About Those Birds at Verizon Center

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Ace photo by @WashCapsRock

On Saturday, I went to my first Washington Capitals game of the season because of the bet I lost to the Brouwer Rangers (I find it easier to cover games from home). While watching Troy Brouwer point and laugh at me in spandex was something I’ll never forget, the highlight of my day actually didn’t involve humans at all.

During the first period, as I sat in my perch (sorry, couldn’t help myself) in section 402, I noticed something through the visor of my motorcycle helmet: two fat birds frantically flying around Verizon Center looking for somewhere to land. You don’t get to see this kind of stuff on TV.

The birds swooped to and fro. Every few minutes they’d fly towards people in the crowd, making Caps fans scramble and hit the deck. While I focused on their escapades during the third period, I caught myself chanting bird! bird! bird! I also confused one of the birds for the puck after Alex Ovechkin chipped the biscuit into the air towards Jay Beagle. It almost helped me forget about the terrible game I was supposed to be watching. Almost.

Anyways, for whatever reason, the whole situation cracked me up (that’s an egg joke). Now I am filled with questions: How did these birds get into Verizon Center in the first place? Why are they still here now? (The first Verizon Center bird was spotted in December. It was skinny then.) Is Slapshot involved?

And what kind of birds are these?

Lucky for us, my future cousin-in-law Ian Gardner is the biggest bird nerd in the history of bird nerds. He’s currently at Penn State studying for his M.S. in Forest Resources, he has his B.S. in Wildlife Conservation from Juniata College, and he’s been involved in the Pennsylvania birdwatching community for the past 5 years. I sent him some photos of the birds and asked him for the low-down.

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Oleg Znarok Named Coach of Team Russia

Znarok and Gagarin Cup (Photo: Championat.com)

According to SovSport, Dynamo Moscow head coach Oleg Znarok has been named the new head coach of Team Russia. The news comes as no surprise; Znarok was pretty much the only candidate discussed in recent months. Ex-coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov failed to medal in Sochi, losing to Finland in the quarterfinals. Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored just one goal in the tournament, examplifying an overall disappointing performance by Team Russia’s stars.

Znarok has been a household name in Russian hockey since 2010, when his HC MVD Balashikha went on a Cinderella run to win the Western Conference only to lose in the finals to Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s Ak Bars Kazan. After a successful season by the Moscow suburb team, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is related to both clubs, merged Dynamo Moscow and HC MVD into UHC Dynamo Moscow (where “U” stands for “United”). HC MVD’s coaching staff and top players moved to the storied Russian franchise. Success followed soon thereafter: Dynamo won the 2012 Gagarin Cup, and then another one, in 2013, holding off Evgeny Kuznetsov’s Traktor.

Despite being a native of Ust-Katav (Chelyabinsk Region, Russia) and an ethnic Russian, Znarok’s dual Latvian-German citizenship makes him the de jure first-ever foreign coach in Team Russia history. His assistant, Harijs Vitolins, who will also step in as head coach for Dynamo, is an ethnic Latvian.

I think the Znarok hire is a big mistake.

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I live in Frederick and work in Columbia, Maryland. That’s a 100-mile round trip every day. When I drove home from work on Monday night, my front left tire blew out as I entered the city. I coasted to the nearest Roy Rogers I could find, buried my sorrows under a starchy mound of Gold Rush Chicken sandwiches, and instagram’d a photo of my blown tire.

And I was barraged by Brooks Laich jokes.

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Okay, Maybe the Capitals Should Trade for Ryan Miller

We’ve been saying that it’d be unwise for the Washington Capitals to trade for Ryan Miller. Our reasoning wasn’t complicated: whatever extra goals Miller might save could be made up for cheaper by spending that money on skaters.

But lately I’ve been coming around. I have seen the error of my ways. I now see the appeal of trading for Miller. In fact, I think I’ve concocted the perfect transaction to make it happen.

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Sweden Handles Losing A Lot Better Than We Do (Photo)

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When the Washington Capitals are defeated in the playoffs, everyone in DC becomes miserably miserable. We leave cranky comments on stories, kvetch on talk radio, and demand someone be held accountable. I’m sure some of that stuff happens in Sweden too, but take a look at this photo taken in Stockholm on Sunday night.

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Ranking Capitals Olympians on the RMNB Putin-Weir Matrix

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Five Washington Capitals players participated in the Olympics and all of them had a miserable time. No one tore an MCL like John Tavares of the Islanders or got back surgery like Henrik Zetterberg of the Wings, but you can’t really say the Caps escaped Sochi unscathed. It was basically a ten-day pain parade that we’d all like to forget as soon as possible.

But not yet.

