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Early Morning Skate: So, the last time we were here, we were there. Filthy Philadelphia, needing a solid road win, and feeling optimistic to start. In fact, we were all, like, yay here we gowhattheflipwasthat?! and c’mon Holtbeast get it together and then yay Groooouuubsie and boooo Max Talbot grrr grrrr and ow that traffic-cone orange makes my soul weep and that was pretty much the best summary of that ugly mess of a game I can imagine.

Mmmm...tastes like Cheez Whiz

Mmmm…tastes like Cheez Whiz

What exactly was it that happened that terrible, cold February night at the F-U Center? Where, exactly, were manimal Troy Brouwer and Captain 8 (despite being probably the best in Red on the ice that night) and John “Towelie” Carlson and the Millionaire and his wife and the nameless rest? Certainly not there to play hard, or at least battle back through a tough start. And why was it, exactly, the Lord Supreme in His wisdom didst create that dung-heap of a burg to begin with?

Now this is our idea of a hot Fly team. Really.

Now this is our idea of a hot Fly team. Really.

You see, I’d like to chalk up that bumbling bungle of a game simply to our visiting the giant spirit suck that is Philly and its moronic fans. Like to, but cannot. Yeah, there were a couple fluky puck bounces and what-not, but those things give as much as they take. No, what we saw was a failure to launch by the Capitals after a dis-spiriting start. It was not, in any possible permutation of the concept, ‘good.’

The Puck Drop: But it’s Spring, and Easter (for some) or Maru (for others) or Passover or Nowruz or we’re just going to stop this now. Traditionally, it’s a time for rebirth and renewal and rejuvenation and reloading and all that. For the Capitals’ flock, it’s once more the race to the playoffs.

For several years now, the Capitals have demonstrated fine mettle in April, much like the pale gossamer jonquils besotting the landscape, if those jonquils were angry, snarling, forechecking, glass-smashing monsters made of steel and laser beams.

In short, there’s two ways this ends. One: we leave Filthydelphia redolent of Whiz, covered in soot and chagrin; or two, you can eat me Peter Laviolette. No wait, that’s a given. Oh yes; or two, we bounce outta Barftown and kick it into grinder gear for the coming match-ups against the Canes and ugly Islanders (revenge want now) and be the team that showed up to rub Winnipeg’s nose in its own dark, dark shame. I know which one I’m hoping for.

So let’s git ‘er done.

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ruff

[Ed. note: Craig Brownstein, PuckBuddy and resident film scholar, provides this look at our dance with the Buffalo Slugs, as imagined through the lens of Ingmar Bergman. You expected different, maybe? Read, learn, and tweet his nose here.]

Cries and Whispers: I scored last-minute tickets to the Isles game courtesy of a lovely young lady, and we sat in the #415 Lounge, just one seat from Sam Wolk, a distinct pleasure in and of itself. (My left ear has finally stopped ringing). Down by two in the early going, I met some friends on the concourse during the first intermission. Cue the hand-wringing, nay-saying, and rending of garments. Third period hopes were soon dashed, slipping between Mike Green’s skates. It was like a bad movie. Make that a depressing movie, think Cassavetes, or in honor of our stoic Swedish players, Bergman may be more appropriate.

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[Ed note: Hockey Hemingway Jason Rogers is back for you to love and adore. Talk to him via the Tweetaz at @HeyJayJRogers. Any and all credit goes to the PuckBuddys.]

15 minutes of ice time

15 minutes of ice time

Andy Warhol Says*: Everywhere you look, you see Pittsburgh fans. In Andy’s view, “…it’s all so beautiful.” Of course, he was hopped up on horse tranqs.

But this is Pittsburgh. And at the first insinuation of bandwagon chasing, they all claim family ties to the city. First of all, you cannot all be from there. It is just not a big enough city for every Yuengling-guzzling bar rat to crawl back to. And even if they did all somehow come from Pittsburgh, you know why they’re here now? Because they got the hell out of Pittsburgh as soon as they could. There’s even a website devoted to the phenomenon. And so with the sacred camaraderie of refugees from a land not worth returning to, the Penguins wander about the NHL landscape. On Tuesday the Capitals take the fight to them, and you can bet they’ve had their road Whites mustard-proofed.

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AP Photo/Ted Richardson

AP Photo/Ted Richardson

[Doug Johnson of the PuckBuddys is back! And he has this preview. Yet another preview. Which, for the record, he doesn’t need to do, he just chooses to do. He could stop at any time. Really. Just this one more. Go be co-dependent with him here.]

Morning Skate: Well fiddle-dee-dee. No sooner do we air out the Rangers’ stank from Verizon than the hillbillies from Hooterville return, bringing with them an undiscovered country of smell. Yes y’all, the Carolina Hurricanes are blowing back in, bringing with them their corn-pone, possum caps, crystal meth and Alex Semin, in something like that order.

Of course “stank” is something we all got a heapin’ helpin’ of this weekend. Must we really bring it up again – the juvenile penalties, the evaporating puck-management skills, John Tortorella’s stupid fat face? Apparently, yes.

Just what is happening in hockeyville? What is at the root of this existential struggle? I was contemplating this conundrum when a colleague at work asked me about the loud whooshing in the vent above my desk. “Is it blowing or sucking?” he asked.

Exactly.

