Brooks Laich is right to be angry. His team has lost four of its last six games when it should be building momentum for the post-season. But I have to respectfully disagree with his argument; the Washington Capitals are indeed coasting.

In the first period of their last two games, the Capitals have mustered only four shots on goal. This statistic is compelling evidence that the team is not focused on the games in front of them.   If someone says that the team is “sailing through to the postseason”, that’s what they’re talking about.  When the boys start climbing out of the two- or three- goal holes they dig themselves, they play like heroes again. That’s great, but why are they floundering in the first period at all?

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The Curse! Sens Beat Caps 5-4 (OT)

Our view of tonight's disaster

Our view of tonight's disaster

Tonight the Capitals played one of their worst games all year.  Miserable on offense and defense alike; at least they’re consistent.  We had some bright spots from Alex Semin and Mathieu Perreault, but a systemic problem cannot have an exceptional solution.  The Senators beat the Capitals with 18.9 seconds left in overtime– 5-4.

Unfortunately, attending tonight’s game precludes us from writing a full recap, so we’ll try to sate you with some tweeple giving us a hard time for being unlucky.

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An Albatross Around the Capitals’ Neck

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What have we done to earn the ire of the hockey fates?

Here’s a sobering thought: I’ve never seen the Caps win in person. Not against the Flyers in 1996. Not against the Kings at the home opener in ’00. Not when they lost in round 1 of the playoffs to the Penguins in ’01. Never.

It’s a fact: Russian Machine Never Breaks is bad luck for the Washington Capitals.   We’ve tortured ourselves over whether to disclose these sad facts to you, but in light of our attending tonight’s game with the Ottawa Senators, we feel we must let you know: We are cursed.

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holtbyisms

It's hard not to love Braden Holtby and his black-rimmed glasses. (Photo Katie Stansbery)

It's hard not to love Braden Holtby and his black-rimmed glasses. (Photo Katie Stansbery)

Two Sundays ago, I went to the Hershey Bears/Adirondack Phantoms game where the Bears’ AHL Record Home winning streak ended at 24. There’ll be more on RMNB’s collective bad luck later. But one thing I learned that night is that Braden Holtby is a wildly popular man. Beyond Bruce Boudreau, there is no more popular guy in Hershey. Need examples? Well, while the Bears PA guy announced the starting line-up before the game, there was a smattering of applause for the starting 5. When the PA guy announced Holtby in goal, everyone in the arena rose to their feet and gave him a roaring standing ovation. I turned to my friends in complete shock and asked “Did that really just happen??”

Oh, it most certainly did. And really, there’s a lot to love about the guy (beyond his superb fashion sense and his excellent communication skills with the bewildering Alexander Semin). Holtby has put up incredible numbers in his first professional season in the Capitals’ minor league system. Braden started the year with the South Carolina Stingrays going 7-2-3 with a .911 Save Percentage. He then rode the pine as an injury replacement player in Washington for two games before getting his first shot to stick in Hershey. And stick he did. Since receiving that promotion, Holtby has gone 23-6-2 with 2 Shutouts for the AHL’s most winningest team. His sparkling 2.36 GAA and above average .917 Save Percentage are among AHL Leaders. And really, what has the Chocolate and White fans talking is the fact that Holtby has single-handedly won games this year by himself – even with the incredible roster around him. That has many in Hershey thinking he could eventually push his way into the discussion of who deserves to be the goalie of the future in Washington between Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.

But if you’re looking for a statistical dissertation of who’s better among those three (SEMYON VARLAMOV), you’ve come to the wrong place my friends. Instead, RMNB has found another reason to fall in love with the twenty year old from Saskatoon: His eccentric “Holtbyisms.

Don’t know what we’re talking about? We’ll let Bears regular Kathryn Hedrick explain:

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Will Ovechkin Reach the “Rocket” Richard Trophy?

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Before his suspension, injury, and second suspension, Alex Ovechkin was easily on the way to getting the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for the third time in his career. Since the Olympic break, the Russian Machine’s goal production has slowed, allowing the much-loved Sidney Crosby and the fresh-faced Steven Stamkos to catch him. On Sunday evening, Crosby scored two goals to take the lead with 47 goals. He now leads Ovie by 1 and Stamkos by 2.

With only a handful of games left in the regular season, can the Great Eight summon up the same magic he wielded from early in the season? RMNB contributor Fedor Fedin braved scary numbers to project how the remaining games will shake out.

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Moscow Subway Struck by Suicide Bombers

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An injured woman sits near Park Kultury station (Photo: AFP)

We woke up this morning to news of suicide bombing on the Moscow metro. During rush hour today, the Lubyanka and Park Kultyry subway stations were targeted in a coordinated attack. Current counts put the death toll at 38 with many more injuries. No group has yet taken credit for the violence, but the ongoing conflict between Chechnya and Russia proper is suspected to be involved.

