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Tonight at 10 PM, the first episode of EPIX’s Road To The Winter Classic will air online featuring (hopefully) organic, not-at-all-contrived coverage of the team we love (also the Chicago Blackhawks). I admit I’m super excited for all the right reasons (pageviews!). Some old RMNB footage might even make a short cameo on the show.

EPIX has posted exclusive photos, featuring some fantastic portraits of Caps stars.

I have a feeling at least half of you are going to be very excited to continue scrolling. I even included a few GIFs and a video too.

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Photos by Chris Gordon.

Nicklas Backstrom is a quiet Swedish assist machine. He sits in the background, setting up Ovi and racking up points. He’s a bit shy, often speaking to reporters siting down and speaking in a soft tone. He’s not underrated. People know Backstrom is good, but he’s just doesn’t flout it at all. That’s why he’s not one of the league’s most recognizable stars, despite the skill and stats to back it up.

But we Caps fans know how good he is. Tonight, Backstrom put on a grand Saturday night production. After not scoring in almost a month, Backstrom registered a natural hat trick, his first three goal game since 2010, as the Caps beat the Bolts 4-2.

There was a present waiting for him after the game. Upon entering the Capitals locker room, Backstrom found his locker filled with the hats thrown on the ice by fans.

“I don’t know who the f—k was doing that,” Backstrom told me. “Someone surprised me.”

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Artsy. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)

Tom Wilson needs to play like Tom Wilson,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said early this month. “If Tom Wilson starts to play like someone else, then he won’t be on the first line.”

It’s been over a month since the bellicose winger got promoted to top line duty. He was in full bloom on Thursday, agitating the Blue Jackets all night. His premiere moment of belligerence came midway through the second period when Wilson goaded James Wisniewski into taking four minutes of penalty time for attempting to disfigure Wilson’s face.

Wisniewski’s assault failed, his stick snapping upon contact with Wilson’s chin.

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The Washington Capitals outshot the Columbus Blue Jackets 41-23 on Thursday night, but they got just one standings point out of the game because they couldn’t convert enough power plays.

Also, Caps veteran Jason Chimera, who has struggled this season, took the dumbest interference penalty ever in overtime.

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The Washington Capitals have gone to major lengths to promote Barry Trotz since hiring him this summer. And while Trotz is certainly an improvement over former coach Adam Oates, the Caps still find themselves as a middling team (after a scintillating October), with fans finding little to be excited about for the future.

Check out the conclusion of Peter’s recap last night.

Sigh. Am I all alone in thinking that Caps fans are kind of at a low right now? The team is still way better than the Oates!Caps, but this ain’t exactly working either. All the great stuff the Caps were doing in October is gone now, and all the inefficiencies in the lineup are costing goals on a nightly basis.

We’re one month out from the Winter Classic, but the community seems melancholic. I don’t blame ‘em; at some point wins are needed to justify enthusiasm. The Capitals have let you down.

Meanwhile, Trotz’s former team, the Nashville Predators are undergoing a renaissance without their former bench boss. The irony is miserable.

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Happy Thanksgiving, hockey friends!

Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz kicked off the holiday by participating in the Arlington Turkey Trot 5k charity run/walk. Dressed in a turkey t-shirt with “Turkey Trotz” on the back, Trotz and his brood joined thousands of others to raise money for Doorways for Women and Families and Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless.

RMNB Readers and Anne and Lauren W were there. They shared a couple photos and their story.

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Ovi backchecking? You better believe it. (Photo: Luis M. Alvarez)

Jen Lute Costello of Puck Daddy recently wrote a nifty post about shot suppression. I’m paraphrasing her, but the basic idea is that there’s more to being a great possession team than simply having more shot attempts than the other team. While having more shot attempts than your opponent is the essential ingredient, it is optimal to also limit the number of overall shot attempts or “events” (the combined number of shot attempts between two teams in a game). Again, my paraphrasing does not do Jen’s great work justice, so I recommend reading her work.

The Capitals are a much better shot-possession team this season compared to last. But our optimism shouldn’t stop there. The Capitals aren’t just owning a higher percentage of overall shot attempts, they are also allowing fewer overall opponent shot attempts, so they’re owning the puck more AND better suppressing shot attempts against.

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Finding Roles for the Caps’ Misfits

Evgeny Kuznetsov is among the players for whom Barry Trotz has struggled to find a consistent spot in the line-up. (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty)

To break out of their slump, the Capitals needed offensive contribution from their second line. Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky scored four points each in the last three games, all Caps wins. Before that, when the Capitals struggled to get points, their third line featuring Joel Ward and Jason Chimera shone. Right now, the Caps have an eight-plus goal-scorer on each of their top three lines in Alex Ovechkin, Johansson, and Ward.

Coach Barry Trotz has found three successful pairs so far: Ovechkin-Backstrom, Johansson-Brouwer, Chimera-Ward. Andre Burakovsky seems to have secured second-line center position for now, which leaves two main vacancies in top nine: top-line right wing and third-line center.

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Photo: Sergei Belski

After the Capitals defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 Friday, Sovetsky Sport’s Leonid Varshavsky spoke to Caps rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov. The talented forward, scratched for the first time in his NHL career that night, spoke about his relationship with Barry Trotz and how he’s been adapting to life in America.

All in all, you see a player who readily admits that he still has a lot to learn before he becomes a great player in the NHL. “The hockey is different,” Kuznetsov says. “I understand now that you can’t compare KHL and NHL. It’s entirely different.”

“There’s little use for what you learned in the KHL,” he added. “You learn everything from scratch.”

RMNB’s Fedor Fedin has your translation below.

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Eric Fehr Just Wants to Find a Good Home

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Photo Credit: Patrick McDermott

Last year, Eric Fehr bounced around the lineup as Adam Oates struggled to find a spot for him. Some nights, Fehr would play center, not his natural position, on the third line. Other nights he would find himself in the press box, despite being one of the team’s top possession players. What he never got a chance to do was be a scoring-line winger, which the Capitals drafted him to be and a spot in which he’s shown promise in the past. Under Bruce Boudreau, Fehr also struggled to fit in, eventually forcing the Caps to ship him to Winnipeg for a fourth rounder and an irrelevant minor leaguer. With Barry Trotz, it looked like things might change, with Fehr starting the season on the top line.

“I just want to have a spot and consistently play, just not be moving around every night,” Fehr said in September.

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