A Caps Fan in Buffalo Territory

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Braden Holtby heeds the direction of Bruce Boudreau during Caps practice at HSBC Arena.

[Ed. note – Was it oversight, kismet, or charity? Regardless, Buffalo-based Caps fan and RMNB reader, Stephanie Carosa, got to watch what should have been a closed practice on Saturday. She shares that story and her recollections from the miserable game with the Sabres below.]

I live in Buffalo, so I have only two chances to see the Capitals in my own city. Every time they come it’s a big deal to me, and Saturday night was no exception. I was determined to make it a full day of hockey, so I planned on going to practice in the morning and the game at night.

The Sabres’ morning skates at HSBC Arena are open to the public, and you can often catch a glimpse of players on the visiting team hanging around. I got there early so I could grab a seat behind the Caps bench. Even though the Caps were foremost on my mind, I was excited to see Ryan Miller on the ice  after being sidelined for almost two weeks due to injury. Towards the end of practice, I caught a quick glimpse of Chimera in the tunnel. *Gasp! First Caps sighting of the day!* A few minutes later, John Erskine appeared *Gasp! Two Caps!*, and then Harry Neale (the Sabres and former Hockey Night in Canada color guy who is known for his, er, quick wit?) came out and joked around with him for a bit.

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Breaking Down The Capitals Line Combinations

Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom share a laugh on the bench.

Neil delivers Caps scoring chances through Nov 14, 2010 (Photo credit: Gerry Thomas)

Despite some terrible second period performances that made me want to use my new iPad as the world’s most expensive frisbee, I still managed to log the scoring chances for the week. I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. As always, you can find the spreadsheet online.

The three of you that actually read these posts may notice a new format. Let me know if you think this is more helpful.

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Varly has 21 saves in his first rehab start with the Bears.

All photos by Kyle M. of Sweetest Hockey On Earth

Welcome back, Varly! After a four week layoff, Semyon Varlamov finally got himself back into game-action tonight as the Bears concluded their stretch of three-games-in-three-nights against the Binghamton Senators at Giant Center. How did he do? Kathryn Hedrick of our Hershey blog, Sweetest Hockey On Earth, has your update:

I know you’re all dying to hear how Semyon Varlamov did. When he was sent to Hershey, I’m thinking they were hoping to see him challenged more than he was tonight. He didn’t really have to deal with a lot of shots until the second period when Binghamton had a couple power plays, including a 5-on-3. He let in three goals, two while Hershey was on the penalty kill. He was pretty solid but probably wants at least one of those goals back. It’s understandable since he’s shaking off a lot of rust. He looked great when he stopped a shorthanded breakaway shot during the third period. Overall, he made 21 for 24 saves.

Hershey went on to win the game 8-3. Mathieu Perreault had six assists and Andrew Gordon had a pair of goals. Make sure to view SHOE’s gamer here, which includes video highlights, awesome photos from Kyle, and some other crazy stats. Below the fold, make sure to check out some more photos of Varly in action.

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The Erskine Supremacy: Caps beat Thrashers 6-4

John Erskine scores the GWG!

“Can you believe we won this???” (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Boulton and Erskine beat the tar out of one another.

Boulton and Erskine beat the tar out of one another. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

This third meeting of the Washington Capitals and Atlanta Thrashers was not overshadowed by injury like the season-opener was by Ondrej Pavelec‘s collapse. Instead, we were treated to a cavalcade of slapstick puckery. The puck had a mind of its own tonight, and the game’s three goalies were none too happy about it.

Alex Ovechkin opened it up early with a lucky bounce knocked in by goalie Chris Mason. Mason had already bobbled an earlier shot; this one he knocked in all by himself. Mike Green piled on with a mustache-fueled power play goal hooked up by Eric Fehr and Mike Knuble. Atlanta’s Rich Peverly turned in what was either a world-class goal or a total fluke (we vote the latter). Tyler Sloan dove in front of a shot to lead to a turnover and breakaway for Alex Ovechkin. Ovie’s pass enabled Alex Semin to score a dazzling deke-and-goal that should humble the authors of the All-Star game ballot.

Like an out-of-control garbage truck full of terminally ill kittens, the second period brought destruction and woe to all in its path (i.e. the Capitals). Andrew Ladd scored one and Bryan Little scored two, the last of which was a shorthanded breakaway furnished by the careless puck control of our very own Russian Machine.

The third period languished on for 13 minutes before John Erskine– yes, that John Erskine– rocketed the game winner past relief goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Then David Steckel found the empty net as Capitals players are so eager to do.

Phew, that was exhausting. Caps beat Thrashers 6-4.

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Vanek and Kaput: Sabres beat Caps 3-2 (OT)

Thomas Vanek scores the OTGWG.

Former Capital Mike Grier was honored before the game for playing in his 1,000th career game tonight.

Former Capital Mike Grier was honored before the game for playing in his 1,000th career game tonight. (Photo credit: Bill Wippert)

Sigh. Thomas Vanek scores the OTGWG. (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)

Without Ryan Miller, the Buffalo Sabres are not really daunting foes. The well-haired goalie had been convalescing with a hip injury for the last handful of games and returned to the Washington Capitals’ distinct displeasure. But with a stiff upper lip, the Caps entered the fray in nigh-Canada. Sort of.

