying dividends. We’re working on parts of our game that we need to make sure that we are good at.”
The Caps’ leading scorer and penalty shot specialist, T.J. Oshie, scored the only goal in the shootout. In the 2014 Sochi Games, Oshie beat Bobrovsky four times in penalty shots to lift the United States over Russia. Three times he went 5-hole.
“I thought about it for five seconds, maybe,” Oshie said Thursday night. “I was going to come in and do something different from what I remembered. I saw something different and decided to go 5-hole.”
Oshie added: “I felt pretty fortunate, and luckily that’s the only one we needed because Holts shut the door on the other end.”
Holtby, meantime, made saves on both of the Columbus attempts that were on goal. Another missed the net.
Afterward, the veteran goalie credited the extra work on Monday. In that practice session, Trotz asked Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Kevin Shattenkirk, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin and Justin Williams to take two shots each on Holtby, who was watched closely by the coaching staff.
“We worked on it a little bit,” Holtby said. “It’s something that I try not to fiddle around with too much because I don’t want it creeping into my regular game because a breakaway is totally different than a shootout. But with the race getting pretty close, [in case we had] another one, we worked on it a couple of days ago in practice to try and get a little better at that for the stretch run.”
And they did get a little better at it. And just at the right time.
While the Caps established themselves as the top team in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins have managed to keep pace with them leading to a three-team race for supremacy of the division. On Thursday, the Caps managed to give themselves a little breathing room.
Washington defeated Columbus 2-1 in a shootout. While it was not the "four-point" game the Caps perhaps had hoped, it still extended their lead over the Blue Jackets by a point.
The Ottawa Senators also did Washington a favor on Thursday by downing the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ironically enough, the score of that game was also 2-1 in a shootout.
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While all three Metropolitan leaders did manage to get points on the night, Washingotn was the only one to get two, meaning they extended their lead over both teams by one. It also means neither Columbus or Pittsburgh registered a regulation or overtime win (ROW). ROW is the first tiebreaker in the standings which could prove critical in such a tight race.
After Thursday's games, here is what the top three of the Metropolitan looks like:
1. Washington: 48-17-8, 104 points, 46 ROW
2. Pittsburgh: 46-17-10, 102 points, 43 ROW
3. Columbus: 47-19-7, 101 points, 45 ROW
With eight games remaining, that's not much breathing room for the Caps. Considering, however, that Washington could have left Thursday tied for second in the division, they certainly will take Thursday's result.
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