Apparently, Pavel Datsyuk is the Magic Man

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Bad photoshop by me

After scoring one of the prettiest goals of the year, Pavel Datsyuk nabbed all the headlines after the Wings-Bruins game on Friday night. In the neutral zone, the 35-year-old Russian reached behind his body, pulled a puck through his legs, skated into Boston’s offensive zone, and scored. That was the game one game-winner.

Appreciate this ish.

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John Carlson, drafted in 2008, is the most recent Caps defenseman selected in the first round. (Photo: Andre Ringuette/Getty)

Reading the comments in Ian’s post covering the draft lottery, most fans seem convinced that the Capitals must select Haydn Fleury with their 13th pick, if he’s available. It’s easy to see why: Fleury, who plays for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL, is a responsible defenseman in a draft dominated by forwards. It is likely that 13 out of the 15 top picks will be forwards. And the Caps blue line struggled with injuries and inconsistency all year long. Defense hasn’t been Washington’s forte for the better part of the Ovechkin era, and those defensive shortcomings have often been pegged as the key to the Caps’ early playoff exits (or, this year, pre-playoff exits).

Despite all of this, I’ll disagree with the notion that the Caps should select Fleury, or any other defenseman, with their first-round pick.

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RMNB’s Really Bad Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

Bracket

The Stanley Cup playoffs start today, and the Washington Capitals aren’t a part of it. While that sucks, life must go on. The good news is that the quarterfinal round is the best week or two of hockey all year, and there’s a bunch of good match-ups to watch. There’s also a couple of garbage match-ups too, but what are you gonna do?

I’ve asked the RMNB crew to share their brackets, and they did, and they’re all really bad. Even mine is bad. Not as bad as theirs, but still really, really bad. Making predictions is a sucker’s game.

Come read our stupid predictions and share your own in the comments!

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Photo: Greg Fiume

If — for some crazy reason– the Capitals choose not to retain the services of Adam Oates after this season, they’re going to have to find a replacement.

That has got me worried. I don’t want the organization to have to go through a lengthy and expensive search for The Right Guy For The Job. I don’t want them to waste precious days and weeks hunting down an experienced coach who knows the value of puck possession and how to optimize high-end scoring talent.

So, to save time, RMNB has compiled this list of former Capitals players who already have a bunch of red clothes and stuff and they probably already have directions to Kettler programmed into their GPS.

You’re welcome, guys. Don’t overthink it. Just grab one of these dudes and watch the Cups pour in.

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Jaroslav Halak’s Agent Has Beef With Adam Oates

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Photo: Bruce Bennett

In a season that has been inordinately long and drama-filled, here comes MOAR drama! On Tuesday, Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates announced that Jaroslav Halak would not start against his old team because Halak reportedly said he didn’t feel “100% comfortable” playing. Halak then spent most of the afternoon getting criticized by local and national media for a lack of desire and toughness. We thought this conversation should have stayed private.

Halak’s agent, Allan Walsh, has issued a statement and apparently he agrees with us. I hope you’re ready for some venom, Oatesy.

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halak-not-playing

Photo: Alex Brandon

The Washington Capitals have less than a 5% chance of making the playoffs. Tonight, they take on the best team in the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues, in what is practically an elimination game. They need everyone on board. Unfortunately, not everyone is on board.

Speaking with the press today in St. Louis, Adam Oates revealed Braden Holtby will be starting tonight. That wasn’t too surprising until Oates explained the reasoning behind the move. Jaroslav Halak had told the coaching staff he was uncomfortable playing against his former team.

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Photo: Geoff Burke

After one of the most successful West Coast road trips in franchise history, the Washington Capitals lost four straight games — three of which at home.  They’ve been outscored 16-9 during the losing streak. On April fools day, the Capitals, still in the thick of the Eastern Conference wildcard chase, played one of their most pathetic games of the year, a 5-0 blowout loss to the Dallas Stars.

It wasn’t so much that the Capitals lost, it was how listless they played considering the stakes.

When looking back at that game, it’s obvious this team is not focused. When the players hit the ice, they wilted under the adversity.

Consider warm-ups. Normally the starting goaltender leads the Caps out onto the ice. On that night, Russian rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov came out first with Ovi right behind him. A few seconds later, the rest of the team followed. According to 106.7 The Fan’s Sky Kerstein, “it looked like Ovi pranked Kuzya.”

I’ve got no idea if something silly like that has any effect on a team, but it doesn’t look good in hindsight. Even worse because it comes from the captain of the team.

During the actual game, the Capitals were a mess. They gave up two consecutive breakaways on a power play. They let the Stars score twice within 34 seconds, including a 2-on-0 breakaway by a 41-year-old. On Dallas’s fourth salvo of the night, Ovechkin quit on the play.

Head coach Adam Oates has faced difficult questions about his coaching style recently. Is that style still working? How does he motivates his players behind closed doors?

While the mainstream media has focused its attention on Oates’ honest comments about Ovechkin, there was much, much more to those interviews. Below is a summary of what I found most interesting.

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The Arguments For and Against Firing Adam Oates

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Photo: Alex Brandon

In Adam Oates’ fourth game as head coach for the Washington Capitals, he put Alex Ovechkin on the top line with Joey Crabb and Jay Beagle. We should have seen trouble coming then.

Later that season, the Capitals narrowly made the playoffs and got booted in the first round. In 2013-14, with a full preseason under his belt, Adam Oates has led the Capitals to their worst season in almost a decade. They’ve got less than a 1-in-10 chance of making the playoffs and an astronomically small chance of doing anything meaningful once they get there.

If you measure the Caps by their shot differential, Adam Oates’ team is closer to the fire-sale 2003-04 team than they are to the scoar-moar-goals heyday of 2008-09. On the other hand, Alex Ovechkin is likely to win yet another Rocket Richard Trophy and the Washington power play is the best in the league.

In this article, I will carefully measure both the arguments for and against the continued employment of Adam Oates as head coach of the Washington Capitals.

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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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