After his Team Red lost to Team White 7-4 on Saturday, 2014 first-round pick Jakub Vrana was visibly disappointed. Sure, Vrana was just a few weeks removed from realizing the dream of getting drafted by an NHL team, but the 18-year-old couldn’t get past what happened on the ice.
Vrana still shared some interesting nuggets before departing. Vrana said he’s signed to a three-year deal with Linköping of the SHL and is unsure if he’ll be at Caps training camp in the fall. He also revealed some details about that fancy shootout goal he scored and his newfound love of American sandwiches.
What could be a bigger downer than giving an interview right after missing playoffs by by just four points? How about giving an interview after missing two playoffs by four points in two months! Because’s that’s what happened to Evgeny Kuznetsov: first in the KHL, when last year’s Gagarin Cup finalist Traktor came up short, then again when the Caps missed their chance by the same margin.
That was on Kuznetsov ‘s mind when we chatted on breakdown day.
The 22-year-old Russian is joining the Sbornaya training camp in a few days, and hopes to put his country’s uniform on for the first time since he was a prominent member of the 2011 WJC gold-winning Russian team. A consolation prize, at best, as the dream of winning the Stanley Cup – or even playing for it – will remain just that at least for another year. But it made for a good conversation starter.
Beninati was last seen on television on Friday, when he was covering the NCAA Hockey Midwest Regional for ESPNU in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“We had two semifinal games [to call on] Friday,” Beninati told me by email. “On Friday afternoon before the games began, I felt like my voice was weakening with laryngitis. I called both games and by the time I finished those six hours on air, my voice was shot.”
After almost an hour and a half on the ice, the players started trickling in to the locker room. Some of the guys, though, stayed on the ice a bit longer, including Dmitry Orlov, Mikhail Grabovski, and the latest addition to the Capitals roster, Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Russian-speaking troika remained on the ice, enjoying a game of King of the Hill on the center circle.
Finally, the Russian rookie and his buddies made their way to their locker room stalls, where he patiently answered RMNB’s questions until no stone was left unturned in the first chapter of what hopefully will be Kuzya’s long tenure in a red jersey with #92 on the back.
Since then, Carrick, who scored his first NHL goal on a breakaway in his second NHL game (and also got pied), has been challenged in every way. Three games into his NHL career, Carrick dealt with the disappointment of being sent down to the American Hockey League. A few months later, he left the Bears and flew to Sweden to be a leader on Team USA’s World Junior Championship team. That’s three different coaches in three months for a teenage defenseman.
Once he returned to the states, Carrick was recalled to Washington to play 27 games for the Capitals through March. During that time, Carrick was paired with veteran John Erskine (who has been injured much of the year) on the third pairing. They struggled together and at times, Carrick looked overmatched. Though his footwork, fundamentals, and decision-making improved during that time, Carrick has felt the pressure of not succeeding and producing immediately.
On Saturday, after Caps practice ended, I caught up with Carrick in the locker room and asked him about his season so far. He seemed to have a lot of things on his mind, knowing he was not playing his game but remaining optimistic and realistic for the future.
“The biggest thing in success is not just being in the lineup,” a determined Carrick said to me. “Making the team is one thing, making the team better is another, and that’s kind of that next step. I’m hoping to take it as soon as possible.”
It’s been just over a week since the Washington Capitals traded Michal Neuvirth to Buffalo for Jaroslav Halak. Halak, a veteran of eight NHL seasons, is already the Caps de facto starter, sporting an above average .924 save percentage and leading the Caps to three wins in five starts.
While Halak’s play has been calming on the ice, the gear he’s been wearing has been anything but. He looks like a man without a country. Unlike Neuvirth, who has been wearing his Caps-colored mask with Buffalo, Halak has opted to wear one plainest goalie masks ever seen in the NHL. His bucket, painted a bright pearly white, has only one design feature: red painted bars covering his face.
On Saturday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, I spoke with the Slovakian netminder about his unusual gear and if or when we’ll ever see him with a Caps mask.
Richmond-native Chelsea D. had been looking forward to this day for months. The 23-year-old sociology major from VCU has been a Washington Capitals fan for years. Her father Greg — a huge hockey fan himself– takes his daughter to five to ten Caps games a year. On New Year’s Eve, he asked Chelsea if she wanted to try something different this time. Something a little more fanatical.
“You interested in going to Casino Night? It’s in March. Mom doesn’t want to go.” Greg said. “I promise I won’t embarrass you much.”
In disbelief, Chelsea replied, “I’ll definitely go! But yes, please don’t embarrass me.”
Life threw the family a curve ball a few weeks later. Greg had to get knee replacement surgery at the end of January, then a few days before Casino Night, there was a death in the family. Greg, already hobbling as it was, had to go out to Las Vegas.
Chelsea wasn’t sure she’d still go without her dad. Unsure what to do, she asked her boyfriend Evan if he would come along. Evan, a Caps fan himself, obliged.
And then, despite all the trouble following them around lately, a special moment – that could have happened to anyone – found their family.