18 Days Out: Hey, Don’t Make Plans for Fridays

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Happy Friday, people. Enjoy it, ’cause for the next few months, your Fridays belong to Uncle Ted’s team.

In November, December, and January, you will have precisely one Friday free each month. You will use it to do Important Things like watch Point Break on Netflix, cook brownies for yourself for discernible reason, and perform a double-blind cohort study to determine if there’s any meaningful difference in the taste between Coors Light, Miller Lite, and Bud Light (hypothesis: there is not).

But then it’s back to the salt mines, where you will be required to watch Friday night hockey on 14 different occasions. The good news is we’ll be here with you, not meeting strange women, not playing fooesball at a dive bar while listening to 12 Play, and not playing laser tag with 14-year-olds at the mall.

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19 Days Out: Steve Oleksy vs Jack Hillen in a 4D Battle

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Photo: The great Clydeorama

The Capitals are stocked with three excellent defenders in John Carlson, Karl Alzner, and Mike Green. Each brings something to the veritable table: Carlson has an offensive upside, Mike Green is a power play maestro, and the stay-at-home Karl Alzner is threatening to crack a 2.5% shooting percentage any day now.

You can pair those three any way you want, but it is still unclear who else among the other Caps D-men is up to the job of playing in the top four. Here’s a lovely chart  from Greg Sinclair that illustrate’s how Caps D were used and how they performed last season:

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20 Days Out: Must Have Brouwer’s Power

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I’m not trying to make this series coincide with jersey numbers, but when the Rangers call upon you ya gotta step up.

Troy Brouwer had an excellent 2012-13 season. He improved his 2011-12 goal total by one despite playing 35 fewer games. But he did so by scoring on 7 of the 28 shots he took while on the brower play, a feat I don’t expect him to repeat in 13-14. That doesn’t mean we should sleep on Troy B though; in fact, he will be a crucial factor in the team’s success this season.

I expect Brouwer to be paired with Mikhail Grabovski and Martin Erat, two players known for being stout on tough defensive assignments and driving play in the offensive zone. Brouwer will be expected to be the line’s finisher, a pretty cozy job if you can find the work. His well-above-average 14% shooting percentage should serve him well on the second line, but the secret will be to shoot like a maniac.

We know he’s got the set-up men; we know he’s got the skill; now Brouwer has to become the kanooblian force at even-strength we’ve always hoped he’d be. If Brouwer crashes the net and takes — let’s say– 7+ shots for every 60 minutes he’s on the ice, the Capitals will have two deadly scoring lines. But if Brouwer won’t shoot or if his lofty shooting percentage drops, the second line will be inert, allowing opponents to focus on shutting down Ovechkin and the top line instead.

That’s a lot riding on Brou-Brou.

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21 Days Out: Brooks Laich is Brooks Laich

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Normally, I’d put some stat analysis or some opinion in here, but today– 21 days out from the beginning of the season– let’s just appreciate Brooks Laich.

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22 Days Out: Jason Chimera Will Be Better

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It varies from year to year, but the average shooting percentage in the NHL is somewhere just south of 9%. There’s a lot factored into that (like power plays and the gap between forwards and defenders), but it basically means one out of every eleven shots becomes a goal.

Unless you’re Jason Chimera. Chimera put 92 shots on goal last season and came up with just 3 goals. That’s a 3.3 shooting percentage. Normally, with that volume of shots (about 2 per game), a guy like Chimera would come up with about 8 goals — maybe 14-15 goals in an 82-game season. Although he’s never been an elite shooter, Chimera was absurdly unlucky last year. It won’t last.

The goals will come for Jason Chimera in 2013-14. Take it to #thebank.

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23 Days Out: Joel Rechlicz Bobblefist Night in Hershey

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On Saturday, December 21, the Hershey Bears will host the Worcester Sharks at Giant Center. That’s reason enough to get excited, but the Bears’ promotion schedule has a note next to the game: Joel Rechlicz Bobblefist Night courtesy of UGI.

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24 Days Out: Is SportsYapper Still a Thing?

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The New York Yankees have introduced many evils upon the world, but Mark Teixeira’s SportsYapper is truly the evilest. It’s positioned as a kind of Twitter for sports, which perhaps forgets the fact that there is already a Twitter for sports, and it’s called Twitter. A redundant and doomed-to-failure start-up is fine, but viewers of Caps games on CSN last season had to endure a barrage of SportsYapper advertisements. And Yapp it, somehow, despite my protestations, entered the lexicon in 2013.

In April, our own Chris Gordon, at great personal risk, went on SportsYapper and produced one of my favorite pieces of RMNB writing all year.

I dunno if SportsYapper will still be a thing in 2013-14, but it’s not like Teixeira is running out of money anytime soon. So just promise me you won’t go on there. PROMISE ME.

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25 Days Out: Kuzyamania!

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Ed note: Well, this is awkward. I scheduled this post before Kuznetsov’s trick shoulder got re-injured in Friday’s game against Vityaz.

Evgeny Kuznetsov is RMNB’s cottage industry. We’ve been covering him since mid-to-late 80s, and it’s gone swimmingly well so long as he doesn’t say any words to anyone who is in the business of writing words for other people to read. Kuzya has a bad habit of speaking his mind– particularly when he’s changing his mind every couple of minutes. Kuznetsov’s proclamations of an imminent move to America have been… uhh… let’s say fluctuant.

For the record: it’ll happen either after Traktor’s season ends in the spring or in the fall of 2014. Or never.

Until then, we’ll be here reporting on his (final) season in the KHL with video highlights, stats, and a sense of cool detachment that has allowed us to survive the last few years of Kuzya news without suffering a coronary.

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26 Days Out: The Maple Leafs are a Laugh Riot

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The Toronto Maple Leafs, the most storied team in the NHL, had failed to make the playoffs in seven straight seasons until 2013. There was something magic in that lockout-shortened, 48-game season that allowed a team ranked second-to-DFL in puck possession to make the postseason.

And what a postseason it was. The Leafs took a commanding lead over the Boston Bruins in game seven before blowing it, freaking epically, in the final ten minutes of regulation. Patrice Bergeron won it for the Bruins in overtime, and Leafs management promptly began its offseason ritual of ruining the team.

They bought out the plucky Mikhail Grabovski, re-upped the derpy Tyler Bozak to a five-year deal, secured David Clarkson until he turns 37, and poisoned the well with Nazem Kadri. Given they probably won’t score a goal on every ninth shot next year, I suspect the Leafs are due for a reckoning in ’13-’14. Meanwhile, the Caps picked up Grabo from free agency and are actually planning on using him to play hockey in the offensive zone at some point.

Thanks for the lulz, Dave Nonis. Keep up the good work, Randy Carlyle. Never change, Toronto. See you at Thanksgiving *(U.S. edition).

27 Days Out: The Dirty ‘Peg

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Winnipeg and DC are 1500 miles apart. The Capitals spanned that distance five times in the last two seasons, but thanks to the glory of realignment, that number will be just ONE in 2013-14.

Winnipeg is actually closer to LA than DC, but when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated in 2011, Winnipeg kept its spot in the Southeast Division because reasons. That sucked– not just for players, who endured long plane rides to the exotic and un-parked realm of Manitoba, but also for fans who had to wait until 10 PM later for the puck to drop in an interdivisional game. No more. In 2013-14, the Caps will have five 10 PM starts, and they’re clustered together in two convenient trips to the Western Conference.

Winnipeg is no longer in the southeast, and all is right in the world. On behalf of the Association of American Geographers, I’d like to thank Gary Bettman for the sudden outbreak of cartographical sanity.

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