This morning, the NHL released a series of tweets promoting this weekend’s All-Star Game in Nashville. Each tweet included a graphic to get to know each team’s mascot. Slapshot, the Caps mascot, said his (its?) favorite country artist is Luke Bryan, which makes me wonder if Slapshot is secretly Karl Alzner, but that’s a topic for another day.
Then there was Slapshot’s favorite comfort food. Slapshot named Carolina pulled pork, and put Stormy in parentheses. Stormy is the Hurricanes mascot. Stormy says he is a pig, but he looks more like a mouse to me.
Eating another mascot is pretty hardcore answer. Is that even possible? RMNB investigates!
The Washington Capitals are the league’s best team and lead the Eastern Conference by 16 points halfway through the season. They are dominating for a lot of reasons. You could point to the Caps’ league-leading power play and fifth-rated penalty kill, Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin being Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin, the rise of Evgeny Kuznetsov, or Brian MacLellan’s ace offseason acquisitions of Justin Williams and TJ Oshie.
I think one thing that sets this Caps team a part is the selfless brand of hockey they play.
We got another glimpse of this Tuesday during the second period of the Caps-Blue Jackets game. With the Caps up 5-2, future Lady Byng candidate Marcus Johansson forechecked in the corner with Blue Jackets defenseman Justin Falk. Falk, potentially trying to spark his terrible team in a hopeless game, began mauling the peaceful Swede. Then suddenly, Falk’s gloves were off. He wanted to fight Johansson. I’m not sure why. Johansson has zero career fights.
And that’s when fourth liner Michael Latta sprung into action.
I thought it might be important to write down how we were feeling in this moment. So often, what we say is wrapped up in irony, bile, or fatuousness, but Sunday night was different. Sunday night was better.
All at the same time, we all seemed to realize that we were witness to something special, and — in addition to awe — we all seemed to feel the same feeling: gratitude.
Welcome to 2016. A new year is often viewed as a clean slate or an opportunity to start anew. Resolutions are made, gym memberships rise, and, for many, hope is revived where it had grown dormant.
American poet W.S. Merwin once wrote the following in his poem To the New Year:
our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible
While the new calendar year falls in the middle of the NHL season, there are still plenty of teams who would like to start fresh, so that hope may still seem possible. While some teams may find success in 2016, your favorite team won’t.
Because your favorite hockey team sucks and all hope is lost.
Randomly selected photo: Amanda Bowen. None of the players pictured are part of the poll.
Let’s play a fun game called Rank These Defensemen. These numbers aren’t a comprehensive view of how good each player is, but each stat is an important part of the puzzle.
All numbers are 2015-16 through Decemeber 28, 5v5 only.
Photo: Bruce Bennett
Let’s forego a flowery intro and get right to the point: Brian MacLellan crushed 2015 out of the park. The Caps GM had a spectacular year and currently presides over not only the hottest team in the NHL but the best team as well, according to the standings. Basically, Brian MacLellan was The Undertaker and 2015 was Mankind on top of the Hell in a Cell.
To celebrate MacLellan’s year, we’re going to revisit his three best moves of the past calendar year, with an honorable mention thrown in for good measure.
Photo: Mark Nolan
There’s been a lot of talk recently about how to improve the game of hockey– bigger nets, smaller goalie gear, smaller goalies, more teams, and so on. But I would ask a different question: What’s so wrong with it right now?
It’s true that it’s getting harder out there for goal scorers. Last season saw the lowest league-leading scoring total since Stan Mikita could only muster up 87 points in 1967-68 (in a 74 game season). The days of Gretzky scoring more than 200 points per season are long gone.
But so are the days when only a few teams in a given year had a real chance to win it all. During the high-scoring days of 1969-1993, eight different teams won the Stanley Cup. In those 25 years, Montreal won it nine times. Edmonton won it five times. In the 20 years since, 11 different teams have won the Cup, and only Detroit has won it more than three times.
The scoring hay-day created some historic moments and essentially shaped the brand of hockey that fans expect from the stars of our game today, but I think many of those championship teams would be hard pressed to be in the top four or five in today’s NHL. The way the game is played today hardly resembles that of the ’80s Oilers, but that’s not to say that today’s NHL is worse. Far from it.
As a team, the Capitals deserve glowing reviews through their first 22 games. I’m talking A- or B+ at the lowest. They’re tops in the Metro in points per game, they’re in the top five in most stats, and now even Vegas thinks they’re a contender.
We’re using this momentary lull between games to assess the team on an individual level. Every player is taking home a report card today, and mommy and daddy are hoping they get high marks.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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