Team Russia shocked the world by coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the gold medal game against Canada to win the IIHF U20 World Junior Championship one year ago. Tremendous coaching, discipline, and a lot of luck made a good team great. Several players also proved that they were the real deal, including Dmitry Orlov (currently playing in Washington), Vladimir Tarasenko (Blues prospect currently ranked fifth in KHL in goals), Maxim Kitsyn (KHL’s Metallurg Novokuznetsk), Artemy Panarin (Vityaz), and — the youngest of the bunch — Evgeny Kuznetsov. Role players from last year’s team, Nikita Dvurechenski (KHL’s Vityaz), Anton Burdasov (third-line center on the KHL’s Traktor Chelyabinsk), and Nikita Pivtsakin (KHL’s Avangard Omsk), have also graduated to become full-time KHL players.

Unfortunately, age eligibility rules have forced a drastic change to Russia, who is looking to repeat as champions for the first time since 2002 and 2003. The only returning player is Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuzya, the captain wearing #25, is sure to be a major key to success for the Russians. He’s played in the tournament before, scored, and assisted on clutch goals.

Kuznetsov’s been very successful at the professional level this year: he leads the KHL in game-winning goals (5), scored the game-winner in the Karjala Cup, and plays on the first line of the Russian league’s best team, Traktor Chelyabinsk.

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RMNB Readers Present Their Caps Christmas Cards

We issued a challenge, oh faithful users of the Russian Machine, to create Caps-themed Christmas cards. The only rule: use an inferior graphics program or blingee.com to make it.

What we avoided telling you — just like my parents who took 14 years to come clean to me about the whole Santa thing (he IS real) — was that we didn’t have to follow the same rules. Above, is our holiday card by RMNB’s house illustrator, Rachel Cohen.

Meanwhile, you guys rocked this assignment harder than a Dmitry Orlov hip check. Though, to be honest, some of these submissions might land you on Santa’s naughty list once I post this. I apologize beforehand. Cruise on past the jump to check out the gallery and see what I mean.

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Andy Marlin

Alex Semin interferes with Mattias Tedenby (Photo credit: Andy Marlin)

The last game before the holiday break featured the Washington Capitals in desolation against the New Jersey Devils. The Caps looked desperately weak for most of the game, digging a deep hole. But the third period was an explosion of Caps offense– one of the best comebacks in recent history. Still, the gimmick loomed.

Ilya Kovalchuk struck on a power play in the second period, a dribbling puck between Neuvirth’s pads. Not long later, Alexander Urbom scored on a defenseless net to make it 2-0. Adam Henrique chipped one in from up close to make it dire.

Brooks Laich used some speed and a Wideman pass to get the Caps on the board. Jason Chimera crashed the net and made it a one-goal game. Then Chimera tied it up at the end of a long offensive shift.

Into the shootout, where the Devils came out on top. Devils beat Caps 4-3 (SO), but the Caps take home one well earned standings point.

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Sasha Cares so Much… He Became a Care Bear

When I’m not illustrating, I sew things! Lots of my sewing work is costuming, but I sometimes make “normal” clothing and– most recently– plushies.

After I drew the design for the Alexander Semin “Sasha Cares” t-shirt, my mother gave me an excellent idea: “Why don’t you sew a real one?”

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New Jersey Devils Pregame: Happy Non-denominational Tidings

Craig is a Puck Buddy. This is his story. @PuckBuddys

Ohai Caps fans! Coinciding with Coach Hunter’s latest round of mind-boggling line changes, we’re changing up things today on the pregamer, too.  No, Doug hasn’t been sent down to Hershey with the other famous Caps redhead, Cody “Swoon” Eakin, but he’s taking a short break from cranking out his inimitable prose, obscure cultural references (he’s still working on Cy Twombly), and his proselytizing on behalf of the radical gay agenda.

Actually, he’s wrapping up the last of his community service obligations that resulted from his conviction in that 2011 World Juniors point-shaving scandal. And truth be told, he was also the one who bought all that liquor for those Russian kids. But luckily for all involved, including international aviation authorities, the team behaved responsibly on that flight home after their big win. In fact, we just heard from a few of our old pals on last year’s Russian team – and even they were appalled by Alec Baldwin’s airline antics last week.

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The NHL is Back on Russian Airwaves

After long negotiations, the Russian National Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) has secured the rights to broadcast the NHL on their sports channels (free SD Russia 2 and cable HD Sport 1).

Back when RMNB was in its infancy, I described what it was like to be a fan of the Washington Capitals in Moscow. Staying up until 6am and searching the internet for feeds of Caps games (where there’s no guarantee I will hear Joe B. and Locker), is neither convenient or healthy.

Understanding this shortfall, the NHL started offering a Russian version of their website this season, and they allowed Europeans to watch games on NHL GameCenter Live. The VGTRK deal — which was completed in November — is another step towards globalizing the NHL.