RMNB correspondent Fedor Fedin is a Muscovite, and he has seen too many days like this. In the summer of 1999, a series of bombs detonated in low-income apartment buildings, killing 293 people. Similar attacks occured in 2001 and 2004. Violence between Chechyn separatists and the Russian government have been common since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Obviously, this website has a great deal of affection for the people of Russia. Our sympathies go out to everyone affected. We’re a hockey blog and, as such, we are absurdly underpowered to address the machinations of global politics. All we can do right now is show our solidarity with the Russian people, who have given the world violins, vodka, very long books, and the world’s best hockey players.

Россия, мы любим тебя.

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taylor-price-varlamov-drawing

We here at RMNB are creative. Peter Hassett is an incredibly gifted musician (here’s one of my favorite songs), Fedor stays up and watches Caps Games live in Moscow at 3am even when he has school a few hours later, Neil is a master of the English language, Stevie K. has a weird fascination with numbers and I’m marginally unterrible at what I do. The point being we love, love, love creativity.

So naturally, when Taylor P. sent us an email with all of her beautiful Capital Player artwork attached, we had to put it up. Check out the rest of her work below the jump and make sure to let her know what you think in the comments. Here, we’ll start you off: “Wow, Taylor you’re awesome.”

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First period choke. Flames beat Caps 5-3.

In my foosball house rules, this goal doesn't count. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

In my foosball house rules, this goal doesn’t count. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Two things tend to bug the Caps: early games and Canadian teams. Up against both in today’s match with the Calgary Flames, the Washington Capitals dug themselves a hole in the first period and failed to climb out. The Flames scored four goals in the first period –a  dominating performance that the Caps have not seen in a long time. The home team woke up in the third period, but the distance was too great. In a rare regulation loss, the Caps lose to the Flames 5-3.

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Mike Green signs Gabriel's Jersey

Mike Green Arrives for his own Autograph Session 2 Hours Late. With a car like that though, we'll still call it 'fashionable.' (Photo Mark Randle)

Mike Green arrives 2 hours late for his own Autograph Signing. With a car like that though, we'll still call his tardiness 'fashionable.' (Photo Colin Randle)

The last thing I heard as I was leaving my girlfriend’s apartment today was: “You owe me big time, tomorrow.” Why? Because I made Ashley go with me to attend Muscle Milk’s Mike Green Autograph Signing at a Giant Food Store in the dredges of Columbia, Maryland. Did everything go smoothly? SIGH. No. Does it ever when you’re dealing with professional athletes?? Don’t worry, I’ll explain.

“But it looked so pretty from the window”

At 9:45AM this morning, Ashley’s futuristic horns of hell alarm went off and we slowly started the process of waking up. One of the first things we noticed was all of the light that was escaping out of her bedside window. What followed was cute. Ashley curiously got up out of bed, stumbled over, slowly pushed the curtain aside, and then gently pressed down on one of the blinds. After several seconds of what seemed like intense observation, she turned to me excitedly and exclaimed “Ian! It’s such a beautiful day outside!!”

I appreciated the enthusiasm. All week, I had been so excited about actually having a Capitals player up near Baltimore. Ever since the Capitals built their beautiful practice facility in Ballston, Virginia, I’ve rarely been able to find the time to go to player appearances or events held by the club. Commuting an hour and a half on weekdays in psycho Virginia traffic is not my vision of fun. And when there are actually weekend practices at Kettler, it’s a total madhouse. Thanks but no thanks, you know?

So when I heard that Muscle Milk was doing the unthinkable and bringing the NHL’s Best Defenseman, Mike Green, up to a Giant 10 minutes away from where I live, my attendance was totally mandatory.

As we both readied ourselves to leave, I quickly started checking my email on Ashley’s computer. While I did so, my tag-team-partner-of-love innocently asked me to check weather.com and tell her how warm it was outside. When the page loaded, I gulped in terror. “Honey, it says it’s 35 degrees outside.”

“WHAT?”

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Captain America Scores! Canes Beat Caps 3-2 (SO).

John Carlson Scores His First Career NHL Goal against the Carolina Hurricanes

Legace's Oscar Worthy Performance Sends Ovechkin to the Box For Goalie Interference. (Photos by Gerry Broome)

Legace's Oscar Worthy Performance Sends Ovechkin to the Box For Goalie Interference. (Photos by Gerry Broome)

Sorry, we thought the photo should be extra big tonight. The Washington Capitals took too long to suit up for tonight’s appointment with the Carolina Hurricanes. A sleepy first period left the boys from Chinatown with a two-point deficit. The Caps woke up and delivered captivating hockey for the rest of regulation and overtime, but it wasn’t enough to best their division rivals.

For the second time in as many nights, the Capitals could not seal the deal in an hour of regulation hockey or the five bonus minutes. But unlike last night, the Russian Alexes did not go 2 for 2, and Bruce Boudreau’s hunch did not pay off. When Mike Green‘s shot sailed high over the Carolina net, it was game over. Despite their best efforts the Caps fall to the Canes 3-2 in the shootout.

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