No More Southeast Division, No Big Deal

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Before tonight’s home opener, the Washington Capitals will raise a new Southeast Division Champions banner for the last time. The Capitals won half of the Southeast’s 14 division titles since 1998, but as of this season they will have to compete in the tougher Metropolitan Division, a sort of super-sized Patrick Division.

Some think the change will be disastrous for the Caps. “They will actually have to play against some tough teams in arguably the league’s toughest division,”  the Pensblog said in their division preview story.

That’s not entirely correct.

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Questioning the Logic of the Mathieu Perreault Trade

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Never forget. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

Tonight I was naughty and ordered pizza. A food coma knocked me out for two and a half hours on our living room couch. When I woke up, walked downstairs, and refreshed the website I helped create, I learned that the Washington Capitals traded everybody’s favorite French Canadian bro, Mathieu Perreault, for a fourth round pick and a minor league dude from Anaheim that George McPhee will probably say “can play.”

As an avowed fan who gets emotionally connected to some of the players, it’s — ya know — kinda upsetting. From a blogger’s point of view, Perreault was one of the most interesting players on the team. He had personality. He delivered many, many pageviews.

But when I check my emotion and look at the facts, this move is curious on a few levels. Mathieu Perreault was an underrated player who brought the team a lot of value. Since the 2010-11 season, the Capitals have been a much better team with Perreault on the ice than off. Despite his tiny size, Perreault is a talented puck-chaser and forechecker who drives play.

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Tyson Strachan didn’t make the team; will Tom Wilson? (Photo credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

With the deadline to submit opening-day rosters approaching at 5:00 PM Tuesday, the Washington Capitals moved towards finalizing their 23-player roster with a flurry of moves on Sunday.

The Caps assigned defensemen Michal Cajkovsky, Dmitry Orlov, and Tyson Strachan (who cleared waivers at noon) and forward Dane Byers to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. They have also placed forward Joel Rechlicz on waivers. Today was the final day players could be put on waivers before rosters must be set, meaning the Caps won’t be able to demote any more players who have those rights.

That leaves Washington with 21 players on the roster (13 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders) and three prospects trying to crack the lineup: Connor Carrick, Tom Wilson, and Michael Latta.

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connor-carrick-interview

During the mess that was Monday’s brawl-filled Capitals-Bruins game, one play jumped out at me.

With the Caps on the powerplay, defenseman Connor Carrick got the puck. He was the lone guy on the point — with Mikhail Grabovski at his right and Troy Brouwer to his left. Bruins veteran Daniel Paille went after Carrick, thinking he could cause the youngster, playing one of the hardest positions in hockey– powerplay quarterback, to cough up the puck or surrender the blue line.

What would you expect from a 19-year-old on this play? Keeping the puck in the zone and dumping it in would be satisfactory, but that’s not what Carrick did. Instead, he faked an easy pass to Brouwer and then backhanded the puck to Grabovski. No one on the ice except Carrick seemed to expect that play. He kept the Bruins in their own end with a simple, smart pass– showing NHL-quality poise in the process.

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The Likelihood of Tom Wilson Making the Capitals

Photo credit: Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Washington Capitals power forward prospect Tom Wilson has come a long way from where he was last year. Some think he’s primed for a roster spot with the big club this season.

There will be lots of factors in George McPhee’s decision to keep Wilson or send him back to the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers. In this post, I’ll take a look at all of them.

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Stan Galiev’s Breakout Game

galiev-celebrates-goal

Photo credit: Sean Kilpatrick

Washington Capitals prospect Stan Galiev entered last season as a high-rated prospect, a talented Russian forward with lots of promise. After winning multiple championships with the St. John Sea Dogs and dominating the QMJHL, Galiev was rated #29 on Hockey Prospectus Top 100 Prospects list for the 2012-13 season.

Unfortunately, when Galiev first played for the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears, he looked lost at times. He struggled on defense, not surprising considering how easy things came for him in juniors. The game was just a little bit too quick for him.

Galiev, however, finished on an upswing after a demotion to the ECHL’s Reading Royals, scoring 47 points in 46 games (including this sick goal). He also scored 11 points in 13 playoff games to help Reading win the 2012-13 championship. Over the summer, Galiev trained with renowned fitness guru Steve Saunders in Amish country along with Dmitry Orlov and Semyon Varlamov. Instead of sulking, a determined Galiev worked even harder.

Because of that hard work, Galiev was arguably the team’s best player in Washington’s first preseason game of the year Saturday. Less than one week into training camp, Galiev might have turned a corner in his development.

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happy ovi

Editor’s note: Peter here. We’ve posted two translations in the last week about Alex Ovechkin possibly being wooed back to Dynamo Moscow while still under contract with the Washington Capitals. This idea seems outlandish, but given Ilya Kovalchuk’s recent defection and the vagaries of international hockey regulations, I wanted to get a better handle on the issue. Below is a conversation I had with Fedor Fedin that was educational for me and I hope will be for you as well.

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Leave Alex Ovechkin Alone!

Scott Levy

Photo credit: Scott Levy

Okay, the subject line is a joke, but some people are being silly about Derek Stepan‘s game-winning goal last night. They’re saying it was Alex Ovechkin‘s fault– that his laziness on defense is a problem.

Here’s how it really went down.

After a long shift in the defensive zone, Marcus Johansson failed to clear the zone and pass to Alex Ovechkin, who was skating toward Lundqvist at center ice. A scramble for the puck ensued, and Stepan scored from the weak side. Ovechkin skated lazily towards Stepan as it happened.

Bad visual, but that’s all.

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The Freaking New York Rangers– Again

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Photo credit: Greg Fiume

Saturday night revealed the Capitals’ playoff foe, and that foe is really, really familiar.

The New York Rangers locked up the 6-seed and will be headed to Washington early this week to begin the quarterfinal round. This will be the seventh time the teams have met and the third time RMNB will have written about a WSH-NYR series. The John Tortorella Rangers are a shot-blocking, workaday-type crew– but this year they’ve added convincing possession to the mix (they’re ranked sixth in unblocked shot attempts at even strength when the score is close). The Rangers may be a better match-up for the Caps than the Senators (whose Craig Anderson posted the best goalie stats this year) and the Isles (whose John Tavares is a convincing young star), but the Rags are no slouch either.

If you’re already anxious, you’re not alone. But this is the playoffs, where the gentle hum of anxiety is your stalwart dance partner.

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The Washington Capitals are in the driver’s seat for the Southeast division crown. And even though tonight’s game against the Jets looms large, a loss won’t kill the Caps’ chances of making the playoffs — though it will make it much more difficult to win the division. If they lose tonight and manage to still win their final two games, they will be guaranteed a playoff spot.

As it stands right now, the Caps have a 91.1% chance of making the postseason and an 86.7% of winning the Southeast. The Winnipeg Jets have a steeper climb. Despite a big win over Buffalo on Monday, the Jets have just a 31.6% probability of making it to the Stanley Cup playoffs and a 13.3% of becoming division champs.

There are a lot of ways this could shake out, and a lot of possible tiebreakers to consider.

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