All the Cheap Shots from the Last Caps-Pens Game

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The Washington Capitals need to beat the living bejesus out of the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight. Not only would a win push the Caps past their rivals in the standings and sweep them in their season series, a win would also send a message. Basically: We’re not putting up with your BS.

Eight days ago, Alex Ovechkin slashed Kris Letang in the ankles. Ovechkin claimed he was trying to shoot a loose puck at the net. Instead Letang fell dangerously into the end boards. Ovechkin was not whistled for a penalty and Letang left the game briefly.

The Penguins, rattled, lost focus on the two points. Instead, they spent the third period doling out cheap shots to Ovechkin and the Capitals, dispensing frontier justice rather than trying to win.

The fans followed their team’s lead. A Penguins fan poured beer on the Ovechkin and trainer Greg Smith during a stoppage in play.

The Capitals kept their eyes on the prize. They scored two goals in the third period, one from Joel Ward and an empty netter from John Carlson, to win 3-1.

I know you can’t print out GIFs and pin them to a bulletin board, but I hope the Caps remember how Pittsburgh played last week. Here’s a reminder.

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Round two, anyone?

It’s fun to play armchair General Manager. It’s also guesswork. No transaction exists in a vacuum. From the outside, a single signing or trade might make sense, but we aren’t privy to a GM’s long-term vision and how that vision informs player evaluation, we’re all operating in the dark when it comes to what may or may not be a realistic trade.

But, like I said, it’s fun!

Let’s talk about a few players around the league and whether or not we think the Caps should target them as the March 2 trade deadline approaches.

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I want to start by saying I genuinely like Barry Trotz. I think he’s a good man and a good coach. He’s brought with him to Washington some of the brightest minds in hockey, he’s reversed a decline in the organization, and he’s helped Alex Ovechkin become a more complete player. I don’t think Trotz has gotten enough credit for that. He is exactly what fans wanted last summer: an experienced head coach.

But now that we’re more than halfway through the season, I see some worrying trends in this organization that reach all the way down to the AHL level.

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brouwer

Image by @WashCaps

It was two days before Christmas 2006 when a 21 year old named Troy Brouwer played his first NHL game. He got four shifts that night for a total of less than three minutes. He didn’t play at all after the first period.

(He had a minus-one corsi differential that night, which I think someone should tell him. He’ll get a kick out of that.)

Four-hundred ninety-nine games later, Troy Brouwer has joined the 500 club. He did it in style with two goals. Longevity is laudable enough in this league, but Brouwer has scored 126 goals with 28 game-winners, won a Stanley Cup, danced Gangnam Style, and captured the imaginations of two seriously demented hockey fans.

Troy Brouwer is, in a word, awesome.

Here are some more awesome things in our world this week.

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Photo: Chris Gordon

We’re 31 days out from the NHL trade deadline on Monday, March 2, 2015, which is also Method Man’s birthday.

This Washington team is pretty good, and they’re likely to secure a playoff spot, but they could always be better. Their defense corps is solid for the first time in decades, but they’re one injury away from disaster. And the high price tag on that defense has left the forward lines a bit shallow.

With just $2.5 million of cap space (according to NHL numbers), the Capitals don’t have a lot of room with which to get better. That might cause Brian MacLellan, heading into his first trade deadline as general manager, to make some deals. With seven Capitals heading into unrestricted free agency this summer and another eight looking to negotiate new deals as restricted free agents, there’s a lot of potential moves that could be made.

With all that in mind, I’ve asked Ian and Pat to join me in playing thumbs-up/thumbs-down on every Caps free agent.

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How to Be a Female Hockey Fan: The RMNB Guide

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The internet, as we all know, is a meritocracy. Especially in the hockey corner of the internet, who you are doesn’t matter so long as you bring high-quality, incisive commentary.

That’s why I– as a straight, white man– was so surprised and so disappointed to learn that some women were not being treated well online.

While some might assume that this abuse is a predictable symptom of the internalized misogyny endemic to sports and the abject failure of society to educate its young men on how to treat women as if they are human beings with rights and dignity equal to their own, I think that’s letting the women off the hook.

Let me explain.

Ladies,

Girls,

Women,

The only reason the boys are being mean to you is that you’re not being a good hockey fan. If you’d only learn and practice the basics of hockey fandom, you’d find that how you get treated has nothing to do with your being a woman or not.

I’ve prepared a list of very simple rules that, if you follow them, you’ll definitely be welcomed as another one of the guys.

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Photo: Capitals Instagram

Yesterday, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan spoke to the media about the first half of the Caps’ season. A large chunk of the conversation revolved around Mike Green and his upcoming UFA status, which Adam Vingan documented on NBC Washington.

MacLellan was also briefly asked about the lopsided Filip Forsberg trade and what he thought of him as a player. He replied honestly.

“I think he’s played well,” MacLellan said. “Obviously he’s one of the leading candidates for the Calder Trophy.”

He continued, “If you’re asking if I would like to do a do-over [on the trade]? Yeah. Sure.” Then he nodded his head a few times and flashed a coy smile. This became a national story.

Is it even fair for MacLellan to have to answer to this deal nearly two years after it was signed off on by his then-boss George McPhee? RMNB investigates.

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What Is Barry Trotz Talking About?

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“I think we took our foot off the gas,” Jay Beagle said to the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt after Tuesday’s loss to Edmonton. “[We] kind of let teams creep back in.”

Surrendering two two-goal leads in in the last few games invites that sort of comment, and the media pressed Trotz about the Capitals’ lack of aggression during the postgame conference.

Trotz’s response was so confusing I might have an aneurysm before I finish this.

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Photo: Bill Smith

[Editor’s note: Eric Fingerhut is RMNB’s ombudsman. You can follow him on Twitter and read his other work on his blog here.]

I know everyone expects complaints and criticism from the ombudsman, but today, I want to start with some praise. The Winter Classic might have been the biggest day for hockey in Washington, D.C. history, and this website did a tremendous job chronicling it – before, during and after the game. Who did the best job of anyone covering the Caps in trying to figure out why Washington didn’t have an alumni game like other Winter Classic cities? Who did the best job covering the Caps alumni who came to town for the game? Who provided a constant stream of entertaining stuff to the lead up of the game – from players’ Instagram photos to reports from the family skate? Who provided a joyous recap of the game? Ian, Peter and Chris at RMNB did. The only complaint I could have about this site’s Winter Classic coverage is that there was so much of it, I found it hard to read it all. Really an amazing job.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I have nothing to complain about.

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brent-johnson

Before tonight, back-up goaltender Justin Peters hadn’t played in an NHL game since November 29th. In 7 appearances which totaled just 401 minutes of ice time, Peters faced 172 shots and had an .872 save percentage.

Against Dallas on Saturday, Peter allowed five goals, including two back-breaking third period tallies within 16 seconds. Peters was not great. Karl Alzner summed it up pretty well post-game: “He did pretty good for not getting a start in a while.”

Long-time Caps back-up goaltender Brent Johnson had a distinct perspective on Peters’ performance during CSN’s post-game show. Remember, this is the same man who would sit for long stretches of time as Olie Kolzig handled the boatload of starts in Washington.

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