New Jersey Devils: Where Dat Rally Balloon?

The PreGame: Close your eyes for a moment. Now fling your head out the window.

Wait. Stop that. Open window, fling head, close eyes.

Better. Breathe deep…deeplier deep. Now, what do you smell out there? Summer? Winter? Victory? Streak?

Us? We get mulch, daffodils and notes of flattened street rat. But we much prefer these others. Summer – remember buoyancy and cautious cockiness? Winter; well, early winter means Christmas, and Christmas last was a Capsmas miracle against the Devils, so thank you Baby Jesus!

Victory? Contrary to Maj. Kilgore, victory doesn’t smell like napalm in the morning.  Rather it’s a man-handling of the Habs, a swift start and sustained margin against the Leafs, and a ‘You-Ain’t-Gonna-Win” sass against the dreadful Islanders, all in a row. Yum.

And Streak? Actually, we haven’t really smelled that this year for a long, long time. But still, I think I might recall…

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Photo credit: Rod Lamkey Jr.

George McPhee has not seen a season this tumultuous since the events that led up to the acquisition of Alex Ovechkin back in 2004. He’s dismissed a coach and watched his team fall from the top of the standings to a precarious spot on the proverbial bubble.

Now, as the Washington Capitals prepare for one last playoffs push, McPhee has the challenge of managing assets at all stages of their careers. That includes 37-year-old Roman Hamrlik, who was signed over the offseason to a two-year, $7 million deal, and 39-year old Mike Knuble, who will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end — both of whom have been scratched from recent games.

McPhee’s attitude towards his veteran players, however, is anything but cynical. In his 14 years as general manager of the Capitals, McPhee, whose nickname is The Undertaker, has revealed something of a softer side.

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