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I’m always looking for reasons to fall in love with this team. One email in particular gave me fuzzy feelings this week.

Marissa R. took her son and his friend to Kettler Capitals Iceplex to watch a morning skate. Afterwards, they ran into new Caps Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen.

It was a notable experience for a few reasons, but look at what Orpik is wearing. Someone’s been shopping.

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Photo: @trilljester

San Jose Sharks enforcer John Scott is probably one of the worst hockey players in the league. The 6’8″ left wing plays in the NHL only because of the traits he shares with a grizzly bear, except on the ice. Remember that one time Phil Kessel wielded his stick like a three musketeer? It was because Scott — who was playing for the Sabres at the time — was trying to send the Maple Leafs a message by trying to fight their best player.

San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan gave that his first sweater of the season on Tuesday. And he scored. On Brooks Orpik. Easily.

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Photo: Geoff Burke

Over the offseason, Brooks Orpik signed what many thought to be the worst contract of free agency– a five-year, $27 million deal that ends when he’s approximately 84. After months of kind of bummer analysis (even from us), the former Penguin jumped on the ice tonight for the first time as a Capital and he was noticeable– in a lot of different ways.

First, let’s see the hits because you guys want to see the hits.

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Six Capitals Predictions to Warm Your Heart

The Caps last played meaningful hockey on April 13th. Here’s what I wrote in that game recap:

…this is the end of this. Whatever’s next, it won’t ever feel like this again. The roster, the coaches, the front office– the sword of Damocles looms above them all. A shining new era is tip-toeing nearer.

And then everything changed. New coach, new system, new GM, new defense, new forwards, and I think I saw a few new gray hairs on Ovi’s head. The tumult of the last six months has been discomforting for some, but I’m excited.

I bet I can get you excited too. Lemme try.

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Photo: Amanda Bowen

With the final preseason game in the books for the Capitals, the team’s opening night line-up is shaping up: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Eric Fehr will be on the top line. Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky, and Troy Brouwer will man the second. Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich, and Joel Ward will be on the third. The fourth line looks set, though scrappy free-agree invitee Liam O’Brien looks to have earned his way into a contract with Hershey or a two-way deal. Michael Latta, though, appears ready to play alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Chris Brown on the fourth line. That might change when Jay Beagle comes back from injury.

“That would be a question for Mac[Lellan],” Trotz said of O’Brien. “He’s been as good as anybody especially in that role.”

“He’s a player that demanded to be noticed,” the coach added.

19-year-old rookie Andre Burakovsky appears to have also made the team, beating top prospect Kuznetsov to center the team’s second line. At least initially.

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Photo: Amanda Bowen

I doubt I’ll ever understand the Brooks Orpik contract, but I promise you I’m going to go into the season looking for any reason to fall in love with him, Pittsburgh shirts or no. He’s our guy now.

But I just read a profile on the new Caps defenseman, and I am in that unhappy place again.

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Photo: @Crosby2787

On Sunday night, the Pensblog published a post titled ORPIK WEARING 412 T-SHIRT IN WASHINGTONI didn’t know what 412 was, so I hit up the googles.

Fouronetwo, named for the Pittsburgh area code, is an activewear brand from Pittsburgh. It’s all about Pittsburgh sports pride.

For a player making his first impression to Washington sports fans, Brooks Orpik wearing a shirt specifically touting Pittsburgh sports was a curious choice.

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Photo: Amanda Bowen

One hundred sixty days after the Washington Capitals missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007, 66 players took to the ice in Arlington, Virginia looking to atone for a lost season. New head coach Barry Trotz put his players through a 45-minute practice and then a rigorous skate test, which left many exhausted, including Alex Ovechkin. This year’s training camp is supposed to be a hard one, part of Trotz’s plan to transform this team from an also-ran into a real success. The Caps have just two days of training camp to get their legs under them before the preseason opens on Sunday.

Below the jump are photos from the day via RMNB’s newest contributor, Amanda Bowen.

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Trotz

Photo: Chris Gordon

As the temperatures outside reached the 90s, Caps prospects and free agent invitees gathered inside a freezing Kettler Capitals Iceplex Monday for the first day of the team’s annual Development Camp. Afterwards, head coach Barry Trotz met the media. After focusing on the young players who will be Arlington this week, the conversation turned to the recent signings of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen. Orpik’s 5-year, $27.5 million deal has been much maligned, as Orpik is an aging poor possession player.

Last week, new Caps GM Brian MacLellan defended Orpik’s numbers, saying he is relied upon for tough minutes and defensive zone starts. Trotz’s rationale for the signing was a little bit different than MacLellan’s, but probably just as disturbing to the Twitter intelligentsia.

“The effect is not going to be in goals and assists,” Trotz said. “It’s going to be in culture and winning and attitude.” Continue Reading

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The Washington Capitals’ defense was really bad last season. Adam Oates and George McPhee suited up fourteen (!) defensemen over the course of the season and got little success for their effort. Fixing the blue line was priority one in free agency for new GM Brian MacLellan, and he delivered in a big way, bringing ex-Pens Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to town (as well as their former defensive coach, Todd Reirden).

The new Caps D-corps is definitely improved– but at a great cost. Orpik and Niskanen cost a combined $11.25M per season. Washington now sports the most expensive defense in the league (more than Philly once you factor in Chris Pronger’s sadly never-ending LTIR). With all that– rather pricey– new blood, let’s explore how the Caps might line up in October.

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