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What we learned last week in the NHL

What we learned last week in the NHL
New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist blocks a shot by Florida's Colton Sceviour on March 7. (Alan Diaz / AP)

Lessons learned from the last week of play in the NHL:

►The Capitals have come down to Earth

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Coach Barry Trotz called the feeling "awkward" after his team fell to the Kings on Saturday for its third straight loss in regulation. The Capitals' 5-2 loss to the Ducks on Sunday gave them their first four-game losing streak in regulation since Oct. 26-Nov. 2, 2014, and created enough concern for players to call a postgame meeting. "Any adversity is a good thing if you use it the right way. If we're good enough to be a championship team, we will get through this," goaltender Braden Holtby told the Washington Post. Their defensive-zone play has gotten sloppy and their offense has stalled: They've been held to two goals or fewer in six straight games, the first time that has happened since early in the 2006-07 season. Alexander Ovechkin is experiencing a career-worst 10-game goal drought and hasn't scored an even-strength goal in 18 games, since Jan. 31. Did the Capitals peak too early, or can they turn this around and enter the playoffs on a roll?

►They've got a secret

Among the most interesting items from last week's general managers' meetings was their stated opposition to revealing their respective protected lists for the expansion draft that will stock the Vegas Golden Knights. Why not make the lists public? Are they afraid players would be insulted to learn they weren't protected? Players are big boys, and many have gone through salary arbitration, where clubs emphasize players' faults. To reveal the lists would enable fans to become emotionally invested in the draft and produce great drama. But this is the same league that won't officially list teams' payrolls, another topic of great interest.

The meetings produced no news on NHL players' participation in the Olympics in February in Pyeongchang, South Korea. "Unless something changes, we're not going," Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told reporters. Knowing the NHL's hard-line bargaining style, it's very possible Daly's comment was intended to pressure the International Olympic Committee to pay travel and accommodation costs, and maybe give the league some kind of financial compensation for interrupting its season.

One decision that will take effect next season makes sense: Teams coming off their bye week will face each other when they resume play, leveling what has been an uneven playing field. Teams coming off byes to face teams that weren't resuming after time off were 8-14-4. Also, 15 teams will have the same bye week and the remaining 16 will have their break the following week.

►Bad timing for Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was projected to be out two to three weeks because of a hip muscle strain, an injury he sustained sometime while he made 43 saves Tuesday in the team's 5-2 victory at Florida and earned his 404th career NHL win, 10th all-time. Backup Antti Raanta is capable, but Sunday was the start of a two-week stretch for the Rangers that included four back-to-back sequences. Third-string goalie Magnus Hellberg, summoned from the American Hockey League, has never started an NHL game. That might change soon.

Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen

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