Photo: Igor Kleyner

Caps breakdown day is never a particularly festive affair, and yesterday was no exception, as the Washington Capitals brought down the curtain on their dismal 2013-14 season. Understandably, none of the players were in a particularly cheerful mood as they addressed the media for the last time before summer break. Not all of them, however, are putting away their skates for the season. Some, including defenseman Dmitry Orlov, are looking forward to joining their national teams in preparations for the World Championship, which opens early next month.

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.

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Last night, Chris Gordon published a photo post entitled Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jay Beagle Take Adorable Selfies With Fans After the Final Game of the Season (Photos).

Yeah. Our resident photog posted a bunch of photos of people taking photos. It was our third most read post on Sunday. The internet is a dumb place.

Well, the actual Caps fans taking those photos with actual Caps players have graciously reached out to us and now we’ve got the original selfies.

Brace yourself. These are great.

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Photo: @bwillgress

The last three Washington Capitals game broadcasts have been different. They’ve been missing the finely dressed Joe Beninati, who has been the team’s play-by-play man for HTS/CSN Washington since 1994.

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.”

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Evgeny Kuznetsov

Photo: Chris Gordon

The Washington Capitals spent about 20 minutes Thursday morning posing for pictures with cute animals, both domestic and wild, and then proceeded to a grueling practice session featuring something that looked suspiciously like a bag skate.

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.

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Photo: Bob DeChiara

When we last caught up with Connor Carrick, the diminutive first-year pro was oozing confidence after a successful 2012-13 campaign with the Plymouth Whalers. Carrick, an intelligent and motivated student of the game, continued to play out of his mind during Caps’ training camp in the fall and unexpectedly made the team as a 19-year-old.

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.”

Here is the full transcript of our chat.

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Photo: Rob Carr

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.

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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.

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Photo: Chris Gordon

Sunday was Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s first full day as an official Washington Capital, and we were all over it. Our intrepid reporters were at Kettler Capitals Iceplex first thing in the morning, taking photos, and covering his first press conference. But we also got a couple minutes with the man himself to chat in his native tongue.

RMNB’s own Igor Kleyner and Kuznetsov chatted about his first few hours in Washington, expectations for the Penguins game, and comparisons to Evgeni Malkin. Igor’s got your translation below.

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RMNB Talks to Secretary of State John Kerry

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Bros. (Photo: James Heuser)

Bros. (Photo: James Heuser)

Kerry stands at attention during the Star-Spangled Banner. (Photos by Chris Gordon)

In DC, hockey seems to be all but forgotten. Not by the residents, but by many of those who come here to govern. Capitol Hill is filled with baseball and football fans, and President Barack Obama is an enthusiastic basketball fan.

A few, though, like to lace up the skates. Until he was named America’s 68th Secretary of State last year, the annual lawmakers versus lobbyists hockey game was headlined by John Kerry, a former Yale University hockey player and senator from Massachusetts. The former Democratic nominee for president appeared at the State of the Union in 2012 with two black eyes and a broken nose, injuries he sustained in a pickup hockey game.

With the Sochi games kicking off earlier in the day, Secretary Kerry, a massive Bruins fan, visited Verizon Center to wish the eight Olympic athletes from the Jets and Caps well.

Before dropping the puck between Team USA’s Blake Wheeler and John Carlson, Secretary Kerry addressed the Capitals locker room. He also talked to RMNB in a one-on-one interview. Yeah, we’re surprised too.

Check out my conversation with the Secretary of State:

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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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