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Photo credit: Susan Walsh

At age 23, defenseman Mike Green scored 31 goals. His 2008-2009 season was one of the most remarkable scoring performances by a blueliner of all-time. His bright blue Easton Stealth CNT was a lethal weapon. It was just the seventh time in league history a defenseman topped 30 goals. That last player to accomplish the feat, Kevin Hatcher, did it 26 years earlier.

The next year, Green’s goal total dropped by 12. He still easily lead all defensemen with 76 points. The Capitals cruised to the Presidents’ Trophy.

“He set the standard for offensive defensemen in the league,” Karl Alzner, Green’s longtime teammate, said of his 31-goal season. “That’s been the benchmark for a lot of guys. Guys are trying hard to get there, and no one’s been even close. ”

“I think he’ll be a guy that gets remembered in Washington forever,” Alzner added.

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Photo credit: Richard Wolowicz

Less than 24 hours after the Washington Capitals were eliminated by the New York Rangers, Alex Ovechkin was on a plane to Prague. After another early exit from the NHL postseason, Ovechkin jetted off to play in his 11th World Championship tournament. In 65 career games, Ovechkin had scored 57 points. He added two more today, helping Russia advance to the gold medal game against Sidney Crosby and Team Canada on Sunday. Ovi has already won Gold at Worlds three times. Another party with Vladimir Putin may be in order this year.

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Photo credit: Susan Walsh

Evgeny Kuznetsov was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2010. It took him four years to come over to North America. He could have left in 2012, but he signed a contract extension to stay with hometown team, Traktor Chelyabinsk. With that decision, it became easy to stereotype him as another Russian who chose the motherland and lots of tax-free money over playing in the best league in the world. But last year, Kuznetsov finally signed with the Capitals. With that contract now up, Kuznetsov, as he has before, tacitly admitted it was a mistake to stay in Russia when he spoke to reporters on breakdown day.

“When I came last year, I don’t understand yet what is this NHL,” Kuznetsov said. “Right now I know what is this.”

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Photo Credit: Katie Brown

Nicklas Backstrom can be bland. He’s one of the best players in the league and one of the Capitals’ alternative captains, but sometimes you forget he’s there. On the ice and off it, he draws almost no attention to himself.

Two days after the Capitals were eliminated by the New York Rangers in game seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinal, the team gathered at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to pack up their equipment and speak to reporters for the final time this season. In past years, we’ve seen weird fashion choices and forceful quotes, but Backstrom normally sits in the shadows. Friday, however, was Nick’s time to shine: he wore a shirt that read “Free Hugs” and said some vaguely interesting things.

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The Caps are done, so– like the swallows to Capistrano– Alex Ovechkin is going to the IIHF World Championships, held this year in Prague.

According to Sov Sport, Ovechkin agreed to join Team Russia by phone as soon as the Caps landed in Washington at 2 AM. Ovechkin took a flight out of Dulles this afternoon and will arrive in Prague Friday at 11:40 AM. RMNB reader @Super_Dad_Esq snapped a photo of him at the terminal.

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Alex Ovechkin: ‘We Were So Close’

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Photo credit: Kathy Willens

After the Capitals nearly came back from a 4-1 deficit in game six, Alex Ovechkin assured the media the Capitals would go to New York and win game seven. They did not, but Ovi did everything he could. He scored Washington’s only goal, throwing a game-high six shots on net. In the end, it wasn’t enough. After the game, Ovechkin spoke to reporters in a hushed tone. The game clock above his locker was frozen on the moment the Capitals’ season ended.

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Photo credit: Frank Franklin II

Braden Holtby lay on his back, looking straight up at the ironic Madison Square Garden ceiling. In 73 regular season games, Holtby anchored the Washington Capitals. He did the same for 13 postseason games, offering up one of the best playoff performances by a goaltender ever. In Wednesday’s game seven, he made 37 saves. But goalies — even great ones like Holtby — can’t stop everything. There was nothing he could do to prevent Derek Stepan‘s overtime winner, the goal that ended the Capitals season. After the game, Holtby, still clearly shaken, spoke to the media.

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Last week, Eric Fehr met the media to update them on the injury that has keep him out of the lineup for most of the playoffs. After two minutes of optimism and indirect answers, the scrum was finished. The day’s routine necessity had been completed. As the rest of the media shuffled away from Fehr’s locker, I made an offhand comment that the F-16 was getting ready for flight.

“There are some bad nicknames out there,” he told me. “Of all the nicknames to have, that’s a pretty cool one.”

I asked what he thought of his other nickname, Fehrsie.

“See, that’s the thing: I hate those nicknames,” he said. “Anybody with a last name with a –y on the end would probably be the worst one. Spelling it –ie doesn’t change anything. You need to be creative. As a group we’ve tried to be more creative with guys. We tried to change it up a little bit.”

Inadvertently, I had just stumbled on a massive scoop. Over the next 10 minutes, Fehr revealed the other hidden nicknames of the Capitals locker room. Some you might know– others you don’t.

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Your favorite player might play in the biggest game of the season. Smiling god/defenseman Nate Schmidt has been recalled from the Hershey Bears. If he plays in game seven on Wednesday, he’ll be filling in for Tim Gleason, who was beleaguered and banged up in game six.

With Gleason out (but not necessarily because Gleason was out), the Capitals dominated the final ten minutes of that game.

When Nate Schmidt and Mike Green were on the ice together during 5v5 this season, the Capitals controlled 55.1 percent of the shot attempts.

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Photo credit: Nick Wass

Braden Holtby is that good. He has been the best goalie of the playoffs, posting a .951 save percentage through 11 games. But on Sunday night, the New York Rangers offense finally broke through. They jumped out to a 4-1 lead before the Capitals almost pulled off an unbelievable comeback. For the first time this postseason, we saw Holtby crack. Washington’s faith in him, however, is unshaken. They were not interested in talking about Henrik Lundqvist, who turned aside 42 shots in Washington’s one-goal defeat.

“Our goalie’s better,” Evgeny Kuznetsov, defiant in his postgame media scrum, said. “I don’t know what you want to listen from my mouth, but our goalie’s better.”

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