CalleJohansson

Johansson (red) laughs during the preseason Capitals Alumni Game. (Photo: Chris Gordon)

The Washington Capitals’ defense allows the second most shots per game in the NHL. They’ve put perhaps their best defensive prospect, Dmitry Orlov, through recall-scratch-repeat hell. Now that Orlov is finally playing, he’s paired with a guy who has a similar skill set, Mike Green.

Then there’s the frequent shuffling of the Caps blue line deck. Due to injuries, on-ice struggles, waiver pickups, and call-ups from the minors, Washington has used twelve different defenseman this season. Just about every blue liner in the organization has gotten a shot as part of the 2013-14 Caps D corps.

As we head towards the stretch run, the Caps seemed to have settled on a lineup for now: John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Mike Green, Dmitry OrlovJohn Erskine, and Connor Carrick. Though Washington’s defense has been its biggest flaw, its recent improvement may also their best chance at making — and succeeding — in the playoffs.

A few weeks ago, I spoke with assistant coach Calle Johansson, the man who runs the Caps’ blue line, and asked him about some of his decisions, including some of the positives from this season.

The full transcript is below.

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WilliamMites (2 of 4)

Photos by Chris Gordon.

A few years ago, I wrote an article about a five-year-old boy named William Shannon who skated with the Capitals as part of the Make-A-Wish program. William had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It was a heartwarming story about a kid getting a little bit of joy despite a terrifying diagnosis he was probably too young to comprehend. A few days later, he was honored at Verizon Center with the jersey off Alex Semin’s back. It was a nice story, but one with an uncertain ending.

“Hockey is what has gotten him through,” his mom Sandy told me back in 2011. “Our hard days, our tough days, we are watching hockey. On our better days he’s playing hockey.”

Two-and-half years later, William is cancer-free. Monday night, he skated on the same Verizon Center ice he watched on TV from his home in West Virginia — a goalie during the first intermission Mites on Ice game. It doesn’t matter how he played. The triumph was being there — even if it was only for four minutes.

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Self-dentistry FTW!

Friday night, the Washington Capitals lost to the Florida Panthers. It was the second meeting between the two teams this season, with the Capitals winning the other match-up 3-2 (SO) in early November at Verizon Center.

During the third period of Friday’s game, as Panthers forward Krys Barch dumped the puck into the Capitals zone, CSN’s Craig Laughlin had a question for play-by-play man Joe Beninati.

Didn’t Barch pull out his tooth in the first meeting… in the penalty box?” Laughlin asked.

“Yeah, I was never sure if he did that for real or if it was all a big joke,” Beninati responded with a laugh.

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Photo credit: Justin K. Aller

Coming into training camp, Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov was looking forward to his third full season of hockey in North America. A couple of months into the season though, his hopes and expectations remain unfulfilled, as Orlov started the season in Hershey, then lost some time battling an eye infection, and then spent the rest of the time alternating between a healthy scratch with the Caps and an occasional game or two with the Bears. While there had been speculation regarding the reasons behind Dima’s numerous short-term assignments to Hershey followed by gameless call-ups to the Capitals, last night, The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera’s finally shone light on this mystery – a special clause in Orlov’s contract allows him to sign a deal in the KHL if he is not on NHL roster for at least 30 days this season by January 1st.

Just a couple of hours before the Capitals announced that Orlov was returned to Hershey for the fifth time this season, we caught up with Dima after the Caps’ morning practice and talked about the situation and how he is handling it.

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Braden Holtby and Alzner celebrate a shootout victory. (Photo credit: Jonathan Kozub)

Braden Holtby and Alzner celebrate a shootout victory. (Photo credit: Jonathan Kozub)

When Mathieu Perreault was traded to the Anaheim Ducks, the Caps lost more than a talented forward. Perreault was the terrier puppy of the Washington Capitals: small, frantic, usually bouncing with joy. His post-game celebrations became A Thing. But Perreault wasn’t the one who came up with the idea. It was his buddy Karl Alzner, who was inspired by YouTube videos of Seton Hall basketball player Peter Dill. Though they both made up elaborate rituals, it was Perreault who got all the attention. So, after a while, Karl stopped trying.

