Boston Bruins Pregame: Win or Else

Talk is cheap. Get pucks deep. 7 PM on CSN.

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Photo credit: Rob Carr

If there was one moment that epitomized Tuesday’s game, it came in the waning moments of the second period. With the Capitals on the power play with chance to narrow the Sabres lead to one heading into the final intermission, Keith Aucoin chipped the puck along the boards to Alex Ovechkin, who was playing the point at the blueline. Ovi fumbled the slow moving puck, got out muscled by Jason Pominville and then stumbled to the ice. Pominville finished the sequence by deflating any hope there was on the Capitals bench when his shot hit the back of the net. Ovechkin smashed his stick against the goal post in frustration.

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The Verizon Center with eight minutes left in the game. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

Losing to Buffalo, ugh. How could we lose to a team with such a beige, overpaid lineup? How could we lose to the team that employs Patrick Kaleta and pays Christian Ehrhoff $4 million?

Whatever, Buffalo. First one to a Stanley Cup gets the real bragging rights, which in your case will be in 2045 as the Kansas City Shortribs.

Holby gave the puck away to the Sabres and Cody McCormick was only too happy to give it back to start the scoring. Drew Stafford caught his own rebound just sitting there innocently in the crease to make it 2-0. Some person named Tropp deflected another huge rebound from from Holtby to put it in the net. Semin scored right of the faceoff and we wonder what Mike Milbury has to say about this? Pominville stole the puck from Ovechkin and scored shorthanded. Stafford destroyed what was left of our souls by scoring his second of the game. Caps lose, 5-1. 

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Photo credit: Dave Sanford

Sunday night after the Capitals’ 3-0 win against the Wild, Coach Dale Hunter said that tonight’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres was going to be “like the seventh game of the playoffs.”

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Buffalo Sabres Pregame: Manifest Destiny

Craig of the PuckBuddys delivers this pregame and travelogue. Please follow @PuckBuddys on Twitter.

So it all comes down to this. A season full of mediocre and substandard Caps performances could very well hinge upon Tuesday night’s tilt against the Sabres. Or, as we like to call them, the godless and heathen Sabres. Tuesday night at Verizon is when we glance up into the rear-view mirror and see all those squandered games and lost opportunities receding into the distance. Had the Caps gotten their heads and asses wired together at any point between November and say, last Friday’s night’s OT loss to the Jets, we wouldn’t be on pins and needles headed into Tuesday evening, or in my particular case, on lithium and Maker’s Mark.

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Photo credit: Suzanne Kang

Our friend Suzanne went to the Hershey Bears game this weekend, and this happened. I’m not sure we have the vocabulary to describe it, but here goes: It’s a Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin mash-up shirsey, the holy grail of what Greg Wyshysnki would call a “jersey foul.”

In one way, it makes sense. This is a fan at a Bears game in Pennsylvania. The Bears are the farm team for Ovechkin’s Capitals, and Hershey is only a few hours away from Crosby’s Penguins. These are the two stars of the two big teams that matter to this person. It’s almost defensible.

But no.

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Braden Holtby: King of March

Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

In March of 2011, a 22-year-old Saskatchewan native got called up to the Capitals after one of their netminders suffered an injury. Unproven and raw, he seemed at ease as he created a three-way goalie controversy on one of the league’s top teams. In March of 2012, a 23-year-old Saskatchewan native may be doing the same thing.

In his three games up with Washington after Tomas Vokoun went out with a groin injury, Braden Holtby has been stellar and ever improving as he turned a .889 save percentage in the first two months of the year in the AHL into a sparkling shutout performance in front of 18,506 fans (but who’s counting?) in one of his team’s biggest games of the year. With the Capitals fighting for every point as they try to squeak into the playoffs, head coach Dale Hunter may have no choice but to play the hot hand — even if the question was supposed to be settled when the Capitals traded away Michal Neuvirth’s competition before making the surprise signing of Vokoun in the summer.

“From my short stint in pro hockey you realize things change really quickly,” Holtby told reporters after the game. “I was ready, that’s what I’ve been working towards in Hershey all year. I’m trying to make good call-ups count.”

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GIF by welshhockeyfan.tumblr.com

While the glove kiss remains Alex Ovechkin’s first reaction to scoring, we’ve seen him add new flourishes over the years. There’s jumping into the glass and the hot stick fiasco, and now it’s time to add a new item to the list: the belly pat.

We like to think of it as the gestural companion to “attaboy”, something that a four year-old boy who just learned how to eat with a fork might do when he’s pleased with himself. It’s a thing of joy, of bravado, of that precise brand of smugness that makes Ovi so lovable to his fans and so infuriating to everyone else.

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Photo credit: Evan Vucci

Alex Ovechkin has played the point on the power play for most of his entire seven-year NHL career. During that time, using his heavy rocket of a shot, the Capitals prized left-winger has tallied 111 goals with the extra man – for an average of 16 per season.

Unfortunately, Ovechkin has also found himself on the wrong side of a lot of shorthanded opportunities over the years as well. Using a forward at the point can be risky, and the statistics tell the tale: the Caps have given up nine shorthanded goals this season, fourth most in the NHL.

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Ovechkin Ascendant, Holtby Perfect, Caps beat Wild 3-0

Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

After letting the Jets steal two points on Friday, the Washington Capitals direly needed a win against the Minnesota Wild to keep them off the golf course come April 8th. Aware of this fact, the Capitals played a smart game– even after getting the lead.

A little over 30 minutes in, Alex Semin accelerated into the Wild zone and set up Jason Chimera for a smart opening goal. Mathieu Perreault crashed the net for a goal on an undeserved power play. Alex Ovechkin did the Alex Ovechkin thing in the third. Caps beat Wild 3-0.

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