Special thanks to Gary Bettman for letting the guys out of the Quiet Room long enough for us to snap this pic. Enlarge. (Photo illustration by Ian Oland)
The stars of the All-Star Game were a little less bright this year. Some of the familiar faces that fans expect were absent for reasons that are becoming all too familiar in the modern NHL: head injury. Approximately 85 head injuries have been reported this year, meaning that nearly ten percent of all active players have been injured. 28 of 30 teams have reported at least one head injury, while some franchises have dealt with as many six or seven. With star center Nicklas Backstrom now sitting out due to concussion, the issue has hit close to home for Caps fans.
Photo credit: paparazzi.ru
This week, the Caps went 3-1-0 against the Lightning, Hurricanes, Islanders, and Habs, and if you asked someone who they thought was the only team to beat us, they would probably be surprised by the answer. Despite being outshot 77-136, the Caps still managed to outscore opponents 9-7 and take 6 of 8 points. Especially if you blindly ignore that Tuesday ever happened, it was a pretty good week.
Elsewhere in the NHL, a compelling case was made for wearing helmets in warmups, Mrs. Pronger made us sad about Chris Pronger again, Brian Elliott was re-signed in St. Louis, Chara and Alfredsson were named captains of the All-Star Game, Rangers owner James Dolan apparently has no idea the Stanley Cup is not awarded in January, and Ryan Kesler and Alain Vigneault had a lovers’ quarrel.
In case you were wondering the most important question–how does everything in the world apply to the Washington Capitals?–here’s a helpful guide to what’s terrible this week.
The Puck Drop: So, class, pencils down. What have we learned this weekend, hmm? Anyone? Anyone?
Well one of the things we’ve learned is that Coach Dale Hunter really isn’t like Coach Bruce Boudreau. As a player or as a coach. Yes, do we remember that? Do we also remember how Dennis Wideman got gipped out of a hat trick by some fusty clock-watchers in Toronto? Recall that? And… and another lesson; do we all remember how confusing it is to watch the Capitals play game to game? That roller-coaster – yeah, remember that? Awake one night, asleep the next? Hmmm?
It’s AH (Anno Hunteramus) 1, and so far we’re breaking even with genuinely mixed performances. A few months back, before “The Troubles“, we spanked the Flyers 5-2 in their own barn, with Hamrlik (remember when he was hot?) knocking in the GWG and Vokoun in the net. And here we are today. It’s cold, but Hamrlik is sorta hot again – or at least not cold cabbage – and Raccoon is once again starting to show a little of his elite-ness.
So, class, this Tuesday, which Capitals team do you think will show up? Hmm? Bueller?
(Photo credit: Andre Ringuette)
True story. Guy walks into a bar. He immediately pulls down his pants, starts cursing a blue streak, and vomits on the floor before stumbling out the door. Bartender says: “Hey, I didn’t know there was a Flyers game today!”
The Low Down: There’s no question Philadelphia is cursed with the worst sports fans in the history of everdom, and that includes the Flyers. Their arena smells, their colors look like butt, and those are the nice things we have to say.
The Norris Trophy sounds simple to award: “The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.”
Not surprisingly, it seems the voters (Professional Hockey Writers’ Association) use how many points a defenseman scores in the season as the “offensive component” when looking for their winner. Since the 1997-8 season, only last year’s winner (Zdeno Chara) has been out of the Top 10 in Points for defensemen – and he wasn’t out by much, ranking 12th.
A defenseman’s Plus/Minus factors in to the voting as the “defensive component.” In the same time frame, all but two winners had a Plus/Minus less than 10 – Nicklas Lidstrom in 2000-1 had a +9 and Rob Blake in 1997-8 had a -3 (the only other winner of the Norris with a negative Plus/Minus was Randy Carlyle in 1980-1). And you would have to go back to when the “Secretary of Defense” won the first of his two Norris Trophies to find another winner with a Plus/Minus not in the double digits.
And then Stevie Y announced the Defenseman.
We heard Dan Boyle and Drew Doughty. Then Duncan Keith and Scott Niedermayer. Next was Chris Pronger and Brent Seabrook. And then… the 7th and final defenseman… Shea Weber?
After all the days that have passed since, we here at RMNB have still struggled to understand how Canada’s Best Defenseman, Mike Green, was left off the roster. Even as recently as Friday Night during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, I professed to Daniel that Mike Green’s Defensive Acumen was at worst an 8 out of 10 – but more realistically a 9. And I said “EASILY” too. This prompted Daniel to investigate my claims as he was quite suspicious. Below are Daniel’s findings. How has Mike Green stacked up against his fellow countrymen and the rest of the NHL this year? See for yourself below the jump. You might be surprised.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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