“I was like ‘Man, that’d be awesome if we did that!’” the mustachioed defenseman told me Wednesday. “I said, ‘Perry, you gotta watch this! It’d be awesome if we did this after a win’” Next game, it went to a shootout. He did it, I did it, and his got a ton of attention.”

This year, though, Perreault is gone and the Capitals have won a spade of games in the shootout. Therefore, it’s been up Alzner to carry the torch. His repertoire is more advanced than Perreault’s, with Alzner featuring distinct celebrations this year: Bow and Arrow, Thor’s Hammer, and the Hulk Hogan.

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The Story Behind The Guy with the Ovechkin Beard

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Eric with one of his awards

Eric with one of his awards.

Ed. note: During Sunday night’s game in Colorado, CSN’s cameras found a Caps fan with a stunning Ovechkin-themed beard. It was surreal. We wrote about it. We asked the man behind the beard what could drives him to turn facial hair into art.

My name is Eric Brooks, a 24-year-old Washington Capitals fan from Rockville, now living in Fort Collins, Colorado. I am the president of the Rocky Mountain Beard and Moustache Club, a national beard and mustache competitor, and an illustrator and assistant brewer at Black Bottle Brewery.

So, about the beard. It all began 2 yeards (beard years) ago. One summer, I was introduced to a TV show called Whisker Wars, which highlighted a group of different individuals who competed in facial hair competitions around the world. This was something I had never heard of before and it really intrigued me. I decided to put down the razor for a while and see if I had any shot at this.

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TroyBrouwer

There are no pictures of Brouwer’s scoreage. Step your game up, photogs. (Photo credit: Geoff Burke)

Troy Brouwer finally got on the scoreboard Monday night, scoring his first goal of the year off some nice tic-tack-toe passing on the power play. It wasn’t the only first in the Brouwer family that night though: Troy and Carmen’s daughter, Kylie, turned one.

“It’s something that I’ll remember,” Brouwer told me. “It was nice to be able to do it now — five games too long for me.”

Unable to throw a party Monday due to the game, the Brouwers hosted a large party for the baby girl at their home on Sunday. A large number of Capitals players attended, along with a myriad of family relatives. At the end, the birthday girl received a large cupcake — there’s no word on whether the 12-month-old was able to metabolize it or what her wish was — and a necklace from Mom and Dad.

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Connor Carrick’s Favorite Tom Wilson Moment

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Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Last week, RMNB’s Chris Gordon wrote an article about Washington Capitals prospect Connor Carrick, explaining why the 19-year-old defenseman deserves your attention. Read it read it read it read it read it read it read it read it read it.

While 2012 first-round pick Tom Wilson received all the glory last year after appearing in Hershey’s and Washington’s playoff series, Carrick — Wilson’s teammate on the Plymouth Whalers — led all OHL defenseman in playoff scoring and earned himself a post-season invite to the Bears as well. Caps assistant coach Calle Johansson believes that Carrick, with the right coaching, has the potential to be a top-four defenseman in the NHL, which would be a huge return on investment on a fifth-round pick.

A lot of good material from my interview with Carrick ended up on the cutting room floor. He’s a thoughtful, charming dude, motivated to make the most of his opportunity in hockey. My favorite part of the conversation was a story he shared about playing playoff hockey against the London Knights with Tom Wilson.

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A First Look at Tom Wilson’s Chipped Tooth (Photos)

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Tom Wilson got into two fights during Monday’s rookie game, prompting some unscheduled dental work. The Washington Capitals’ first-round pick in 2012 got clipped up high by a Flyers prospect in the second period, bleeding from the mouth as he made his way back to the bench. No call was made, natch. Wilson said later one of his bottom teeth got chipped in two.

“That’s an expensive non-call,” Wilson told reporters after the game. “They just numbed me up and then I got back out there.”

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Carrick peeks out from behind Wilson at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in July. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

Two thousand twelve first-round draft pick Tom Wilson is fawned over, with good reason. At 6′ 4″, he’s a mammoth dude who scores goals, hits hard, and unleashes a myriad of expletives — the personification of a hockey player. When Caps fans think of the Plymouth Whalers, Wilson is usually the only one who comes to mind. There is, however, another Washington prospect playing in eastern Michigan: fifth-round pick Connor Carrick.

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