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The Washington Capitals have gotten a little more silly this season, and that’s right up our alley. Sure, they’re still all business on the ice and they still give straight-laced interviews– sometimes, but there’s also been a strong undercurrent of zaniness.  We love it.

Ovi did penalty push-ups, Ovi played soccer at Six Flags, Ovi entered a contest to win himself. (Lots of Ovi in this list…) Tom Wilson fought a child– which wasn’t as bad as it sounds, Nate Schmidt weirded out everyone with his word salad, and then the team’s backup goalie doing multitasking. It’s been a busy season for nonsense.

Whatever you think of the team’s on-ice product, at least we’ve been thoroughly entertained. And at the heart of all that fun has been Troy Brouwer. He made a mess of a goal celebration in the preseason, celebrated his 100th goal in style, and got a mustachioed bobblehead. But his main gag, if you ask me, has been Brouwerbombing.

Brouwerbomb (noun) — the act of sabotaging an interview by grinning like a goon in the background. Popularized by Capitals 20-goal scorer Troy d’Artagnan Brouwer.

On Saturday I had the chance to ask Brouwer– who had at that point not yet scored his 20th goal– about his antics. He had surprisingly deep thoughts about it all.

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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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Photo: Paul Frederiksen

Brouwer celebrates his first goal (Photo: Paul Frederiksen)

Brouwer celebrates his first goal (Photo: Paul Frederiksen)

Coming soon to warmups near you: Ian Oland in spandex. With an empty-net goal against Toronto Sunday, Troy Brouwer netted his 20th goal of the season. Ian had a bet with the Brouwer Rangers that if Troy scored 20 this year, he would go to a game with Nathan and Ryan dressed in a red unitard. Time to buy a fanny pack.

“I’m excited!” Brouwer told me of Ian’s future gear.

Brouwer’s goal was made possible by a kind turn from Nicklas Backstrom. After Brouwer banked the puck off the boards from the defensive zone, Nicky followed the puck towards the net. The Swedish center neglected to touch the puck, allowing Brouwer to hit the milestone.

“That’s the most unselfish thing I’ve ever seen in hockey,” Brouwer said.

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Joel Ward Hides in Weeds, Scores 20th Goal of Year

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Photo: Paul Frederiksen

Only one line on the Capitals is made up entirely of double-digit scorers: the third line of Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, and Joel Ward. As we’ve mentioned before, they have been Washington’s top scoring threat outside of Alex Ovechkin this season. Sunday, Ward tallied 20 goals for the first time in career, while also assisting on Chimera’s foot-goal earlier in the first period.

“My karma paid off,” Ward told me after the game. “For me, I just hide in the weeds and try to look for some loose pucks.”

Ward had already topped his previous career high of 17 goals on the first of the month in Boston. Always a solid checking line forward, the 33-year-old has taken off as an offensive force this season. He already has six more goals this year than he did in his first two seasons with the Caps combined (six in ’11-’12, eight in ’13). Caps head coach Adam Oates has also given Ward a prime spot down low on the power play this year, which accounted for his goal against the Leafs. Per your boy Mike Vogel, members of the third line have been on the ice for 10 of Washington’s last 13 goals.

“I’ve counted on Wardo and Chimmer all year long,” Oates. “They penalty kill, power play. Big bodies that we count on for a lot of minutes to get territory for us. It’s good to see them rewarded because you don’t get a lot of accolades based on that, doing grunt work.”

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Nicklas Backstrom to IOC: FedEx Me My Silver Medal

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When the International Olympic Committee banned Nicklas Backstrom from the Sochi gold medal game last month, it seemed doubtful the Swede would receive the sliver medal awarded to the rest of his teammates.

Following an appeal, however, the IOC has relented under pressure. Announcing the news Friday afternoon, they ruled that Backstrom had no intention of taking Zyrtec D as a performance enhancer and decided to award him a silver medal after all.

Following the Capitals’ 4-3 win over the Canucks, Backstrom spoke about the decision for the first time.

