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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.