Troy Brouwer

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Over the summer, General Manager George McPhee started snatching players like a rabid mom snatching groceries on Supermarket Sweeps. In are gritty NHL veterans like Joel Ward, Roman Hamrlik, and Jeff Halpern. Out are fan-favorites like Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon.

Beyond the discounted signing of Tomas Vokoun, there may have been no better addition to the line-up than the Draft-night trade McPhee swung with the Chicago Blackhawks in which he landed Troy Brouwer for a first-round pick. Brouwer, who signed an affordable two-year deal worth $2,350,000 per year on July 6, was part of the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup Champion squad and is known in part for his physical, hard-hitting game. The 26-year-old right wing has also been a proven scorer at every level he’s played, tallying 20 goals in the NHL, 40-plus goals in the AHL, and 100-plus points in Juniors.

So with Opening Night only a few days away, what can Caps fans reasonably expect offensively from Brouwer? Also, how about some bizarre facts about Troy that only RMNB can dig up? Follow me past the jump to find out.

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Marcus Johansson Washington Capitals

Photo credit: Richard Wolowicz

Head coach Bruce Boudreau is not shying away from having Marcus Johansson center Alex Ovechkin on the top line, so it’s time to put the sophomore Swede under the microscope. Specifically, what can fans expect him to produce in his second season?

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Photo credit: Chris Gordon

On Saturday, the Washington Capitals hosted their third annual Capitals Convention. A sold-out crowd of over 6,000 fans descended on the spacious confines of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to get autographs, pose for photos, and have questions answered by their favorite players.

Ted Leonsis, a mastermind behind the yearly event, was ecstatic for the turn-out. “That we’re able to sell out everything we touch really shows how wonderful the fan support is and my goal is to build a team as good as our fan base,” he said.

And really. What’s not to love? There were so many great moments. A few of our favorites: the Knuble’s Knights got knighted by GM George McPhee, Brooks Laich’s mom Jane participated in “The Support it Takes to Make it to the NHL” panel, and Braden Holtby and Jay Beagle played floor hockey with some kids. And oh yeah, this too.

“Hockey players are so approachable,” Bruce Boudreau said. “They could be walking amongst [the crowd] and they’ll sit down and talk to you. I think it means a lot to [the fans] that they are so human.”

Below are my pictures of from the day including Alex Ovechkin giving out some free hugs, Mike Green signing a baby, and a lot of smiling players — and when I mean a lot, I’m talking some sort of world record.

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Alex Ovechkin’s April Fools’ Day Prank

Alex Ovechkin

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

We all know Alex Ovechkin loves to have fun, and now we have this fantastic new anecdote — thanks to Alex Ovetjkin — from former Caps netminder Semyon Varlamov who spoke to Artem Lisovsky of KP.RU.

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Alex Ovechkin

Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

Last season I got some flak for projecting Ovechkin would score on average 42 goals, plus or minus 8 goals over the 82-game season. The former two-time Hart winner ended up setting career lows in goals (32) and points (85), while once again suffering an early exit in the postseason.

Before anyone accuses me of being right a jinx, consider that in each of the two seasons before that he saw most of his offensive numbers decline:

Season GP G A PTS EV PP S S% TOI
2008-09 79 56 54 110 36 19 528 10.6 1817
2009-10 72 50 59 109 37 13 368 13.6 1569
2010-11 79 32 53 85 25 7 367 8.7 1688

So, despite this downturn, what can we realistically expect from one of the NHL’s best players this upcoming season?

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Braden Holtby

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

When George McPhee swooped in and signed free agent goalie Tomas Vokoun for a couple bucks and Alex Ovechkin’s now useless stockpile of CCM sticks, there was no doubt it was a great move for the Washington Capitals. But that doesn’t mean everyone was happy with it. 21-year-old netminder Braden Holtby, who looked assured of a roster spot just a day before when the team traded away Semyon Varlamov, was once again relegated to a job with the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

We know what Michal Neuvirth, the remaining ‘keeper in the Caps’ trio, thinks about the deal and losing his starting spot. Holtby, however, has been somewhat of a mystery, with head coach Bruce Boudreau admitting during Development Camp even he hasn’t spoken to the Saskatchewan native about the move.