Karl Alzner opened the game with a laser through traffic that found a wide swathe of net behind Ryan Miller. The second period was an unbridled embarrassment. The Sabres scored twice (a well-screened bomb by Montador and a fluke by Vanek). For their part the Capitals simply refused to play offense of any kind, offering only four shots across the middle frame. To qualify that, Jason Chimera spent four minutes in the box for a cross check that might have been overblown a bit, and Tomas Fleischmann also caught a double minor for a freak high sticking that carried no aggression.

Nicklas Backstrom allowed 7 minutes to escape the third period before equalizing with a high swat. Ten minutes later, a suspicious high sticking call earned Backy a double minor (the Caps’ third of the game). The Capitals survived another backbreaking penalty kill all the way into overtime. Things look liked they were headed towards the shootout until Thomas Vanek suckered Carlson and Holtby in sequence to score a sharp-looking OTGWG. Bummer, I know, but at least the Caps take a point home. Sabres beat Caps 3-2 (OT).

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RMNB Presents a Sneak Peak of Alex Ovechkin: The GR8

Thanks to a helpful tip via email, RMNB brings to you the exclusive sneak peak of the next DVD you will buy, entitled “Alex Ovechkin: The GR8.” Not going to lie: it looks pretty epic.

Check out the preview, where you will see Ovi scoaring moar goals, shooting hoops with his moms, and – for the ladies – shirtlessness. (You’ll see what I mean in the screencaps below.)

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Semyon Varlamov during practice at Giant Center

All photos by Kyle M. of our Hershey Blog, Sweetest Hockey On Earth

Semyon Varlamov returned to the U.S. on August 1st, a full month and a half before training camp began. Varly’s intention was to get his body in optimal shape for the upcoming season after losing several months to a groin injury last year.  Success would be three-fold: avoid injury, become Washington’s number-one goaltender, and get better acquainted with Caps fans.

Despite tough training work, a commendable effort, and some true blogging prowess, the first two months of the season have been a complete disaster for Semyon (except for maybe that awesome Caps Convention commercialCLICK ON ME!!!).

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Semin Snatches the Hat: Caps beat Bolts 6-3

Alex Semin recorded his second hat trick of the year against the streaking Tampa Bay Lightning.

Puck commemorating Steve Kolbe's 1000th game as the radio voice of the Capitals

Puck commemorating Steve Kolbe's 1000th game as the radio voice of the Capitals. (Photo credit: Wes Johnson)

Alex Semin’s raspberry of hatful determination. (Photo credit: Nick Wass)

You know that video game where you fight Dr. Wily, and you think you’ve got him beat, but then he gets some kind of high-tech armor with lasers and rockets and WiFi and megagigabytes. Turns out Wily is way harder when he’s all upgraded. Well, here comes the Tampa Bay Cyber-Lightning, Mark II. Our southeast conference rivals gave the Washington Capitals a hard time last year, and they only got better over the summer.

For naught.

The Capitals, led by curio Alex Semin, had a slow start. As if predestined, they surrendered the first goal of the night to Tampa’s Teddy Purcell. Tom Poti and Mike Knuble each notched goals in the second. The third period found Ryan Malone tying the game on the power play, almost taunting the Capitals to step it up. And step it up they did. Alex Semin recorded back-to-back goals with matching assists from line partners Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. Steven Stamkos returned fire with a frighteningly smart goal, but Ovechkin would strike soon after. An empty net goal in the final half minute earned Semin the hat trick and finalized the question. A crushing win by the home team, their sixth in a row: Caps beat Bolts 6-3.

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Capitals Superfan Goat Gets Hitched

William 'Goat' Stilwell weds Jill Hunt. Dude, awesome.

Goat and Jill rock the wed. (Photo credit: Wes Johnson)

Goat, recently featured on Espn.com

The madman of 105 (Photo: ESPN)

You might not know him by name, but William Stilwell is a legend to Caps fans. At any moment, the man known as GOAT can fill Verizon Center to the rafters with his boomy “Let’s! Go! Caps!” holler. Goat has become a Capitals institution, a good-natured leader of cheers, as reliable as he is boisterous. He is– in short– beloved.

This past Saturday, Goat married his sweetheart Jill. The ceremony, held at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in downtown D.C., was attended by friends, family, and a smattering of Caps notables. Sam “The Horn Guy” Wolk and our own Ian Oland attended. The wedding itself was officiated by the voice of the Capitals (and perhaps the only guy louder than Goat), Wes Johnson.

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EXCLUSIVE: Alan May has an iPhone

So we’re just kicking it, eating some Mallomars, watching CSN’s delightful coverage of the hockey match. There’s Alan May, he of chiseled face and permanently furrowed brow, dispensing hard-earned hockey Knowledge as if it were nothing more than Werther’s Original Caramels to undeserving children. He has the wisdom of a veteran and the disapproving glare of a Victorian schoolmaster. But he also has…  well… what is that?

alanMayWide

Enhance quadrant 17-Theta.

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