CapsScoar

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

At this point, Capitals-Flyers games seem to devolve into elaborate displays of petty violence almost by habit. There’s no real point, but they do it every game. Sometimes, they even start punching faces. Last year, the Caps got into 18 fights with the Flyers, including the preseason. That accounted for a third of Washington’s fight total for the season.

“Not many guys on this side like them on that side and not many guys on that side like us,” Tom Wilson told me. “Last year there was a lot of high emotion.”

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Before Wednesday’s game, Jason Chimera, a man with a bunch of pride and a terrible possession score, reportedly said to Pierre McGuire that he doesn’t consider himself a fourth line player. He deserved more minutes, according to Pierre’s telling.

After Wednesday night, it’s hard to argue with him. Chimera scored the game’s only goal: a bizarre deflection in front of the net. And he played much of the game while bleeding from the face.

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Kuznetsov

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Before this season, Evgeny Kuznetsov had only played sparingly at center in his hockey career. But with the Capitals lacking in center depth, head coach Barry Trotz has tried to convert Kuznetsov and fellow rookie Andre Burakovsky into pivots. Both struggled earlier in the year, with Burakovsky getting scratched and eventually moving back to wing. But Kuznetsov has stuck and is finally adjusting to the new role. Against the Avalanche on Monday night, Kuznetsov was an offensive force, with four shots on net, a shot off the crossbar, and a myriad of drives past the Colorado defense.

“He’s got really good vision, he’s got great hands, and he’s skating well,” Trotz said after the game. “I think his puck protection has been really good, his detail in the D-zone has been really good. You get chances, you’re gonna produce. I think he’s a very talented guy.”

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Joe Beninati Named D.C. Sportscaster of the Year

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Many Caps fans watching television have known just one man as the voice of the team: Joe Beninati. Over the past decade, Beninati has won countless Emmys for his play-by-play of hockey games. On Friday, he received an even higher honor. Beninati was named D.C. Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.

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BrouwerGoal

Photo credit: Alex Brandon

Last season, the Capitals power play was one of the few things that kept the team out of the cellar, accounting for nearly one third of the team’s goals. This year, the Caps don’t stink, but their power play, run by lone coaching holdover Blaine Forsythe, has remained one of the league’s top units. But in December, as the Caps soared up the standings, their power play was impotent.

The team made a few minor changes throughout the streak, putting Mike Green back on the point and Marcus Johansson on the first unit, but it didn’t make much difference. Last month, they converted on just six of their 43 opportunities. Since the Winter Classic, however, the power play has been back on track, scoring in four of the five games the team has played in the new year.

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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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kuznetsov-interview

When Alex Ovechkin scored his 20th goal of the season — an empty-net tally in the game’s final minute — it unleashed some joking on the bench between him and fellow countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov.

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ovechkin-russia

Tonight, Team Russia will face Madison Bowey‘s Team Canada to determine the winner of this year’s World Junior Championship.

As expected, this has caused some rifts in the Caps’ multi-national locker room.

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BrouwerOvi

Photo credit: Rob Carr.

On June 9, 2010, Troy Brouwer lifted the Stanley Cup, his Blackhawks defeating the Philadelphia Flyers to win hockey’s biggest prize. But in the months leading up to it, Brouwer was not fully focused on the Cup run. That spring, Don Brouwer, his father suffered a severe stroke, which left him unconscious for a week and required brain surgery. Since then, Don has only seen Brouwer play sporadically when the Caps travel to his hometown of Vancouver.

“You appreciate big things, like life, a little bit more,” Brouwer told Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington. “He’s lucky to be here. The doctors and physical therapists did an amazing job with him getting him back to where he is today. They say the later you are in life, the harder it is to rebound and get back to normal. He did an amazing job too. His will and his fight. You don’t get to say this a lot to your parents, but I’m very proud of him and how far he’s come. He’s really stubborn and he stayed on his therapy to get better.”

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TheSecondComing

Glorious human being. (Photo credit: Alex Brandon)

On January 1, 2011, Eric Fehr blasted into the offensive zone, along with the puck. He unleashed bullet of a wrist shot off the slushy Heinz Field ice. It was his second goal of the game, the 2011 Winter Classic, cementing him in Capitals history.

On Saturday, Fehr scored twice against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a redux of sorts of his 2011 outdoor game performance. Well, according to everyone but him.

“Not really,” Fehr said when asked by Alex Prewitt if that game brought back any memories. “Different kind of goals and obviously different building.”

Today, however, his goal was close as you could get to 2011: breakaway, unassisted, outdoors, and happy times at the end. Nevertheless, Fehr stuck to his talking points, giving nearly the same answer he provided the media Saturday.

“Not really,” Fehr said when asked, once again, if it brought back any memories. “It was a little bit different.”

Still, he was happy.

“It always feels good to score goals, I won’t lie to you,” Fehr, who attributed his play to “some good fresh air,” told me. “The ones in the Winter Classic feel extra special.”

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis saw it coming.

“I walked in today and saw Eric and said ‘You’re our x-factor,” Leonsis told me.

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