Braden Holtby

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

When George McPhee swooped in and signed free agent goalie Tomas Vokoun for a couple bucks and Alex Ovechkin’s now useless stockpile of CCM sticks, there was no doubt it was a great move for the Washington Capitals. But that doesn’t mean everyone was happy with it. 21-year-old netminder Braden Holtby, who looked assured of a roster spot just a day before when the team traded away Semyon Varlamov, was once again relegated to a job with the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

We know what Michal Neuvirth, the remaining ‘keeper in the Caps’ trio, thinks about the deal and losing his starting spot. Holtby, however, has been somewhat of a mystery, with head coach Bruce Boudreau admitting during Development Camp even he hasn’t spoken to the Saskatchewan native about the move.

Unbeknownst to us (but not Hockey Ramblings), someone has been able get Holtby’s side of the story. Several weeks ago, The Pipeline Show on Team 1260 Edmonton caught up the young goalie, with Holtby spilling the beans on the crease situation, Nicklas Backstrom’s injuries, why he didn’t think the team’s defensive system was much of a change, and more.

Below, we offer a transcription.

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Videoclip via the Hershey Bears YouTube page

It was a milestone night in Hershey on Saturday. Keith Aucoin registered his 700th career AHL point, Brian Willsie scored his career-high 30th goal of the season and Dmitry Orlov tallied his first career goal at Giant Center. The Bears went on to defeat the Albany Devils 7-4 in front of a sold-out crowd. With the win, Hershey clinched a playoff spot and earned the right to defend their back-to-back Calder Cup Championships.

The most fascinating part of the evening, however, was the line-brawl that was ignited after Brian Willsie scored against the Devils’ fourth line. As the five Bears on the ice went to congratulate each other, Albany tough-guy Chris Murray gave Mathieu Perreault a shove. The feisty, 174 lb. Perreault responded with a flurry of punches and Hershey’s entire line engaged Murray. Pierre-Luc Leblond — yes, the same guy who was suspended earlier in the year for jumping Marcus Johansson — then came to his teammate’s aid, charging towards the pile of Bears as if he were a bowling ball looking for a strike. Mayhem ensued thereafter, as everyone on the ice squared off except for the goalies.

All in all, 34 penalty minutes were doled-out between the two teams, including 14 PIM’s to Leblond and 12 PIM’s to Louis Robitaille. The Bears swept the contentious and brutal season series with Albany, 6-0-0.  Below the jump, Sweetest Hockey On Earth‘s Kyle M. has shared his photos of the brawl.

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A Sheldon Souray Fight in 100 Pictures

The knock-out blow

Mama, said knock you out!

All photos by Kyle M. of Sweetest Hockey On Earth.

In Hershey’s nail-biting 3-2 victory over the Norfolk Admirals Saturday, Sheldon Souray got in his second fight of the season, choosing Lightning defense prospect Vladimir Mihalik as his combatant. Mihalik, who stands in at a towering 6’8”, was still no match for the 6’4” Souray, a veteran of over 50 NHL fights.

SHOE’s Kyle M. has supplied us with the 100 pictures he took of the fight from the Giant Center’s photo-well. His pictures slow down the thirty-second altercation into a work of art, expertly capturing all the essential elements of a good fight: the grappling, the punches, the emotion, and the knock-out blow. Enjoy!

Get over to our babyblog SHOE to watch Ian Oland’s interview with the Hershey Bear’s own Andrew Gordon. Last week, Ian cornered the AHL’s most prolific scorer in the locker room and forced him to answer questions about Sidney Crosby, not making the Capitals roster, Braden Holby’s eccentricities, and punishing AHL schedules.  Gordon, who contributed to RMNB this spring, was a very good sport.

Here’s your pullquote: “My skill-set is equal, or if not, better than [Sidney's].” The kid’s a laugh riot.

How could you not click a link when it’s this big?

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Varly has 21 saves in his first rehab start with the Bears.

All photos by Kyle M. of Sweetest Hockey On Earth

Welcome back, Varly! After a four week layoff, Semyon Varlamov finally got himself back into game-action tonight as the Bears concluded their stretch of three-games-in-three-nights against the Binghamton Senators at Giant Center. How did he do? Kathryn Hedrick of our Hershey blog, Sweetest Hockey On Earth, has your update:

I know you’re all dying to hear how Semyon Varlamov did. When he was sent to Hershey, I’m thinking they were hoping to see him challenged more than he was tonight. He didn’t really have to deal with a lot of shots until the second period when Binghamton had a couple power plays, including a 5-on-3. He let in three goals, two while Hershey was on the penalty kill. He was pretty solid but probably wants at least one of those goals back. It’s understandable since he’s shaking off a lot of rust. He looked great when he stopped a shorthanded breakaway shot during the third period. Overall, he made 21 for 24 saves.

Hershey went on to win the game 8-3. Mathieu Perreault had six assists and Andrew Gordon had a pair of goals. Make sure to view SHOE’s gamer here, which includes video highlights, awesome photos from Kyle, and some other crazy stats. Below the fold, make sure to check out some more photos of Varly in action.

