A few days before the playoffs, we posted a brilliant Capitals season highlights video created by YouTube user VazorProduction. Alexandre Labbé, the man behind the account, is at it again, this time publishing a montage of Alex Ovechkin doing his thing — you know, dekeing people out of their jocks and scoring electrifying goals.

That reminds me: only 63 more days until Opening Night! October 8 can’t come soon enough!

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Photo credit: Chris Gordon

In his two seasons as goaltender coach with the Washington Capitals, Arturs Irbe was more than successful. The 44-year-old mentored the organization’s trio of young goalies last season — Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov, and Braden Holtby — and under his watch the Capitals became the first team in league history with three goaltenders 22 or younger to have 10 or more wins in a season. His pupils were also recognized a number of times for stellar play by National Hockey League last year. Neuvirth was named NHL Rookie of the Month for October, Varlamov was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week for the week ending January 3, 2011, and Holtby — a virtual wildcard heading into last season — was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week for the week ending March 13, 2011.

Holtby, who may have evolved the most of the three during Irbe’s time in the organization, performed phenomenally as an injury replacement last year, going 10-2-2 with a .934 save percentage and a 1.79 goals against average.

So when word came out in early June that Archie was leaving the organization, many wondered why. Family and personal reasons were cited by the Capitals, which Olaf Kolzig backed up in an interview with Elliot in the Morning.

Today, Irbe gave his side of his story in a video interview with Kristaps Drikis of the Latvian Web site Sportacentrs.com. Thanks to a Russian translation by Sports.ru, RMNB’s Fedor Fedin offers it to you in English.

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I Don’t Hate Jeff Halpern

Jeff Halpern

Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

Fan-favorite Jeff Halpern, who captained the Washington Capitals during the 2005-06 season, was signed this offseason to a one-year deal for $825,000.

Last year Halpern logged the second-most shorthanded minutes (2:20) per-game among Montreal’s forwards and also finished second on the team in faceoff percentage (56.9%). His 11 goals and 26 points were his most since the lockout ended, and he is expected to center the fourth line and see time on the penalty kill.

“He got 26 points last year, which is more than we got out of that position last year,” General Manager George McPhee said when Washington signed Halpern in July. “We want players to be able to fulfill certain roles but also generate offense.”

At the risk of being sacrilegious I am here to say, please, keep your expectations low. Very low.

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Photo credit: Greg Fiume

When the Washington Capitals traded away oft-injured but skilled goaltender Semyon Varlamov, General Manager George McPhee said the team was more than comfortable using two relatively inexperienced netminders in Michal Neuvirth, 23-years-old, and Braden Holtby, 21, for the 2011-12 season — after all, he had done so the previous year with Neuvirth and Varlamov in the crease. Less than 24 hours later, however, the tables turned when McPhee scooped up veteran Tomas Vokoun, one of the league’s elite goalies, for the bargain price of $1.5 million for one year.

“We were certainly willing to play our top young goaltenders, but I think people will agree this addition makes us deep again at the most important position in the game,” GMGM said at the time. “We love what we have in Holtby and we certainly love what we have in Neuvirth, but from an organizational standpoint, we’re all better off having this depth.”

Soon after the signing, Vokoun told reporters the Caps offered him no guarantees on the starting spot, but as a Vezina-caliber ‘keeper, Bruce Boudreau essentially gave him the nod over Neuvirth.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov Gold Medal

Despite winning gold at the World Junior Championships and putting up one of the best years ever recorded by a 18-year-old in Russia, Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov spent most of last year playing through pain. The reason? A nagging shoulder injury that never completely healed after offseason surgery.

So Kuznetsov, who revealed to reporters in December that he struggled doing push-ups, flew back to Germany and went under the knife again in April. Thirteen and a half weeks later — with a renegotiated contract with Traktor and wife in hand — Kuznetsov seems optimistic of a full recovery.

Sport.ru’s Andrey Osadchenko recently spoke with the now 19-year-old and the two discussed a variety of topics. Most notably for Caps fans, Kuznetsov said that he has been looking at real estate in the D.C. area and plans to play for the Capitals in 2012-13.

Below, RMNB’s Igor Kleyner has your translation.

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All photos by Sweetest Hockey On Earth’s Kyle M.

On July 1st — the first day of Free Agency — the Capitals dealt 23-year-old Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for a first-round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft and a second-round selection in either 2012 or 2013. After weeks of speculation that pointed to Varly not returning to Washington and even potentially landing in the KHL, the Avalanche submitted an offer that General Manager George McPhee couldn’t refuse.

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The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant greets John Carlson before the match. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

As a member of the Washington Capitals, John Carlson is no stranger to lighthearted games of soccer, often playing along with his teammates to warmup before taking the ice.

But on Sunday, he joined in a pick-up match with meaning, participating in the Mia Hamm Foundation‘s annual Celebrity Soccer Challenge, held this year at Kastles Stadium in Southwest D.C.

The game, put on by Hamm and her husband, former MLB star Nomar Garciaparra, encourages people to join the bone marrow donor registry while raising money for Children’s National Medical Center. It was started in honor of Hamm’s late brother, Garrett, who passed away from aplastic anemia, a bone marrow condition, in 1997.

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