Photo: Amanda Bowen

Editor’s note: Pat Holden has written about Caps hockey over at Brooks Laichyear since 2012. We’ve asked him to pitch in here at RMNB to smarten us up a bit. Please give Pat a warm welcome. Follow him on Twitter.

During the preseason, Barry Trotz said that he prefers to keep forwards in pairs when shuffling lines. So far, that has proven to be the case. The Caps’ four persistent pairs through the first five games have been Ovechkin-Backstrom, Burakovsky-Johansson, Ward-Chimera, and Kuznetsov-O’Brien.

There’s a lot of noise in the numbers this early in the season, but with that disclaimer, a look at Trotz’s deployment so far shows many things we’d expect and some things we wouldn’t. But the biggest story is that the Caps fourth line is struggling, and Barry Trotz clearly doesn’t trust them.

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We had to use this photo. See more from Amanda Bowen.

Wilson is going to Hershey, and it’s not for a rehab/conditioning stint.

Tom Wilson played 82 games for the Capitals in his rookie season, but he was given remarkably little opportunity to excel. With fewer than eight minutes a night, Wilson scored just three goals and seven assists on the bottom line, though he did rack up 151 penalty minutes.

Things looked bright for Wilson’s sophomore season, but an ankle injury in July set him back significantly. Now, having missed camp and the first two weeks of the season, Wilson is finally ready to return to hockey …but he’ll be doing it with the Hershey Bears of the AHL.

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Photo: Hartford Wolf Pack

On Sunday afternoon, Capitals’ AHL affiliate Hershey Bears defeated the Hartford Wolf Pack 1-0 on a goal scored by Casey Wellman with just 1.5 seconds remaining in overtime. Wolf Pack goalie Jason Missiaen made 36 saves on 37 shots over 67 minutes of play, while Caps prospect Pheonix Copley held down the fort for the Bears, recording his first shutout as a pro.

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On Friday, the Washington Capitals held a photoshoot for their annual dog calendar, benefitting Homeward Trails Animal Rescue. While we posted everything that was put up on social media that day by the Caps, we didn’t tell you that our very own Amanda Bowen went to the event and got her own photos.

And oh man, they are incredible.

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RMNB’s New Burracuda T-Shirt

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On Thursday night after Andre Burakovsky scored his second career NHL goal, Peter tweeted this.

The nickname got approximately a million retweets, and we were bombarded with emails and tweets demanding a t-shirt. I oblige. When the RMNB people need something, I come through for the RMNB people.

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CapsPractice_02

Photos: Amanda Bowen

The Washington Capitals are 3-0-2 and are tied for first in the dumbly-named Metropolitan Division. It’s a good time to be a Capitals fan, which is why now is a good time to share these photos Amanda Bowen took at Wednesday’s practice.

Ovi: keep listening to Barry; he knows what’s up.

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Week 1 Snapshot: Good Things are Coming Our Way

Patrick McDermott all smiles

They are all smiles. We are all smiles. (Photo: Patrick McDermott)

Welcome back, everybody! This is the Sunday Snapshot, where we take a peek at how players performed when the game was on the line. Here’s how it works.

For each player, I’ll dump a bunch of stats about what happened he was on the ice– possession, scoring, and deployment– during the last week. I’ll highlight in “powderpuff pink” (I didn’t name it) the stuff that jumps out at me, and then I’ll discuss them below.

If this were last season, I’d also be a cranky jerk and you guys would have to cheer me up in the comments. As you’ll see below, that is no longer the case. The Capitals are pretty damn good again. They’re 3-0-2 with positive possession, a deep defense, and a top line that should terrify the rest of the league. This is going to be fun.

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ChimeraGoal

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Last season, Adam Oates tried to reinvent Eric Fehr. Instead of being an auxiliary winger, Oates turned Fehr into a checking line center. Actual hockey isn’t NHL 15, so the role was uneasy for Fehr. Center is a  greater responsibility than being a scoring winger, offensively and defensively. Pivots are, perhaps, a little smarter than the rest of us. Fehr never quite settled into the position and bounced around the lineup and the press box under Oates. He did, however, find success with Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, inspiring a cult following for the line.

This season, it looked like Barry Trotz put an end to the Eric Fehr 3C experiment, placing the Manitoban on the top trio with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. After Tuesday’s histrionic 6-5 loss to San Jose, Trotz’s shifted his lineup. Fehr was back with Ward and Chimera. On Thursday, the line was Washington’s best. While they only registered one of Washington’s five goals — and it was barely even a goal — the trio shut down the opposition and earned praise from Trotz. Against the Panthers, the third line was again inspired. Chimera had a myriad of chances while scoring Washington’s lone goal of the night. It was set up by a brilliant pass from the corner from Fehr.

“With that line, I think that Fehrsie’s got really good hockey IQ,” Trotz said. “He can read off those two guys.”

“That whole line’s been really good the last couple games,” he added.

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Photo: Alex Brandon

While Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is one of the greatest natural goal scorers of all-time, he’s never been lights out in the shootout. In his career, Ovechkin has connected on 30.2% of his shots, which is less effective than Nicklas Backstrom, Eric Fehr, Brooks Laich, and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

This season, new bench boss Barry Trotz has utilized Ovechkin in the clean-up spot, having him shoot only if a shootout is tied after three rounds. On Saturday, to change the bad juju after two straight shootout losses, Trotz let assistant coach and always-dour-human-being Blaine Forsythe pick the third shooter.

He went with the Russian machine. It paid off.

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Brooks Laich Got Hurt Again (GIF)

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During the 2012 lockout, Capitals center Brooks Laich injured his groin playing for the Kloten Flyers. Since then he’s struggled through injury, missing 70 games over the last two seasons.

Laich promised that this campaign would be different, and so far it has. Through five games his groin hasn’t visibly hindered him. He’s played big minutes. But during the third period of Saturday’s game, Laich absorbed a tough shoulder-to-shoulder hit from noted goon Shawn Thornton. He immediately left the game.

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