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Caps Beat Preds 4-1 in Mike Knuble’s 1,000th Game

I score? I really score? (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)

Coming into Tuesday’s game against the Predators, the Caps had been inefficient offensively, managing to score only one goal in each of their last three games. Would being confronted with two of the best defensemen in the league — Shea Weber and Ryan Suter — and a team that has played in 10-straight one goal games (7-3-0) somehow help their cause? Also, would an emotional pre-game ceremony honoring one of their team leaders, give the Caps a lift?

You bet your ass it did.

After the Capitals started the game off with four dominant shifts in the Predators zone, Alex Ovechkin — beautifully set-up by Karl Alzner — scored on a breakaway at 7:47 of the first. Later in the period, Nicklas Backstrom wrapped home goal number two of the night, his twelfth of the year. After a scoreless second period, Sergei Kostitsyn ruined Neuvy’s shutout bid with a twisted wrister from just outside the slot. Then Alex Semin decided he felt like scoring. Troy Brouwer, too! Caps beat Preds 4-1.

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George McPhee and Mike Knuble pose with the silver stick. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

With the drop of a six-ounce disc of vulcanized rubber, 39-year-old right wing Mike Knuble became the 269th player in NHL history to play in 1,000 career games. While only a small percentage of players ever reach that milestone, an even tinier amount do it at age 39. Consider, Knuble is the second oldest player to ever reach 1,000 games, trailing only ex-Capital defenseman Grant Ledyard (who was 40).

Kanoobs, a veteran of 16 career NHL seasons, won back-to-back Stanley Cups with Detroit during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons – his first two years in the league. However, it would take him four more years to finally have a breakout year and establish himself. In 2002-03, after Sergei Samsonov suffered a wrist injury, Knuble was asked to fill the void on the first line alongside Joe Thornton and Glen Murray with Boston. The gritty, two-way forward responded by finishing the year with 30 goals and 59 points. Knuble’s never looked back since.

Entering this season, Mike has recorded eight straight 20-goal seasons. Even more remarkable: Knuble’s scored 221 of his 271 career goals after his 30th birthday. That’s more goals than Steve Yzerman and Wayne Gretzky racketed up during the same playing age. This stat speaks volumes about Knuble’s relentless work-ethic, high hockey IQ, and professionalism. “You spend the first four or five years of your career trying to lock up a spot in the league and try to prove to everybody that you can play,” Knuble explained after Capitals practice Monday. “That’s enough of a battle. Once you get over that hump and you’ve proved you can play, then it’s a question of just being able to play that long and staying healthy.”

Naturally, the Capitals organization went all out to celebrate the assistant captain’s achievement tonight.

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“Kanooblian” by Mark Burrier. See Rare Words for more of Mark’s art.

Mike Knuble will play his 1000th NHL game on Tuesday night. And I get to write the pregamer! Woohoo!

There’s a team. They’re from Nashville. That’s where Steve Earle got busted for dope the first 40 times, and it’s where my girlfriend Hayley Williams lives right now. The Predators are 17-11-4. Their new guitar pick logo is awesome. They beat the Caps 3-1 last month, and their home jerseys harshed my rods and cones. Faith Hill hates Carrie Underwood. The Preds are just barely inside the playoff picture right now. D-man Shea Weber is insanely good (24 points, plus-15) and will get even better. But enough about them, let’s talk Kanooble!

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RMNB Needs Your Capitals-Themed Christmas Cards

We’re a hopelessly gimmicky blog. There are certain standards to which we hold ourselves:

  1. If the Capitals are losing and we have no idea what to write about, it’s okay to post an article which consists only of baby animal videos.
  2. When any member of the Capitals organization is spotted with someone on Jersey Shore, we must write about it.
  3. During any holiday, we must solicit artwork from our readers because a) you guys do more creative stuff than we can, and b) we are desperate for non-Kuznetsov content.

So with eight-pound, six-ounce baby Jesus’s birthday only six days away, we need your Capitals-themed Christmas cards and quick! We prefer that you create your cards using a primitive graphics program like MS Paint, Adobe Photoshop 3.0, or gluing macaroni on construction paper. We want cards for all religions. After all, Jeff Halpern and the Puck Buddys are Jewish, and Jason Chimera  (11 G, 6 A) obviously has a deal with the devil.

Mail your submission to thecrew@russianmachineneverbreaks.com by 5pm on Friday. We’d prefer if they’re jpegs. And for those of you who are too scared to submit, take solace in the fact that we’ll pretty much post anything. Weird youtubes of your kids dancing, pictures of an Ovechtree. Ornaments. Seriously, anything. Well, as long as it’s not super crude.

Get crackin’. We can’t wait to see what you guys come up with this year!