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Semyon Varlamov during practice at Giant Center

All photos by Kyle M. of our Hershey Blog, Sweetest Hockey On Earth

Semyon Varlamov returned to the U.S. on August 1st, a full month and a half before training camp began. Varly’s intention was to get his body in optimal shape for the upcoming season after losing several months to a groin injury last year.  Success would be three-fold: avoid injury, become Washington’s number-one goaltender, and get better acquainted with Caps fans.

Despite tough training work, a commendable effort, and some true blogging prowess, the first two months of the season have been a complete disaster for Semyon (except for maybe that awesome Caps Convention commercialCLICK ON ME!!!).

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shoe-graphic

Up for grabs today.

This photo is up for grabs today.

Our humble little blog, Russian Machine Never Breaks, spent the last year cutting our teeth writing about the Washington Capitals. Through our labors we learned about the team’s secret weapon: the Hershey Bears. This Pennsylvanian cache of dynamic, young talent kept us entertained long after the Caps took their early curtain call at the playoffs. The Hershey Bears marched dutifully to their 11th Calder Cup championship led by guys like Andrew Gordon, a right winger with bright prospects whose only mistake in his young career was to blog with our lowly ilk.

The HBH-ers inspired us, and we decided they deserve more than a measly category on this site. So all of the Russian Machinists got together one night, drank a couple root beers, one thing led to another, and now we have a bouncing baby blog in the family.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to present to you

Sweetest Hockey on Earth

Piloting the new site will be Kathryn Hedrick, intrepid reporter and author of Flashy Glove Save, and Kyle M., photographer with a sports-coverage pedigree. Together they will relay to you the promise and excitement of the Hershey Bears Hockey with the same gusto, pizazz, and thesaurus-ness you find here on RMNB proper.

So join us in bookmarking www.sweetesthockeyonearth.com on your laptop (and iPad), following @SweetestHockey on the Twitters, liking us on the facebook, and plugging this RSS feed into your feed reader. We’ll make it worth your while.

To celebrate SHOE (oh dear, is that really the acronym?), we’re holding a little contest. Among those of you who network up with us and help spread the word on Friday, we’ll select the most enthusiastic to receive some free RMNB merch and the signed photo above. We’ll announce our winners before Hershey’s home opener on Saturday Night.

Go! Bears! Go!

Mathieu Perreault, Francois Bouchard and Chris Bourque celebrate.

One look at the dismantling of the Chicago Blackhawks and it becomes apparent that the life blood of any hockey organization is its youth. If you can bring in young players that provide value at reasonable prices you have the ability to succeed in the long term. In the case of the Hershey Bears, it allows the Caps to fill their team with players who know how to win and execute Bruce Boudreau’s system.

The challenge then becomes not only which players to promote, but which players should be dangled in a trade and which you can simply cut bait with. The underlying question in all of this is simply: Does the front office feel a certain prospect can make it in the NHL?

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Alexandre Giroux Signs 1-Way Deal With The Edmonton Oilers.

Alexandre Giroux scores a deal with Edmonton.

Alexandre Giroux holds the Calder Cup. (Photos by Kyle M.)

Alexandre Giroux holds the Calder Cup. (Photos by Kyle M.)

One of the greatest Bears of all-time has finally left for a legitimate shot to stick in the NHL. Bears first line Left Wing Alexandre Giroux signed a one-way NHL contract with the Edmonton Oilers early Saturday morning.

Per Mitch Beck of Howlings, Giroux had several good offers on the table and chose Edmonton because he gets to play in front of an old mentor:

The Quebec City native will be reunited with ex-Rangers coach Tom Renney. The left handed shooting Center played for Renney in the one game he got in with the Rangers back in 2005. In that game he played just three shifts and drew a key penalty on the second shift that led to a power play goal.

Giroux told Howlings, that he had other NHL options, including an offer from the New York Islanders. He also had a much more substantial $1.3mm offer from the KHL that he leaves on the table in order to complete his dream of being a regular NHL player. He does it with no regrets. “It was a lot of money and it was a hard decision, but I’m really excited to have this chance to make an NHL roster,” the recently turned 29-year old said. “Coach Renney is a great coach and the organization has such a great history. I’m looking forward to going there and giving it everything I’ve got to help the team become a contender once again and prove I belong there.”

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Chris Bourque Signs with KHL Club Atlant. Sorta.

Is the Bourque Family moving to Moscow?

Readers, we politely remind you of our policy regarding hockey rumors from Russia:  Lie down until it goes away.

The news out of Russia today has been dissonant. The KHL club Atlant, based in the Moscow region, updated its roster with one noteworthy addition.  According to atlant-mo.ru, Atlant has signed three-time Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bear Chris Bourque to a  two-year deal.

From the press release:

American forward Chris Bourque agreed on our offer and signed a contract with our club today. Terms of this agreement are intended for two years.

Later, in an interview with Tim Leone of The Patriot-News, the playoffs MVP said he hasn’t signed a contract yet: “It’s not official. . . I’m talking to them. But nothing official, that’s for sure.”

Has Atlant jumped the gun?  Is Chris entertaining other offers?  Or is he just waiting for the right time to let us down easy.  If the news is true, we’ll be very bummed that Chris is leaving Hershey.  On the other hand, that KHL contract probably comes with a car, a condo, and a handle of excellent vodka.

What do you make of the news?