AlznerGoal

Photo: Rob Carr

If the Caps squeak into the playoffs, you might have to thank Karl Alzner. Not for his defense — something a bit lacking on the Caps lately — but his offense. With 10:15 left in an important game against the Phoenix Coyotes, Karl unleashed a wrist shot from the near point, which went through traffic before beating Mike Smith over his right shoulder. Though Washington looked lifeless for the first 50 minutes, that goal ignited an incredible comeback, featuring two goals in 32 seconds and two points in the standings.

“I was excited,” Alzner told reporters after the game. “Everyone seemed really excited. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was me who scored it and not a guy who normally scores, but people seemed really up after that. It was the perfect momentum swing and the perfect line to come out right after that. It was the perfect storm for us.”

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McPheeKuznetsov

Photo: Carolyn Kaster

Visual approximation

Visual approximation

On June 25 2010, the Washington Capitals selected Evgeny Kuznetsov 26th overall. They saw him as one of the top players in the draft. He had only fallen so low, the Capitals thought, because some teams were uncertain when or if he would come to North America. George McPhee thought he could bring the 18-year-old Russian over within a year. One thousand three hundred fifty-two days later, Kuznetsov signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Caps.

“We’ve been working on it for four years,” McPhee told reporters before Washington’s game against Phoenix on Saturday. “It’s kind of like seeing the Loch Ness Monster when he walked in. We’ve heard of you, but we haven’t seen you. There he was and I found it hard to believe he was standing there after all this. It’s a pretty neat feeling that this kid’s in the fold and he’s a pretty darn good player.”

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gmgm

Photo: Mark Buckner

(Photo: Mark Buckner)

Coming into the 2014 NHL trade deadline, some fans feared Caps general manager George McPhee would make a drastic move in the hopes of securing a playoff spot. Instead, he made three reasonable ones. The Caps got better this year without harming themselves in the future.

The biggest deal was the final one, with the Caps sending Michal Neuvirth and the newly acquired Rostislav Klesla to the Buffalo Sabres for Caps killer Jaroslav Halak and a third-round pick.

“I think we start with Neuvirth, and he wasn’t happy being a number two,” McPhee told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “We tried to accommodate him. We brought in an experienced guy. I think it’s an upgrade on the tandem which is what we wanted to accomplish.”

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DustinPennerDucks

Photo: Jeff Gross

The Caps are buyers. Earlier today, Washington acquired Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a fourth round pick in the 2014 draft, which the Caps got from the Ducks in the Mathieu Perreault trade. Penner should slot in as the first or second-line left wing for the Caps, providing some net crashing for their skill lines. He filled that role admirably in Orange County, picking up 32 points so far this season playing on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

“Hopefully it’s similar to the way Getz and Perry were,” Penner said of the possibility of playing with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. “We were able to generate offense.”

“I hope to be in the lineup tomorrow,” he added by phone from LAX. “If not then I rushed for nothing.”

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The Risk and Reward of Dmitry Orlov and Mike Green

OrlovGreenFlyers

Photo: Evan Vucci

Thursday night, defense partners Mike Green and Dmitry Orlov were on the ice for two goals against. On Florida’s first goal, Jesse Winchester torched Orlov, blowing past him on the far wall. For the Panthers second goal, the duo left men wide open in front of Braden Holtby before Brad Boyes flipped the puck in.

Sunday afternoon, however, the pair was brilliant — at least for the first 50 minutes. Orlov had the first multi-goal game of his career while Green racked up three assists. It’s usually a zero-sum game with Greenlov: they either win big or lose badly.

Today, though, it was both. With 10 minutes left in game, Orlov went after Brayden Schenn, who had just hit him behind the net. Dima unleashed a brutal board in the corner, receiving a well-deserved five minute major. The Flyers got scored on the ensuing power play. They added two more to stun the Caps in their first game back at home since the Olympic break. Orlov and Green, naturally, were on the ice for the game-tying goal.

