Major League Baseball is in the throes of opening week and Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson was at a hockey game Thursday night. As a guest of CSN Mid-Atlantic and the Laughlin family, Robinson came to Verizon Center to see the latest iteration of the Capitals Penguins rivalry.

Nicknamed “The Human Vacuum Cleaner,” Robinson won 16 Gold Gloves and two world championships with the Baltimore Orioles. Robinson is considered one of the greatest third basemen in major league history. Former Capitals player Brooks Laich is named after the beloved Orioles infielder.

During the first intermission, I spoke with Robinson. Brooks explained his hockey fandom, what position he would play if he were a hockey player, and his thoughts on his historic Major League career.

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Braden Holtby sat at the far end of the Capitals locker room for a few minutes, staring straight ahead. As reporters began to file in, Holtby walked out of the room to gather himself, returning about 10 minutes later. Earlier in the night, he held a 3-1 lead against the New York Islanders, just 13 minutes away from tying Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur for the most wins in a single season. With the Capitals possessing the best third period goal differential in the league and a significant shot advantage, Verizon Center roared as every save put him closer to the NHL record of 48 wins.

But in the final minutes, Holtby buckled, making an elementary miscue that ended up in the back of his net, putting the Islanders within one.

“I just, I made a mistake and it changed the momentum,” a dejected Holtby said of the play after the game. “It was just one of those plays I got caught between covering it and putting it in the corner, and when you’re in between decisions, it never ends up well.”

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Tom Wilson’s Giant Hit on Nikita Zadorov


With the Colorado Avalanche fighting for the final spot in the West and the Washington Capitals trying to get Braden Holtby his 47th win of the season, Friday’s late season game took on a furious pace, full of end-to-end action. The energetic play took a scary turn about five minutes into the second period when Tom Wilson unleashed an explosive hit on Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov.

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Unpresidential: Blues Blank Caps 4-0

PatrickMcDermott:NHLI via Getty Images

Photo: Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

Friday night, the Capitals headed up to Newark. Absolutely nothing happened. Someone finally dented the twine when John Carlson, fresh off the injured list, unleashed a deadly slapped for the game-winner. Or so I’m told. I conked out in a clonidine-induced stupor with like four minutes left in the third. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to tangerine popsicles — thankfully wrapped — strewn around me as the Caps headed home with a 1-0 victory.

On Saturday night, however, the Capitals played an interesting hockey game. Unlike the Devils game, there were such pastimes as shots on goal — the Caps were the better team than the St. Louis Blues in the first too.

In the second, the Blues, in a fight with the Dallas Stars for the best record in the West, started to apply the heat on a team with little to play for. And guess what, the Caps allowed the first goal. Dmitry Orlov bumped the puck behind the puck after being pressured on the forecheck before Kyle Brodziak tapped a rebound into an empty net.

The second period carnage continued just from there when Colton Parayko beat Philipp Grubauer with a shot akin to a light breeze. One hundred seconds later Vladimir Tarasenko, now the NHL’s fourth leading goal scorer, made it a three goal game after Matt Niskanen left him unattended in the far circle.

YAWN. Somebody scored late in the third but I wasn’t paying attention. Blues blank Caps 4-0.

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When Daniel Winnik got traded to the Washington Capitals late last month, we figured the grinding forward would get an offensive boost playing with DC’s high end talent. We just didn’t realize how easy they would make it for him.

With the Capitals trailing 1-0, Winnik jumped on the ice in the waning seconds of a Capitals power play. Braden Holtby and Evgeny Kuznetsov, however, weren’t quite done with their work on the man-advantage. Despite the seconds ticking down, Holtby fed Kuznetsov puck the puck in the Capitals’ zone off off a brilliant, high-flying breakout pass that easily found the Russian forward.

“That’s something we try to do in the past, usually at the end of the power play when you’re not worried about changing or anything like that,” Holtby said of the play. “You’re trying to get it into their zone at the end of the power play. You know Kuzy’s gonna make those reads. He read it well.”

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Centurions: Caps Beat Bruins 2-1 (OT)

Photo: Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

Friday night, the Capitals were outscored in regulation for just the 13th time this season. I believe they call it a “loss.” Following the game, the Caps got in their blacked out AMG Mercedes and tore down Constitution Avenue on the way to Dulles with a date with the Boston Bruins on the horizon. Everything was in order as Washington began its longest road trip of the season, with the Capitals allowing the first goal for the 10th time in 12 games. The Caps would have been down 2-nil after 20, but Barry Trotz successfully challenged a goal by Torey Krug after the Bruins were offside.

In the second, the Capitals spent an inordinate amount of time on the PK, with eight of the 12 Bruins shots in the period coming on the man-advantage. Nevertheless, it was the Capitals who got on the board, when Karl Alzner crashed the net off an excellent feed from Nicklas Backstrom.

