Video: SportsCenter’s Feature on Alex Ovechkin

Former NBC Washington sportscaster Lindsay Czarniak moved on to Bristol, Conneticut nearly a year ago, to be an anchor on SportsCenter. This week she returned to her old stomping grounds to do a feature story on Capitals’ captain Alex Ovechkin. Among the things discussed are how Ovi and tennis star Maria Kirilenko first met, Ovi’s response to the Washington Post’s critical story on him published eight games ago, and what he needs to do to take the next step in his career.

The money quote? “I won Stanley Cups on computer games,” Ovi says of hockey’s greatest team award. “Of course I have dreams about it. The most important thing to me right now is to win the Stanley Cup. It’s not to score 60 goals. It’s not to score 100 points. The only thing is the Cup.”

Minnesota Wild Pregame: Yah Sure, You Betcha

The other Nick Backstrom. (Photo credit: Doug Benc)

Healing Breath: So alright, everybody feel safe now? Good. Now, everyone, breathe in….and blow it out. Good; that’s good. And let’s just stick with “blow” for a moment, shall we?

Friday was basically the Mir of hockey games (look it up, noobs.) We all watched, incredulous, as our Hero Caps slung their way to 3-0, only to slump to end 4-3, mostly during the last third, as the flaming wreckage fell back to Earth. Honestly, that last stanza? Blowing chunks all over that very pretty, expensive Verizon sheet. In a phrase: everybody was Byfuglian-en.

OK, cleansing breath now; suck it in….and, blow it out. Blow hard…good.

The Pregamer: As a cure for our Capitals PTSD (Post Traumatic Suckage Disorder) we slopped out to Kettler today to see just wha’ what was up with the what wha’. We learned several things.

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Nine days ago, on KHL-TV’s “The Icing Show,” 19-year-old Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov revealed that he would stay in Russia next season.

“To be honest, my decision has been reached,” Kuznetsov told host Igor Larin. “It is my intention to continue my career in the KHL. At the same time there is no clarity as to which club it will be.”

Since then, no context has been gleaned from his statement until now.

Earlier today, Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice, including the game-winner, to help push Traktor Chelyabinsk to the Eastern Conference Finals. In an interview with Rossiya 2 TV after the game, Kuznetsov admitted that his statement about staying in KHL was not serious. “I said that I am staying so they’d leave me alone.”

Below the jump, I offer a complete translation of his comments.

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Kuznetsov interviewed during Game 4. (Photo credit: Sergey Manzheleev / Ak Bars)

This may or may not be the year when Evgeny Kuznetsov comes to DC. Nonetheless, the Caps prospect continues to put another impressive KHL season under his belt as Traktor Chelyabinsk only needed 11 games to get through two rounds of the playoffs. After their 4-1 victory over Ak Bars today – which Kuznetsov tallied the game-winning goal, Traktor will now face Avangard Omsk and Roman Cervenka, in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Kuzya missed part of the first round with a knee injury he suffered in the second to last game of the regular season. Once he returned, he was not in game shape, being held without a point in his two first playoff games. But then Kuznetsov showed his big-play ability again by scoring five goals in six games, including two game-winners and one series-winner.

Want to see all of Kuzya’s playoff goals? Check them out below the jump.

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How Swede this news is! (Photo via dumpnchase.com)

Nicklas Backstrom has missed the last 37 games — almost half of the season — dealing with concussion symptoms after Rene Bourque elbowed him in the head on January 3rd. But after skating by himself for 10 of the last 11 days, Backstrom was cleared to practice today with his teammates without any restrictions. If all goes well, the Capitals number one center could return before *gasp* the end of the regular season.

“It’s good sign for us,” Ovechkin told the media at Kettler after practice “Everybody knows we miss him. He’s that kind of guy we need right now. So I hope he’s going to be OK and he going to help us in these kind of games.”

Once in game shape and ready to return, Backstrom will have to pass a neuropsychological test and then be cleared by a doctor according to team trainer Greg Smith.

