[Editor's note: We are proud to welcome writers Craig Brownstein and Doug Johnson to the Russian Machine! You might already know Craig and Doug from their gay-focused hockey blog, Puck Buddys. You are hereby required to follow them on Twitter: @PuckBuddys. Puck Buddys is increasing its scope from Caps-centric coverage to the whole NHL, so you'll see C+D here a lot, especially for game previews. Please give them a very warm welcome and let us know if they break anything expensive.]
And now, a new season kicks off with an ominous sign of the Hockpocalypse - teh gays are now writing about the Caps for RMNB: a risky collaboration between the established Russian royalty (or oligarchy), and the gauche, nouveau riche upstarts. The cheeky bastards of the hockey world will occasionally share insightful
It’s been a tough summer, our first official offseason. Since we last left our rink-side heroes, the economy is still falling like Sasha’s many unexplained losses of balance; the earthquake did as much damage to the city as Tampa Bay (and wrecking the one pure thing in DC); and America’s most high profile hockey mom, Sarah Palin, is…well, still Sarah Palin. In other words, stasis. During the Dog Days, our hockey hunger was temporarily sated by Dev Camp, the rookies, training camp, the Alumni Game (Go Team Locker!), and finally, CapsCon.
We’ve been watching the pre-season (mostly) closely, scoping out the Baby Caps, GMGM’s seasoned vet additions and the many new names, faces and sweaters around the NHL (Hi, Stecks!). And speaking of that former Caps fan fave, we’re glad he wound up with the Leafs; it’s home to our #1 fave hockey dad, Brian Burke. But enough about friends, let’s look at Saturday night’s foes, the Carolina Hurricanes.
First off: they’re from somewhere called “Carolina.” We’re told there are actually two Carolinas, but we’re not so sure. The Hurricanes are actually immigrants from Hartford, where they were once dressed as whales, occasionally beached. But that’s so 1970′s – get with the new economy – anything worth a crap now lives in the South, like Hank Williams, Jr., who is our choice to host next year’s NHL Awards show. And to be honest, he’d be a marked improvement over Jay Mohr. If we were writing Hank’s opening remarks for the evening, we’d have him liken President Obama to Gary Bettman.
But we have all season to high-stick the Commish, let’s talk hockey. After a gypsy season or two – we call this the “Carolina Homeless” era – the Canes settled comfortably in Raleigh, which we pretty much liken to the the fictitious sit-com town of Mayberry. Among North Carolina’s other significant contributions to culture are pig-pickin’, douchey Duke snots and creepy Senators. Still, despite our city slicker snickering, Raleigh hoisted the Cup, which is more than we can say at this point.
The Canes racked up only one win in the preseason, blanking the NKOTB, the Winnipeg Jets. We won’t read anything into those September contests, since the Caps too, played spotty, prompting immediate and panicked calls for the firing of both Coach Boudreau and GMGM.
Beginning nowhere in particular for the Canes is 4-time all-star Tomas Kaberle. Or more accurately, Tomáš Kaberle, a Czech-born former Bruin of with great skills. We get a little dizzy typing Tomáš into the Google – not that there’s a lot of Czech-born ‘models’ named Tomáš or anything – but it’s clear Kaberle brings experience to their squad. Sure, the 33 year-old D-man has a bit of grey in the beard, and perhaps he fizzled a bit in the last playoffs, but he’s big (215 lbs) and aggressive…and has something only two others on the Caps have: the magical and elusive NHL championship ring. On the subject of precious rings, we’re staying away from the booth on opening night because the sight and sound of 20,000 Caps channeling Smeagol may be a bit too much for us.
Hewing closer to the more youthful demographic is Cam Ward, Conn Smyth winner in 2006, and still among the best goal-tenders in the NHL. A Saskatoon native, the 27-year-old Ward isn’t to be mocked, on the ice or off. (Serious cute on this guy). Although 2010 was a sort of crud year for him due to injuries, that’s nothing compared to what the Caps have seen previously. A lot. A whole lot. Our boys will need to pick his lock on Saturday night and in the five subsequent match ups with this squad.
The Top Cane, Eric Staal, brings his family’s “I’m Eric-the-Vampire-from-True-
Without getting typically gay fanboy, Tiger Beat gushy, we can’t look at the Canes and not take a shot at the NHL’s very own Justin Beiber - Jeff Skinner [Peter: This should boost your SEO. BTW don't forget to remove this note before posting!]. 19 years old… wait…just let that sink in: 19. We have socks older than Jeff Skinner. Apart from his yucks-inducing name for any Simpsons fan, the shortish (5’11″) Toronto-native is a natural, having made the rare transition from figure skating to hockey (a move that we pray Johnny Weir never considers).
In his first NHL season, he smoked it up for Carolina, and the Calder winner has franchise hopes riding on his slender and delicate shoulders, almost like a young Ovechkin many years back. Well…maybe not Ovi. Sasha, perhaps, as long as we’re speaking about delicate. Either way, the Carolina tween is someone with talent but has a lot left to learn – most notably about fighting. He can find the twine but can he deliver and take a punch? Sure he danced with Kris Russell of the Blue Jackets during the preseason, but that was kid stuff. Hell, even we could beat down Russell, and we fight like girls (correction: mean girls). Maybe not on Saturday, but if he keeps dropping his dainty little mitts, at some point, the Canes’ Beebs may get that ominous page over an arena PA system: “Mr. Jeff Skinner, RED courtesy phone - Matt Hendricks is holding on Line 3.”
At the other end of the Canes age spectrum is Bryan Allen, a well-traveled, 31 year-old, 6’5″ 225lb monster, and quite possibly a nice addition to the Canes D. Weird to single him out? For us, not so much – he’s a handsome SOB.
Which leaves us back at the topic that brought us here. Men? No, hockey. Or, more explicitly, hockey men. Until the apparatchik at RMNB ask us politely to leave (or have us kidnapped and buried in shallow graves outside of Frederickgrad), we’ll continue scribbling occasional thoughts on the side of hockey that the tourists never see.