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(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Photo credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

[Ed note: PuckBuddy, and hockey’s own Hemingway, Jason Rogers, is back to praise where it’s earned and taunt where it’s needed. Tweeter him now.]

Morning Skate: Don’t look now, but the Caps have won five of their last six, and eight of eleven over the last month. The good guys from DC sit within spitting distance of – dare I say it? – the playoffs. The Capitals, like a port-a-potty with a wayward push, have begun rolling downhill.

This Saturday afternoon, like a matinee at the movies, the Caps’ opponent will be a poorly directed, over-budget flop starring nobody. Yes, the Gortons Fishermen roll back into their harbor fresh from Long Island (Excuse me: Stron-Gisland) to welcome the Caps, and if Uncle Ted has any sense he’ll scotch-guard the locker room.

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charasmash

Doug Johnson is back to amuse and torment. You know him as one-half of the PuckBuddys. The first one to get them to 3K Twitter follows probably wins a car or something.

The Morning Skate: Gentle readers, before we [CENSORED] all over our Bruins friends,  let us pause a moment, as you scramble in blind panic preparing for snow that will never, ever come again, to consider the hazards of making predictions. Especially about the Caps.

For example, if I predict no snow Wednesday, it’s gonna get all crazy 20″ up in here. Conversely, I stone cold guarantee that if I dash to the store today to buy a terror shovel, we will be mopping our brows and sipping Mint Juleps on our verandas by Friday. The point is: predictions can go so wrong. Britain’s Lord Kelvin (he of Downton Abbey, we guess?) said heavier-than-air machines could never fly. Harry Warner said no-one would pay for talkies. The Skipper predicted a three-hour tour. Boom.

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sasha

[Ed. note:Today, the latest member of the PuckBuddys team hits the ice. Jason Rogers currently hangs his hat in Virginia, has studied in Paris and worked in China (always one step ahead of Interpol). But where ever he is in the world he’s a Caps fan through and through. He knows the game and we’re not holding that against him. Jason currently sports #8 – and the “C” – playing center for the Manassas Sperm Whales. Srsly. Give him a follow on twitter.]

Morning Skate: Well, Saturday’s game against the Devils sure was fun to watch, no? Alex Ovechkin bowled a Magician, and the whole team clearly ate their morning Oates with breakfast. It was a real big-boy win against the defending Eastern Conference champions for this Caps team, and like a really nice yard with an unmarked septic field, hopefully something they can build on. Today, Southeast Division rival Carolina Hurricanes blow into town like a hot, smelly belch from the South. I hope they brought illegal fireworks.

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marty

[Ed note: After a year of doggedly researching and documenting the panoply of awfulness that are the Washington Capitals’ rival cities and teams, the PuckBuddys‘  physicians grew concerned, recommending they take a nice, quiet rest somewhere so they could forget temporarily about hockey and focus instead on finger paints and macaroni art. Helpfully, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr gave them just the right opportunity to lay down their burden.

Now, no longer able to keep them involuntarily committed, the Buddy’s have returned to crash our net and empty the NHL’s septic tanks that you, wisely, would rather not. Because that’s just the sort of stand-up guys they are.

However, we caution they are still a bit on edge. So please, everyone…no sudden movements.]

The Scene: The pioneering urban anthropologist Ulf Hannerz once remarked “That which most repels us in other cultures is very often what lies buried and secret at the heart of our own.”  Well, no he didn’t; I just made that up. But then again, I doubt that Ulf ever visited New Jersey.

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New York and the Rangers: Rotten Apple


Photo credit: Movie Vault

Editor’s note: The playoff series gives Caps fans a chance to learn all about our stupid rivals and the exotic (i.e., terrible) places they come from. For the second of their Stanley Cup travelogue series, the PuckBuddys offer “How To Spot A Rangers Fan” and helpfully explain why a trip to Manhattan is only slightly worse than a colonoscopy. Follow @PuckBuddys.

Sometimes literary fiction can teach us something great and truthy. I’m thinking here about timeless classics like “Escape from New York,” “The Stand”, or “I Am Legend” (Will Smith version, duh). In these worlds, Manhattan’s streets are littered with drooling ghouls, shuffling corpses and brainless zombies, with a few rapists tossed in for good measure. The entire island is alternately either a prison or a graveyard, both equally wretched, and always there’s one or two smart people trying desperately to flee, usually to Washington.

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Doubting Thomas

Craig Brownstein of the Puck Buddys gets you primed for Holtby vs Thomas. Follow @PuckBuddys …unless you hate smiles. You don’t hate smiles, do you?

So. Here we are. The Caps’ long, strange trip to the playoffs wasn’t easy, not by any stretch, and their first round opponent doesn’t look so easy either. We know what’s behind us – a roller coaster season of consistent inconsistency, and we know what’s ahead of us – the defending Stanley Cup Champions are big, physical, and chock full of talent. So this probably explains why hockey’s literati almost to the person predicts a Boston win for the series. We don’t put much stock in that, of course. We don’t because we’re homers. Homo homers to be precise.

We look at the Boston match up as a series of If – Then statements: If Ovi, Sasha, and Nicky fire, then we’ll be OK. If we can match them physically, then we don’t get pushed around. If our special teams perform, then we’ll have a real shot. If we put rubber on that creep, Timmy Thomas, get in his head and face, then we’ll score moar goals. If we crash the net, you know the rest. And it’s Timmy and his counterpart at the opposite end of the rink that we think this series revolves around.

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