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Photo: Rob Carr

In Evgeny Kuznetsov’s first NHL game on Monday, he skated a little over 10 minutes on the fourth line, briefly seeing time on the power play. It was clear the young Russian was an NHL rookie playing on a team he had yet to practice with. Things got better the next day though. In Pittsburgh, Kuznetsov registered nearly 15 minutes of ice time, collecting three shots on goal. If not for a confounding leg save by Marc-Andre Fleury, the 21-year-old Russian would have scored his first NHL goal.

On Friday, Kuznetsov continued the trend. He picked up the first three points of his North American career. The 2010 first round pick collected the first two in just over three minutes, assisting on successive goals by Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson in the second period. He added the third on Washington’s go ahead goal in the third period. The Caps won 4-3.

“I hope we win today,” he told 15 members of Washington Capitals press corps gathered around his locker. “That’s first for me.”

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Photo: Justin K. Aller

It is silly to compare Evgeny Malkin (500+ games, Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, Hart, two Art Ross Trophies) to Evgeny Kuznetsov (one game, 10 minutes on ice)–  even if they were born a couple hundred miles away from one other– basically the same neighborhood by Russian standards.

Then again, it’s also fun, which is why people have been doing it for awhile– including Valery Belousov, Kuznetsov’s old coach at Traktor and the man who oversaw Malkin’s development at Magnitogorsk.

In our brief conversation on Sunday, Kuzya flatly dismissed all comparisons to his much more famous namesake. But what does Geno think about it? Well, let’s take a look at today’s edition of Sovetsky Sport, where we find Dmitry Chesnokov’s interview with the Penguins’ star after Monday’s game.

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Photo: @katie_brown47

Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s debut as a Washington Capital was a little like that first crepe, which, according to Russian proverb, tends to come out as a lump. The Capitals came agonizingly close to victory in Monday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but walked away with no points to show for their effort. In the end, that loss had little to do with how well the 21-year-old Russian rookie played.

Playing for a team on the wrong side the playoff line, Kuznetsov seemed to understand the gravity of his situation as he spoke in Russian after the game to Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo Sports, Igor Tichonenko of Voice of America, and yours truly. Zhenya didn’t really want to talk about his individual performance, no matter how much it probably meant to him. The team lost, he wasn’t able to help, and that’s what was on his mind.

Here is the translation of our short conversation.

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Eric Fehr celebrates his goal on Monday. (Photo: Rob Carr)

The Capitals have scored 185 goals this season. Alex Ovechkin has 44 of them. For most of the season, the team has struggled with secondary scoring. Lately, however, some of their complementary players are coming alive.

Troy Brouwer has eight goals in 11 games. Brooks Laich had goals in two straight games coming into Monday. Though Laich has being missing practices and morning skates due to a lingering groin injury, he played great against the Penguins, scoring a goal that was later credited to Nick Backstrom. Laich did register an assist, marking his third straight game with a point.

Monday, the third line of Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, and Joel Ward provided half of the Capitals’ offense in a 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh. They greatly titled the ice in their favor, scoring the Caps’ first goal early in the game.

“I thought Fehrsie’s line might’ve had the best game they’ve had all year,” head coach Adam Oates said. “You feel it on the bench. You hear the guys talking on the bench. Your job is to try to have the next line follow and keep it going.”

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Photo: Chris Gordon

At Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Sunday morning, a dozen reporters and three photographers watched Evgeny Kuznetsov skate around for 45 minutes. It was eight in the morning and he was the only player on the ice. Fans held up signs welcoming him in Russian and wore his KHL jersey in the stands. The day before, Kuznetsov had signed a two-year entry-level contract with Washington, ending a four year battle to bring him over from the KHL after being drafted 26th overall by the Capitals in 2010.

“My contract is over,” Kuznetsov told reporters gathered in the Kettler conference room. “I’m excited. All is good.”

“Any hockey player wants to play in the NHL, wants to win the Cup,” he added. “It’s my dream to play in the NHL. I’m happy to see you. I’m ready 100 percent. I want to play.”

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