After blowing a three-goal lead against Winnipeg last night, this is exactly the kind of lift the team needed. In the Caps first 39 games of the season, Backstrom was the team’s MVP, averaging more than a point per game. In fact, he was on pace to tally 90-plus points, which would have been his second best season in the NHL — all sorely needed offense for a team that lacks center depth.

Below, I’ve transcribed Backstrom’s full comments to the Caps media today.

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Hunter Hockey, Jets beat Caps 4-3 (OT)

Photo credit: Rob Carr

Last time the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets met, Ovechkin got taunted and the Caps lost a slot in the standings. The Caps remembered and came out swinging this game. But then Dale Hunter enacted his formula for something, and everything went to hell.

Thanks to Jeff Halpern, Jason Chimera went cruising along in the O-zone, tucking the puck behind Pavelec with his backhand. Alex Ovechkin recorded two consecutive goals in the second– a subtle wristshot and a loud 6-on-5 one-timer. The Jets rallied back with goals from Maxwell and Little before the second intermission. The Caps had literally no offense (seriously, none) in third until Spencer Machacek tied it up.

Into overtime, where Stapleton won it. Jets beat Caps 4-3 (OT).

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Video: Joe B and Locker’s Biggest Fans

As you know, we don’t think it’s cool to give female hockey fans a hard time for liking the players. But it’s okay to differ on matters of taste. Evgeni Malkin, for example, has some kind of nerve-damage thing happening on that face that only a mother could (or should) love. But we see people holding signs for the guy anyway.

During Friday’s Jets-Caps game, these two sophisticated mamas made a tandem proposition to DC’s broadcast team of Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin. Bravo, ladies. You have our complete support.

Sometime later, Laughlin, who is always a smooth character, was caught signing autographs for fans who were throwing up items to him in the booth. This town certainly loves its announcers.

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Merch Alert: Alyssa Milano’s Washington Capitals Jeans

Maybe this is just news to us, but whoa!

Alyssa Milano, star of Embrace of the Vampire and Poison Ivy 2: Lily,  has a clothing line called Touch. Touch has designed blue jeans with a Caps weagle on the butt. Now I’m not saying this is a must-buy, but you literally MUST BUY THESE.

From the product description on Modell’s:

Want everyone to know what your favorite team is while out on the town? In these Washington Capitals denim jeans from Touch by Alyssa Milano everyone will know. The traditional washed jeans have vintage leather team logo appliques on both back pockets and team logo embroidery on front pocket.

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Winnipeg Jets Pregame: It’s Payback Time

The Jets are five points behind the Caps with one less game played. They have the worst road record in the Eastern Conference.

And since this happened, Alex Ovechkin has scored four goals in three games. Thanks a bunch, Winnipeg!

It’s been a long time since Verizon Center has seen their boys. How will we greet them? And how will we welcome the Jets, whose fans have been so snarky lately?

A few suggestions:

  • Let’s go Thrashers! CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP
  • P-A-R-K / Your kids got no place to play / Winnipeg ooh ooh Winnipeg!
  • Jets, you suck! Jets, you suck! ExceptforyouEricFehryou’recool! Jets, you suck!

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Mike Knuble’s Spring Fling

The legend of Mike Knuble goes something like this: as the season grows older, he grows more powerful. To Mike, the regular season is like Samson’s hair or Max Damage’s waking life: more makes him more better. His production has traditionally increased in the back half of the season, making him springtime’s sleeper threat.

At the tail end of what may become his worst season in a decade, Knuble is showing that pattern again. With three goals in his last five games, Knuble is no longer among the ranks of potential gameday scratches, and his ice time is finally increasing as well.

But I wonder: is Knuble’s spring awakening revival just a myth? And if there is fact behind the legend, what is driving it? Does Mike shoot more in the thaw? Or is he just getting lucky, exploiting Eostre’s blessing? (Spoiler: The answer is kind of a cop-out).

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