GreenEaston

There it is. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)

At the start of the 2008 NHL season, Mike Green came to camp with just 15 sticks. They were Easton Stealth CNTs. At the time, Green said his sticks had been discontinued for “a while.” He would be getting no more. Over the course of that season, Green posted unbelievable numbers for a defensemen, scoring 31 goals. Looking at the goal leaderboard for that season, Green is just below some of the most high flying scorers in the league: Malkin, Toews, and Crosby to name a few.

At one point Green scored a stunning 10 times in eight straight games. The goals during the streak all came off the same Easton, which Green said was the best stick he’s ever played with. Reluctantly, he agreed to donate it to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“You can only be superstitious for so long,” Green said.

Green’s moment of reckoning came on May 2, 2009. Playing in game one of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Green broke his last surviving Stealth CNT.

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ovi-falls-over-smiles

Alex Ovechkin loves to score goals. Afterwards, sometimes he leaps in into the glass, sometimes he does a jig, sometimes he tumbles to the ground like a building loaded with TNT. That last one happened on Sunday night after Ovi’s fortieth goal of the season.

“I think sniper was up there, shot me in foot,” Ovechkin told reporters after the game.

When I asked around the Capitals locker room at the Kettler on Monday, I was hoping the learn that Ovi’s teammates had seen the fall — or at least the replay — and had been giving Ovechkin a hard time. Troy Brouwer didn’t let me down.

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bensten-caps-video

Six days ago, Bensten opened his eyes for the first time since his accident. On Thursday, to the surprise of everyone, little B-man spoke– and he even laughed a little. Bensten’s uncle Tyler called it a miracle.

At his bedside, Bensten’s mother Heather played for her son the video the Capitals had made for him. You can see his reaction below. Warning: This is going to be emotional.

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ann-schaab-thank-you-ovi

Photo: Melissa Schaab

“I think he said card,” Melissa Schaab said to her son Matthew. “I think he’s going to give Ann a card. Not a car.”

“But play the video again.”

That was the scene late Sunday night at the Schaab’s Laurel, MD home. Melissa’s 15-year-old son had been sent a video clip from his friends. It was of Alex Ovechkin speaking to reporters after his fifth career All-Star Game. The future Hall of Fame forward had mentioned Matthew’s sister.

The moment was unexpected, surreal.

“He means card. He’s going to send Ann a card.”

A 2015 Honda Accord is $22,105. A “Thinking of you” card by Hallmark is maybe $3.99.

He couldn’t mean car.

“Then I got on the computer and googled a little bit and saw more about it,” Melissa said. “It was all just sort of unbelievable. This is crazy. This is not happening.”

It was.

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joel-ward-john-carlson

Photoshop by Ian Oland

While the Capitals and Red Wings were busy boring a mostly full Verizon Center, a sporting contest of greater import was taking place in the Boston suburbs. With a spot in the AFC Championship Game on the line, the 2013 Super Bowl winning Baltimore Ravens took a 28-14 lead on the New England Patriots. With five minutes left in the game, however, Tom Brady threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to give New England a 35-31 lead and send the entire state of Maryland into Old Bay-seasoned tears.

After the Capitals’ 3-1 victory over Detroit, I caught up with Joel Ward, a massive Ravens fan. Though Ward scored in Washington’s 22nd victory this year, he become downtrodden when I brought up the game.

“I knew they were going to be tough,” Ward said. “I saw that they were up by a couple scores earlier on. Foxboro is a tough building. I can only imagine how they are feeling right now because it was such a battle with what they accomplished. I think a lot of people counted them out early on.”

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Scarf

Photo credit: Chris Gordon.

On Wednesday afternoon, Nate Schmidt sat in the corner of the Washington Nationals clubhouse, quietly taking off his gear after Caps practiced outside at Nats Park. With the NHL taking over the baseball stadium, the room has been temporarily transformed into a hockey locker room, though it’s not quite as smelly as a real one. To Schmidt’s right, around 15 reporters gathered around Karl Alzner, eager for his thoughts on the eyewear revolution he started. As RMNB’s Chief Fashion Reporter, I had my eye on a different aspect of Winter Classic apparel: the scarf Schmidt was wearing.

“This is my first ever scarf experience!” Schmidt gleefully announced to me. “First ever. I used to always make fun of people who wore scarves.”

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Introducing the John Kerry/RMNB Selfie

Kerry Selfie

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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BackstromLockerRoomHats (3 of 7)

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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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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amelia-segal-lets-go-caps

For hockey players who first learned the game on frozen ponds, the Winter Classic is a throwback to their youth. On January 1st, the NHL’s signature game will invade Nationals Park to pay homage to that tradition. But one of the major story lines heading into New Year’s day won’t be hockey; it’ll be about weather.

“It maybe snow, maybe it’s gonna be rain,” Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin recently said of Washington D.C.’s unpredictable climate. “You never know what the weather’s going to be.”

If you’ve seen NBC’s most recent Winter Classic commercial, there’s no doubt what kind of forecast they’re hoping for. As CGI’d snow falls around Washington’s historic landmarks, the clip announces, “hockey returns outdoors.” Barack Obama crows in the background, “let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come.”

The mere chance of snow excites fans. If the sky spits just a little that day, it could provide bigger ratings and better visuals both for NBC and a league eager to reach new fans. The weather will have a major impact on the playing surface as well. A long stretch pass from the defensive zone just won’t make it if the ice sheet is blanketed with snow… or puddles.

With all that on the line, one of the most interested bystanders will be emerging-star weekend meteorologist for NBC Washington, Amelia Segal. And for good reason. Not only does she love weather, she’s also from this area and loves the sport.

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