“He didn’t change,” head coach Adam Oates said of Orlov’s hit. “He was on the same shift and he went right back after him.”

“You’ve got to suck it up when it’s your turn,” the coach continued. “They hit hard too. They’re big boys too. They’ve got to push, they’re losing. They’ve got to push. We’ve got to be able to handle that.”

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Ovechkin800PointGoal

Ovi celebrates his 800th career point. (Photo: Alex Trautwig)

Alex Ovechkin is hitting a lot of milestones lately. So far this season he’s tallied his 1000th professional points, become the franchise leader in power play goals, and scored his 400th career goal. With two goals against the Bruins on Saturday, Ovi hit 800 points. He should hit 50 goals by the end of year too.

“It’s history,” Ovi told reporters after the game. “You always wants to be in the history. You always want to be on top of everybody. I try to do my best, but without my linemates and teammates I didn’t get those kind of points.”

Once again, this underscores the remarkable year Ovi has had. Ovechkin has a stunning 73 regular season goals since February of 2013. Under Adam Oates, Ovi has gone from an oft-criticized washed up star to the best sniper in the game — though, of course, he’s still criticized.

“I feel good about myself,” Ovi said. “I have a good feeling about my shot. Every time when I have opportunity to shoot the puck I’m going shoot.”

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SteveOleksy

Photo: Kyle Mace/Sweetest Hockey on Earth

Photo: Kyle Mace/Sweetest Hockey on Earth

Photo: Kyle Mace/Sweetest Hockey on Earth

On January 20, Steve Oleksy was waived by the Washington Capitals. He had been called up less than a year before, after years toiling away in the AHL and ECHL. In his first shot in the NHL, the minor league veteran became punching fan favorite and a serviceable third pairing defenseman. The Caps soon signed him to a three-year, one-way deal. He played 61 games, scoring three goals.

This year, though, the Caps have gone through 13 defensemen. Once John Erskine came back from injury, the Caps had no desire to keep Oleksy’s inflexible contract. Caps head coach Adam Oates said the team hoped, for Oleksy’s sake, that he would be picked up by another NHL squad. He wasn’t. On Sunday, Oleksy returned to the Verizon Center for the first time since being sent down. His Hershey Bears played the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL Showcase, an ostensibly neutral site game created to introduce the American Hockey League to big-league cities.

“The fans really showed me a lot of support,” Oleksy told me after the game. “To come back here and play in front of them was a great feeling. I appreciate everything they’ve done for me. The guys were great to me during my time here.”

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EratGoal

Photo: Evan Vucci

Martin Erat has played on every line for the Washington Capitals. He’s seen power play time and PK minutes. And, of course, he’s sat in the press box. Playing on the first line Saturday, in his 51st game this season, Erat finally scored a goal. Fittingly, it came without a goalie in the net.

“Finally, the one is in the net,” Erat told the gathering of Caps reporters, who had reentered the Capitals locker room after Adam Oates ended his press conference just to talk to him.

Erat’s time in DC, as we all know, has been ill-fated. Traded for a top prospect in Filip Forsberg last season, he asked to leave eight months later after being placed on the fourth line by Oates. With Brooks Laich back in the lineup after missing almost all of last year, Oates didn’t see much of a need for Erat, who, for the first time in the veteran’s career, was made healthy scratch.

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JohnKerryJohnCarlson

Photo: Patrick Smith

On Thursday night, the Capitals registered an important pair of points against the streaking Winnipeg Jets. The game wasn’t the only big event. Eight Olympians from the Jets and Caps were honored in a pre-game ceremony. It was capped off with U.S. Secretary of State dropping the puck between Team USA’s Blake Wheeler and John Carlson. With the Olympics already underway, Carlson talked about the experience and his thoughts on Sochi after the game.

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RMNB Talks to Secretary of State John Kerry

JohnKerryCapitals (9 of 9)

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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