We need to understand it better first. We should map in our minds the unfettered misery of the Sochi Olympics. For reasons. To this end I have devised a two-dimensional matrix of sadness and badassness. Presenting the RMNB Putin-Weir matrix. (I’m really proud of this, so shut up.)

On one axis we have Sad Putin, the basic unit of human suffering. Based on the works of Viktor Frankl and Martin Buber, Sad Putin measures bad things like losing, losing real bad, getting eviscerated by the media, getting busted injecting black tar allergy medicine, and missing the birth of your child.

On the other axis we have Badass Weir, the basic unit of yolo. To rank on the Weir axis, one must outperform expectations, scoar a sick goal, buck the trends, and generally be a cool dude like Johnny Weir.

By combining these metrics, I hope to understand precisely how sucky the Sochi Olympics were. I don’t know why we’d want to do that, but we’re doing it.

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We’ve sometimes lobbed criticism at Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates, but one thing we can agree on is that his handling of Alex Ovechkin since being hired has been excellent.

Oates has reinvigorated the Caps captain, helping him to win the MVP the last season. Under Oates’ tutelage, Ovechkin has grown as a player and a scorer.

On Wednesday when asked about the mountains of criticism for Ovechkin after Russia failed to medal in their own Olympics, Oates — in my opinion — had one of his finest moments as a Capital.

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Photo: Bruce Bennett

Monday was fun. All the Olympic hockey players arrived in Sochi, practiced with their teams, and posed for a billion photos. Alex Ovechkin, our namesake and inspiration, took up the leftmost spot on a very impressive line with Evgeni Malkin and Alex Semin for Team Russia, and everything was peachy. And yet I’m filled with dread about what’s coming.

A few dozen articles about the burden on Ovi and Russia’s inhuman expectations of success have done nothing to ease my nerves. I read Mike Wise unabashedly supporting Ovi because of all the pressure he faces. I read an AP item about how all of Mother Russia has pinned $50 billion (yeah right) on Alex’s wings. I read the L.A. Times congratulating Ovi for smiling despite the unspeakable tumult he’ll be feeling by Wednesday. I read The Globe and Mail describe Ovi as a “hero” and a “brand.” I saw bloggers and players predict gold for Russia in general and Olympic glory for Ovechkin in particular. Even Greenberg think they’ll get silver.

To hear the press say it, Ovechkin has never looked more serene, more confident, or more friendly– not like that sourpuss-loser-grump who blew us all off in Vancouver; no. That’s when it occurred to me: this is a whole lot of posturing for a guy who may have very little say in who wins gold. And if Russia doesn’t win gold, look out.

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RMNB Predicts the Olympic Mens Hockey Tournament

Here's the thing. I get the comedy in #sochiproblems and whatever, but there's this obvious xenophobia and hypocrisy baked into it. I mean, look at our own crumbling infrastructure and rampant health problems. Jokes are fun, but empathy is better.

Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach

The NHL shuts down on Saturday night and the Olympic tournament starts on Wednesday, so get ready for ten days of what an all-star game should look like: the world’s best players (sans Jack Johnson) playing games that they actually care about. If you’re a hockey fanatic, Olympic hockey might be even better that the quarterfinal round of the playoffs– albeit with less productivity at work (most of the games are at 7 am or noon).

Since the “R” in RMNB stands for Russian and we’ve got two Ruskies on the staff, you might think we’d be in the tank for the home team. You’d be wrong (mostly). Below, the entire RMNB team shares its picks for the Olympic mens hockey tournament. Tell us where we’re wrong (e.g. Canada) and share your own picks in the comments.

Go USA.

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carrick

Photo: Jamie Sabau

This is going to be brutal, but it needs to be said.

The Washington Capitals are one of the worst teams in the league. This is the most frustrated I’ve been with a Capitals’ team since 2001-02, when that version of the Caps missed the playoffs despite acquiring Jaromir Jagr over the summer

I’d be more okay with the Capitals’ play this season — sometimes teams just don’t gel — if they were actually a bunch of terrible players playing terribly. But this team is loaded with a good core: a three-time MVP, one of the best centers in the game, three above-average defensemen, an above-average goaltender, and a bunch of intelligent veteran players. Unfortunately, the players in front of Braden Holtby either repeatedly make the same dumb mistakes, are too passive on defense, or are too careless with the puck.

There is no urgency with this team despite their difficult upcoming schedule and their recent seven-game losing streak. In the last two games, the Caps have given up nine goals against the Sabres and the Blue Jackets. Nine goals. Against the Buffalo freaking Sabres and the Columbus effing Blue Jackets.

Let’s review the Columbus goals. I want you to understand my pain.

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