Bombarded by all the commercials and promotions on Comcast SportsNet, I had already downloaded the app but had never been inclined to use it. It seemed like Twitter, just stupider. Maligned by the media and by us, SportsYapper is like the Columbus Blue Jackets of social media. And after a few hours on the service, I can report that I learned nothing. It is exactly what we thought: Twitter, just stupider.
The Washington Capitals pulled a huge shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. Alex Ovechkin was superb, Braden Holtby was solid, and Mathieu Perreault was pleased. Very pleased. After Ovi clinched the 4-3 win in the skills competition, CSN’s cameras panned to Washington’s bench. The Caps were happy. Perry stood out, pumping his fists manically while letting out a primal scream.
Mike Ribeiro is a hot topic surrounding the Washington Capitals lately — not just because he’s been the team’s best player. Instead, Ribs is looking for a five-year deal in a market where free-agent forwards get big money, even with the salary cap decreasing by $6 million next year (from $70.2 million to $64.4 million).
Ribeiro is 33-years-old and is on the last year of a five-year, $25 million dollar deal. His next contract will certainly be the last big one of his career, and he wants his family to have a good, stable home. We shouldn’t expect his production (11 goals, 35 points in 33 games this season) to stay this way as his enters the latter part of career. On the other hand, however, the Caps haven’t a quality second-line center in years.
Within the next few games, the Caps may figure out if they want to– or even are able to– re-sign Ribeiro for a price that’s reasonable. Ribeiro told me he would have discussions with the team about a new contract before the trade deadline on April 3. Presumably, if his demands are too high for Washington, they may trade him.
“If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen,” Ribeiro said of a possible extension in Washington. “We’ll talk, obviously, before trade deadline and see where they’re at, where I’m at. We’ll go from there.”
Though recently we’ve seen him in a baseball cap more often than not, Michal Neuvirth‘s got a new mask. As with all Neuvy’s lids, the latest one was done by masterful Swedish airbrush artist Dave Gunnarsson, who posted pictures on his Facebook page. This is sad news for us at RMNB as Neuvy’s current Olie Kolzig Memorial Mask is a favorite of ours. The old mask lionizes former Capitals great Olie Kolzig on one side along and Czech netminder Jiří Holeček on the other. Neuvy has yet to wear his new mask, so the old one is still around for now.
The new mask features a large image of Washington’s Weagle logo on the front, but with the head chopped off and replaced with a more realistic rendering. The right side, as always, sports an image of Strekov Castle from Neuvirth’s hometown in the Czech Republic.
“Just as usual the design is pumped with details and hidden messages,” Gunnarsson, who designs masks for many NHL goaltenders, including Braden Holtby, wrote on Facebook. “It is so exciting to create a design in old school style mixed with top modern fx.”
Players get older; they slow down. Elite goal scorers drop off as they enter their late twenties. It’s time to realize this has happened to Alex Ovechkin. He may have the same name as the guy who scored 65 goals five years ago, but he is far from the same player. And it’s not his fault.
Nine of Ovechkin’s 15 goals have come off the same shot from the same spot: a one-timer from the circles. Seven of those have been on the power play. More remarkably, Ovechkin has not held the puck for more than a second on any of his goals this season save for one. He no longer scores on the rush.
The Washington Capitals invested $123 million dollars in Alex Ovechkin. They cannot have him not score. If he isn’t scoring the way he used to, they will adjust the game plan for him. That’s exactly what first year head coach Adam Oates has done. The new power play he instituted is designed to get Ovechkin the puck at any costs — and it works brilliantly. Ten of his 15 tallies this year (2/3) have come on the power play, the highest ratio of power play to even-strength goals of any player with more than 10 markers. He leads the NHL in man advantage goals.
Hockey players are accustomed to terrible nicknames; they’ve got a lot. The current iteration of the Washington Capitals includes Patsy (Aaron Volpatti), Crabber (Joey Crabb), and Carly (John Carlson). Now we know Steve Oleksy‘s too, though he won’t be happy with RMNB once his teammates read this. See: Oleksy’s lifelong nickname isn’t Stevie O (as head Adam Oates called him); it’s Binky. And we’ve got the story behind that.
“When I was younger, I was sick and I was in the hospital quite a bit,” Oleksy told me recently. “I called my pacifier my binky, and every time I started crying the nurses would tell my mom to put my binky in. She started calling me that, and then the kids at school caught on, and it just kind of grew with me.”
Goaltenders are like all people. They have habits and idiosyncrasies. Some are reserved, some are wild. Braden Holtby has always been more of the latter. He’s made bruising checks in juniors, slashed teammates, and his zany routines are well known. Something he’s never done, though, is score a goal. Late in Washington’s 5-3 victory on Sunday, he almost got one.
“Something that I’ve always thought of is trying to score a goal, but that’s not my first priority,” Holtby told reporters after the game. “It’s definitely not something I practice.”
With the Caps on the power play in the waning seconds, Holtby retrieved the puck from behind his net. Weaving around a Sabres player, Braden launched a shot at the opposite net almost 200 feet away. The puck looked as if it was headed towards Buffalo’s net. However, Alex Ovechkin knocked it down at center ice with his glove. Instead of Holtby’s first ever marker as a goalie, the puck ended up lazily drifting into the corner as the horn sounded. Ovi knew what he might have prevented, shrugging as he went to congratulate Holtby on the win.
Nineteen seconds, one goal. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres are neck-and-neck in a battle for playoff position. The Caps are just one point behind the Sabres as the lockout shortened regular season begins to come to a close. One problem, though: the spot they’re fighting for is 13th place in the Eastern Conference.
This season has been pretty abhorrent for fans in Buffalo and Washington. The Caps, however, still have time to salvage this year. Playing in hockey’s weakest division, the Caps came into Sunday’s game nine points out the the Southeast-leading Winnipeg Jets with 21 games left to play. But if Washington want to be playing hockey in May, that drive has to start now. Maybe it did. Thirty hours after the start of their deflating but fight filled 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins, Washington showed no St. Patrick’s Day hangover (I’m sorry).
Oleksy smiles and holds up his milestone puck. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
In Sunday’s game between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, number 61 netted the game’s first goal. That’s not surprising: Rick Nash is an elite player. But it wasn’t New York’s number 61; it was Washington’s Steve Oleksy. Before this season, Oleksy had just a few years playing college hockey and a bunch of ECHL games to his name. Now, he’s got four points in four National Hockey League games. His goal on Sunday was the first of his NHL career.
“I don’t score a lot of goals so every one’s nice,” Oleksy said after the game. “I don’t really know what to say. I’m just kind of the kid living the dream right now.”
Washington wore Courage Caps hats during warmups to support the cause. (Photo credit: @KCity65)
Sports teams may feel like glorified corporations these days. There still, however, is something more to them: the fans, the community, and the good the teams can do through charitable work. On Sunday, the Washington Capitals launched their annual Courage Caps program, which raised over $100,000 for TAPS, a military charity, last year.