Winter is Coming in One Day

Alex Ovechkin

Photo credit: Toni L. Sandys of the Washington Post

Editor’s note: To get you properly revved up for the season, each member of the RMNB crew will take a longing look back at some of our favorite goals from days gone by. You can call it nostalgia or cheap summer content, but it’s really a reminder: WINTER IS COMING.

Seeing a Steve Konowalchuk hat trick live with my dad and brother made me fall in love with hockey. Joe Juneau’s jamshot past Dominik Hasek made me wildly jump up and down as a teenager. But Alex Ovechkin’s first career playoff tally is my all-time favorite NHL goal.

Here’s why.

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Caps Beat Canes 4-3 (OT)! Two for Mike Green!

He didn't score, but he always makes for a good photo! (Greg Fiume/NHLI via Getty Images)

He didn't score, but he always makes for a good photo! (Greg Fiume/NHLI via Getty Images)

For the second time in consecutive nights, the Caps allowed a 2-0 game go to overtime. Tonight’s battle with the Hurricanes found the Caps continuing to struggle with the penalty kill, but a superlative effort from Mike Green and an overtime goal from Tomas Fleischmann earned the red team the win.

The Caps clearly have not yet returned to their pre-Olympic break heights. The top line is whiffing on the crease-cluttered opportunities they used to exploit. The penalty kill unit gave up only one goal on four chances tonight, but they’re still not operating at full capacity. The usual suspects (*Cough*Semin*Cough*) are still committing penalties and surrendering pucks with alarming frequency. Fixing these problems will be crucial not only in the post-season, but in the next few weeks to secure the President’s Trophy.

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[Editor’s note:  Russian Machine Never Breaks is proud to announce the addition of Neil Greenberg to the fold.  You might remember Neil from his excellent statistical analysis over at 5ive Hole, which he will continue to maintain.  Please join us in welcoming Neil.  Play nice.]

The trade deadline came and went, and while the Caps made some changes, a lot stayed the same. Most importantly: Hershey was virtually untouched. And it is probably because of this that the Caps didn’t make the “big move” most of the fans thought they would.

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Russian Machine Sometimes Breaks: Surfing the Zenith

The period after Christmas and before the break is typically when teams struggle the most.  It’s odd then that Washington Capitals have made January their most winning month.  The last thing any team wants to do is peak too soon, especially before the end of the regular season. After winning seven thunderous games in a row, it’s about time the Caps come back down to Earth and mount another surge for the post-season. To ensure that, here are some injury updates:

  • Jose Theodore skipped the final period of last night’s Islanders game. As per usual, the Caps staff declined to describe the nature Theo’s injury beyond the perfunctory “lower-body injury.” I’ve reviewed the game tape, but I’m unable to ascertain the nature of the injury. As such, Russian Machine has commissioned his (smokin-hot) wife Stéphanie to investigate Jose’s lower body more vigorously.
  • Our spies at Kettler shoe-phoned to inform us that Semyon Varlamov is skating today. Semyon’s lower half has completely failed him since December; we hope his junk is still under warranty. It’s encouraging that Varly is skating, but he is definitely not taking shots. The Olympics now seem unlikely, and our heart aches for Varly. It’d be selfish of us to be glad that Semyon will get more rest before the playoffs when it comes at the cost of such a big personal goal. Therefore, we must hope either that his recovery drastically hastens, or that he’s still a superstar goalie in 2014.
  • As the previous two bullets have made clear, the Capitals now have a full-blown goalie crisis. What a world away we are now from the halcyon “Which awesome goalie shall we play tonight?” days of November. To fill the ranks, the organization has recalled Braden Holtby from the Hershey Bears. It’s one of our distinct pleasures as Caps fans that we get to see promising players from the organization’s stellar farm club. In the last few years, we’ve enjoyed standout performances from Matthieu Perrault, Karl Alzner, Semyon Varlamov, Captain America, and many more. I’m not well educated on the Bears, so I’m spending some time today learning about Braden, and I like what I see (.935 save % on 506 SOG). Let’s just hope he doesn’t hang around D.C. too long.
  • Exchanging a Top Gun high five with Holtby somewhere around York, PA, is Karl Alzner, who has been returned to Hershey’s care. Karl has only an even +/- from his recent four-game stint, but we recall fondly his crucial assist on David Steckel’s GWG. Plus, Karl got to hang out at Casino Night (check out Emily Karol’s terrific story if you haven’t already).
  • Brian Pothier. I don’t really have any news on the dude, but then again I’m not a real journalist. Let’s just assume he’s going to play tonight.
  • He’s not on our team, but Jack Hillen‘s faceblock last night was too monstrous not to mention.  After attempting to catch an Ovechkin slapshot with his teeth, Jack fell to the ice with a bloody, wet thud.  The Islanders report that Hillen broke his jaw and several teeth.  He’ll miss 6-8 weeks, but Quentin Laing has already promised to send over a dandy protein milkshake recipe.  Poor guy.

Tonight’s game against the Anaheim Ducks (24-22-7) begins at 7 PM. Russian Machine has a correspondent on location to document. Will the goalie problems discussed above end the Caps winning streak? Will Braden Holtby submarine some dude at center ice? Will Matt Bradley (whose jersey, it seems, I must now buy) secure a hat trick? Tune in and find out.

Russian Machine Sometimes Breaks: “Groin is Good”

Semyon Varlamov's junk is no longer the problem.

Semyon Varlamov's junk is no longer the problem.

As the east coast prepares for another storm, the Washington Capitals suit up to face off against the Ottawa Senators.  And guess what?  We’ve got some injuries.  Stifle yourself.

  • Brian Pothier is expected to return to play tonight after recovering from a broken rib.  I’ve never had a broken rib, but I hear those things hurt like the dickens.  Imagine if you have to sneeze.  Yowza.
  • Quentin “Crazy Eyes” Laing is out tonight.  Apparently, he’s got some bad bruises he acquired from blocked shots recently.  I’m searching my memory right now, and I can’t recall anything remarkable from Quentin that doesn’t involve diving in front of flying pucks.
  • Semyon Varlamov continues his period of convalescence and unibrow-gardening.  Varly injured his jock over a month ago, but has since played a game with the Hershey Bears to test his progress.  After the game it was reported that he had another “lower-body injury”.  The hockey tradition of using these vague euphemisms led us to believe that Semyon had re-injured his junk, but we were wrong.  Tarik reports that Varlamov sprained his MCL, but — and we quote — “Groin is good.” While we dispute that there is anything inherently good about  the word groin, we are ecstatic that Varly may soon be back in the Caps line-up!
  • Tyler Sloan, whose financial projections are looking rosy of late, will not be playing tonight.  Is he injured?  Not as far as we can tell.  With Laing out and Alzner back in Hershey, isn’t this exactly the kind of situation where Tyler could be used?  Or are we gonna let that $1.4m marinate for a little bit before we put him to work?

That’s it for now.  If there are any more updates on tonight’s players, we’ll be sure to mock them mercilessly right here.

In other news, Blogfather Ian Oland will be at the game tonight.  My guess is he’ll be wearing one of our totally bitchin’ t-shirts.  If you see him, run up to him and kick him in the groin for me.  Cheers!