Eric Fehr is God: Caps Blank Pens 3-0

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Yep.

I spent my Saturday at Nationals Park — well, until NHL PR literally chased me out. The stadium is nearly in its full party dress with fake domes, banners, and a sheet of ice with logos on.

But alas, there were still more games on the calendar before New Year’s Day. Tonight the Caps visited Pittsburgh. A bunch of the Penguins have mumps. Crosby had mumps. Mumps makes your face big. Okay, we got that out of the way.

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Attack dog. (Photo credit: Christian Petersen)

The Barry Trotz era has been a time of tumult for Jay Beagle. In October, he let his beloved Flipper go, a love that had burned bright for six years. Once the season got going, he found his role with the Caps growing. Beagle is skating an average of almost 13 minutes a night this year, a big jump from previous seasons. In fact, Beagle has spent time on the first line skating alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Beags’s has been back there again lately, filling in during Tom Wilson’s recent mid-game benchings.

“Trotz puts a lot of faith in me and puts me in big situations,” Beagle said. “I’m grateful for it. I don’t want to let him down, I don’t want to let my team down, I don’t want to let myself down. You get those opportunities and you make the most of them.”

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Barry Trotz’s Weapon: Ice Time

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Photo credit: Rob Carr

On Saturday night, Nate Schmidt and Andre Burakovsky sat out as the Capitals faced the Devils in Newark. Tom Wilson, the first line right wing, was also benched for most of second period. Barry Trotz’s weapon is ice time, and he uses it.

For Schmidt, it was his first scratch of the season, coming on the heels of excellent play alongside Mike Green throughout the year. The game before, Schmidt had misplayed Blue Jackets forward Michael Chaput, who scored a game-tying goal late in the game.

“Sometimes you have to reset players when they’re not going very well,” Trotz said the benchings. “You have to give them a little jolt.”

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Santa Clause Sang the National Anthem Tonight and Killed It

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Photo: @capsredrockers

On Monday, the Washington Capitals broke out a special surprise for the seventh day of Hanukkah. Before their game against the Ottawa Senators, Santa Claus sung the national anthems. In sonorous tones reminiscent of Bob McDonald, Santa, who was definitely not Bob McDonald, belted out “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” to the hundreds of fans in attendance, who cheered with bewilderment and amusement.

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Barack Obama Will Not Be at the Winter Classic

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Back in 2010, we — okay, Ian & Peter — created a campaign to get Barack Obama to a Caps game. It seemed like the type of thing a newly-elected president and rising young team would want to get in on. The White House press secretary at the time, Robert Gibbs, responded to RMNB’s pleas. But as we enter 2015, Washington’s Stanley Cup hopes and Obama approval ratings are low. So are the chances we get to see a presidential hockey game. While Obama has attended Wizards, Nationals, Mystics, and college games, he has heretofore ignored hockey in office. RMNB registered these concerns to the highest levels of government.

“I don’t know what the deal is,” Secretary of State John Kerry told RMNB earlier this year.

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Introducing the John Kerry/RMNB Selfie

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John Kerry is now a friend-of-the-blog, I guess. Like us, he shares a passion for hockey. Kerry has been playing his whole life, from the varsity team at Yale to the Lawmakers team he led during his years in the Senate. A few days before the Bruins White House appearance in 2012, Kerry appeared at the State of the Union with two black eyes and a broken nose, injures he suffered during a pickup hockey game.

Back in February, I interviewed him before he dropped the puck as part of a ceremony honoring the Olympic athletes from the Jets and Capitals. We chatted just off the ice in the private quarters of Capitals owner Ted Leonsis.

“You know this guy?” Ted asked Kerry. Indeed he did.

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Photos by Chris Gordon.

Nicklas Backstrom is a quiet Swedish assist machine. He sits in the background, setting up Ovi and racking up points. He’s a bit shy, often speaking to reporters siting down and speaking in a soft tone. He’s not underrated. People know Backstrom is good, but he’s just doesn’t flout it at all. That’s why he’s not one of the league’s most recognizable stars, despite the skill and stats to back it up.

But we Caps fans know how good he is. Tonight, Backstrom put on a grand Saturday night production. After not scoring in almost a month, Backstrom registered a natural hat trick, his first three goal game since 2010, as the Caps beat the Bolts 4-2.

There was a present waiting for him after the game. Upon entering the Capitals locker room, Backstrom found his locker filled with the hats thrown on the ice by fans.

“I don’t know who the f—k was doing that,” Backstrom told me. “Someone surprised me.”

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Photos by Chris Gordon.

Lauren Santora looked fine today. She does many days. That’s the thing with chronic illness: it’s not as much a story of acute calamities — Lauren has been hospitalized several times in her eight years — but the practicalities of everyday life. The Santoras and other families with chronically ill kids face a quiet struggle that outsiders often fail to grasp.

Some days she’s good. Some days she isn’t. Her parents have to monitor her condition constantly. Lauren has type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition in which autoantibodies attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

The toll of Lauren’s illness is not confined to herself. It also falls her mother, Dianna. It falls on her father, Joe. And it falls on her brother, Ryan, who also suffers from ADHD. Both siblings also have celiac disease, another autoimmune condition.

Lauren has been playing hockey since she was two-years-old. She presents herself as a articulate and joyful little girl. Every day, Lauren tries to lead a normal life. But with chronic illness, you never quite get there.

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Artsy. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)

Tom Wilson needs to play like Tom Wilson,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said early this month. “If Tom Wilson starts to play like someone else, then he won’t be on the first line.”

It’s been over a month since the bellicose winger got promoted to top line duty. He was in full bloom on Thursday, agitating the Blue Jackets all night. His premiere moment of belligerence came midway through the second period when Wilson goaded James Wisniewski into taking four minutes of penalty time for attempting to disfigure Wilson’s face.

Wisniewski’s assault failed, his stick snapping upon contact with Wilson’s chin.

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis during an event last week in Southeast DC. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

It’s been 40 years since the Capitals first took the ice in the 1974-75 season. The team has been celebrating the occasion incessantly, honoring the franchise’s best players with video tributes that air every night at Verizon Center and when CSN+ doesn’t have anyone in studio for the late game.

Despite the trumpeting of their former players, the Capitals will not be hosting an alumni game prior to the 2015 Winter Classic, which heretofore had been a tradition. According to the NHL, this was a decision made by the Caps. Speaking to Capitals season ticket holders last week, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly suggested one possible reason for the move: the League didn’t agree to a deal with Nationals Park until September.

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