Unbeknownst to us (but not Hockey Ramblings), someone has been able get Holtby’s side of the story. Several weeks ago, The Pipeline Show on Team 1260 Edmonton caught up the young goalie, with Holtby spilling the beans on the crease situation, Nicklas Backstrom’s injuries, why he didn’t think the team’s defensive system was much of a change, and more.

Below, we offer a transcription.

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Photo credit: Greg Fiume

When the Washington Capitals traded away oft-injured but skilled goaltender Semyon Varlamov, General Manager George McPhee said the team was more than comfortable using two relatively inexperienced netminders in Michal Neuvirth, 23-years-old, and Braden Holtby, 21, for the 2011-12 season — after all, he had done so the previous year with Neuvirth and Varlamov in the crease. Less than 24 hours later, however, the tables turned when McPhee scooped up veteran Tomas Vokoun, one of the league’s elite goalies, for the bargain price of $1.5 million for one year.

“We were certainly willing to play our top young goaltenders, but I think people will agree this addition makes us deep again at the most important position in the game,” GMGM said at the time. “We love what we have in Holtby and we certainly love what we have in Neuvirth, but from an organizational standpoint, we’re all better off having this depth.”

Soon after the signing, Vokoun told reporters the Caps offered him no guarantees on the starting spot, but as a Vezina-caliber ‘keeper, Bruce Boudreau essentially gave him the nod over Neuvirth.

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Photo credit: Greg Fiume

Just two days after re-signing restricted free agent Mathieu Perreault, the Washington Capitals locked up their two remaining RFAs on Friday, inking defenseman Karl Alzner to a two-year deal and forward Francois Bouchard to a one-year contract.

Alzner, of course, is the most important player of the bunch. In his first full season in the NHL last year, the Burnaby, British Columbia native became part of the Caps’ top defensive pairing, along with John Carlson, and provided a steady, stay-at-home presence on the blue-line.

“I think he’s a very important part of our team,” Washington Head Coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “He got a lot of minutes and played in a lot of tough situations so I think it’s a great signing on our part — glad it was done.”

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Garrett Mitchell attempts to headbutt Scott Wietecha into submission. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

After losing the first scrimmage game, Group A turned the tables on Group B on Thursday to take the second match of Development Camp, 4-3, in the shootout.

Garrett Mitchell, David Citviarese and Danick Paquette tallied Group A’s goals in regulation, while Travis Boyd scored twice along with Reid Edmondson in Group B’s losing effort. Mitchell also added the only shootout goal.

Below, I recap the game in photos.

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Danick Paquette dishes out a hit along the boards.

After participating in workouts for first two days of the Capitals’ annual Development Camp, 19 of the organization’s prospects and 25 free agent invites took to the ice for the first intra-squad scrimmage of the summer on Wednesday.

Group B — wearing the red sweaters — controlled the play throughout the game at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, taking it by a score of 4-2. Caleb Herbert, Stanislav Galiev, Travis Boyd and Aaron Schmit scored for the winning team while Andrew Cherniwchan and Garrett Mitchell tallied in the losing effort.

“The thoughts were is they played hard,” Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters after the game. “I think there was a lot more physical contact than the last two development camps, at least early on for the first game. … They’ve gotten better every day, I expect them to be even better tomorrow and by Saturday I’ll be a pretty good game.”

Forward Cody Eakin, a third-round draft pick in 2009 and a veteran of three camps, attributed the style of play to the players desire to make an impression on Washington’s brass.

“They’re some big guys out here and everyone is fighting for a job, a second chance and a second look so it was pretty physical. Guys are stepping up and there wasn’t a lot of room out there.”

Below, I recap the game in photos.

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