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NHL Rink Wrap: Boudreau’s Canucks beat Capitals; League-leading Ovechkin

hart ovechkin

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals shoot the puck against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period at Capital One Arena on January 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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Top player from Canucks - Capitals

Elias Pettersson, Canucks

Coming into Canucks - Capitals (the only NHL game on Sunday), Elias Pettersson was mired in a four-game pointless streak. Pettersson’s struggles went deeper than that, too. He only managed an assist over six games, and went seven games without a goal.

For a player who’s already been frustrated, managing just 17 points in 37 games is pretty mind-boggling. Maybe debilitating.

So the Canucks have to hope that Elias Pettersson’s two goals against the Capitals might be a confidence-builder. (If nothing else he now averages a point, er, every two games.)

Pettersson’s second goal was a nifty mix of luck and, perhaps, the sort of hubris a great player needs to make plays mere mortals can only dream about?

Canucks - Capitals highlights

Soak in highlights as the Canucks beat the Capitals 4-2 as the only NHL game on Sunday.

Sunday NHL Takeaways

Catch up on a busy Saturday in the NHL

While there was only the Canucks - Capitals game on Sunday, Saturday was a busy night in the NHL. Catch up on that action with the Saturday NHL Rink Wrap.

(If you want a deep dive, there’s also a detailed look at the slumping Edmonton Oilers.)

Canucks improve to 9-3-1 under Boudreau after beating Capitals

In the grand scheme of things, it’s far too early to act like Bruce Boudreau has “solved” the Canucks. At least this season, it seemed like the Canucks dug themselves too big of a hole to make the playoffs.

But it’s easy to forget just how promising the Canucks were not that long ago. As much as Jim Benning bungled surrounding impressive young talent with the depth needed to thrive, the Canucks retain some pieces who could be core players in a winner. And those players aren’t ancient by any means.

  • Pettersson is just 23, and his $7.35M cap hit runs through 2023-24. If Pettersson can rebuild his confidence, that should be a bargain. Maybe Boudreau can be the beacon of positivity that Pettersson needs?

  • Considering the gold rush prominent defensemen (some deeply flawed) enjoyed this offseason, locking up Quinn Hughes at $7.85M through 2026-27 ranks as one of Benning’s best recent moves. The 22-year-old’s quietly enjoying what looks like a redemptive season.

  • With Brock Boeser on an expiring contract and Bo Horvat’s deal ending after 2022-23, it’s unclear if those two players will remain with the Canucks. If they do, they can provide some more prime years. Boeser is 24 and Horvat is 26.
  • Again, Benning’s made blunders that could linger. At least 25-year-old Conor Garland’s a gem at just under $5M per year through 2025-26.
  • Thatcher Demko, 26, could be a nice bargain at $5M through 2025-26.

Ideally, the Canucks would boast a slew of other valuable players. Still, the decline of top, seemingly blue chip young players was downright disturbing under Travis Green.

Maybe the reality is that expectations must be reset on many of them. But if they weren’t reaching their potential, perhaps Boudreau can bring the best out of many of them?

If nothing else, this certainly has been a promising start.

Ovechkin ends Sunday tied for NHL goals, points lead

Alex Ovechkin’s been producing at a Hart-adjacent level for months now, but it’s still stunning.

With a goal from his “office,” on Sunday, Alex Ovechkin ended Sunday tied with Leon Draisaitl in two NHL-leading stats: goals (26) and points (54). Now, it’s true that the totals can be a bit misleading, as Ovechkin’s played four more games (39) than Draisaitl (35).

Nonetheless, it remains a stunning development. You also never know in the NHL with injuries, cold streaks, and sad Oilers.

At minimum, you have to give Ovechkin a real chance to win another Maurice Richard Trophy, and don’t count him out as a possible Hart Trophy finalist. Incredible.

Monday’s big story

Central Division clashes

There’s room for movement among the top teams in the Central Division, so two Monday NHL games are worth monitoring.

In the afternoon, the Avalanche (24-8-3, 51 points in 35 games played) host the Wild (22-10-2, 46 points in 34 GP). Increasingly, the Avalanche seem like they’re looking like the dominant Avs team many of us expected. Most simply, you may note Colorado’s 8-1-1 record in its last 10 games. While the Wild have been up and down, they carry a three-game winning streak into Monday’s NHL games.

Later on, the surprising Predators (24-12-3, 51 points in 39 GP) visit the sneaky-strong Blues (22-11-5, 49 points in 38 games). The Blues will also retire Chris Pronger’s number 44 in that game.

While it looks like the Avalanche are the Central Division frontrunners, those other three teams are very much in the mix. (Naturally, the Jets and Stars are also in said mix.) Monday’s NHL games could shift outlooks a touch, especially if they end in regulation.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.