Washington dominated the third, outshooting the Bruins 10-4 in the frame, but the game headed to overtime.

Matt Niskanen unleashed the cannon. Caps beat Bruins 2-1 (OT)!

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Hunt or Be Hunted: Rangers Beat Caps 3-2

Mar 4, 2016

Photo: Geoff Burke

“Imploded,” “epic tantrum,” “baby stuff”: that’s what the New York tabloids looked like after the Rangers’ 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers wondered aloud how they were going stuff the NHL’s best team the following night, the same one that leads them by 18 points for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Capitals made it pretty easy for them in the first. Less than six minutes into the game, Braden Holtby turned the puck over before Ryan McDonagh fired a shot from the point that took down Jesper Fast and Brooks Orpik. Dan Girardi then launched the loose puck towards the net. Fast shoveled it past Braden Holtby before Orpik even knew what was going on. Later in the period, the Rangers camped in the Capitals’ zone after a Karl Alzner tripping penalty. After New York hit two posts, Keith Yandle unleash a bullet past Holtby.

In the second, the Capitals began to turn things around, taking the lead in shots on goal and shot attempts on Jay Beagle’s first goal since returning to the lineup after the Capitals poked Antti Raanta like your they were your grandma on Facebook and you were you. The Caps continued to press the pace in the second, drawing a late period penalty. On the ensuing power play, T.J. Oshie flew into the zone, scored his 19th goal of the season, and busted his face to tie the game.

In the third, a sloppy turnover by Dmitry Orlov gave New York the lead. The Caps came close, but couldn’t come back from the early hole. No more of these guys until seven game playoff series that ends in disaster. Rangers beat Caps 3-2.

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Photo: Patrick McDermott

The tribute video was just over a minute long, but the ovation seemed endless. Brooks Laich’s teammates past and present stood and banged their sticks on the boards in recognition of his devoted service to the Washington Capitals and the game of hockey.

It began when he joined a last place team in February 2004 — Alex Ovechkin wouldn’t play his first game in Washington for another 20 months — and ended when he left in February 2016, with the Caps smashing NHL records with their eye on their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Laich’s trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs was billed as a salary dump, but it was one that left Washington’s general manager on the verge of tears. After Bruce Boudreau, Alex Semin, George McPhee, and Mike Green departed, Laich was one of the last of the Rock the Red, run-and-gun core that made hockey relevant in this town again.

“I wish the guys good luck,” Laich said when asked what he said the his former teammates during the tribute. “I looked down the bench and wished the guys good luck.”

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Claus Andersen

Photo: Claus Andersen

At around 10:45 pm Daniel Winnik received a call that “shocked” him: he was traded from the from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the first place Washington Capitals. Within a half hour, Caps fans had the a similar reaction when they heard of the transaction. Brooks Laich, DC’s longest tenured athlete, who had played all but one game of his 743 game NHL career with the Capitals, was going the other way. Because of his loyalty to the organization, Laich was making $4.5 to skate on the fourth line. He had scored just one goal so far this season. And the Capitals made a decision to help their hockey team.

“I was a part of scouting him in the beginning, so it’s hard,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan, who said the 32 year old’s contract was “weighing us down” in terms of what the Capitals could do this offseason, said. “It’s frustrating, but we had to do what‘s necessary to keep the organization, keep the team going forward here.”

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Pure Force of Will: Blackhawks Beat Caps 3-2

Photo: Dennis Wierzbicki

On Saturday, Caps fans stared into a space trying to figure what Brian MacLellan was doing. Twenty-four later, our brains were unscrambled as his team took to the ice against the Chicago Blackhawks. Sunday NBC Game of the Week actually turned out to be the game of the week, with the enhanced defending champions taking on the NHL’s best team in a possible Stanley Cup Final preview.

Things got off to a great start for the Caps as the third line pounded the Blackhawks zone before Marcus Johansson whacked a line drive past Corey Crawford on the power play. On the next shift, however, the Capitals were too eager to exit the defensive zone and the Blackhawks jumped right on them, forcing Justin Williams to turn the puck over. Patrick Kane, the NHL’s leading point scorer, was alone in front of Braden Holtby to tie the game. The Capitals unleashed a torrent of shots on Crawford in the remaining minutes of the frame, but couldn’t regain the lead.

In the second, the script got flipped. The Blackhawks outshot the Capitals 14-4. Holtby stood tall for most of the period, but a late tripping call on Taylor Chorney gave the Blackhawks a power play. They converted when an excellent cross-ice pass from Teuvo Tervainen fooled the Capitals defense, leading to a wide open net for Jonathan Toews.

The third was a slow period, but Chicago was able to stretch their lead to two. After the Hawks took two penalties and Barry Trotz pulled Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov put the Caps within one on a six-on-three with almost a full power play remaining afterwards. They couldn’t convert. Blackhawks beat Caps 3-2.

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