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Photo credit: Matt Slocum

When Peter Laviolette was panic-fired Monday morning for his team shooting 2.4% through three games at even strength, I laughed. Then I thought about the five-year contract they gave Vincent Lecavalier over the offseason, and I laughed some more. Then I thought about how they traded Vezina-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky one season and then bought out Ilya Bryzgalov the next, choosing to pay the Russian $23 million over the next 14 years not to play, tears started rolling down my face. Paul HoLOLmgren, you are teh best.

Once I got past that (it was difficult), I was quite happy for long-time Washington Capitals enforcer Craig Berube, who was named the Flyers’ new head coach (Not interim!).

Berube becomes the third player from the Capitals’ 1997-98 Stanley Cup Final team to become a head coach in the NHL joining former Capital captains Dale Hunter and Adam Oates. With former Caps’ 98 Cup Final players Calle Johansson and Olie Kolzig serving as assistants in Washington (Kolzig is goaltending coach), I wondered how many other players from that very-talented, overachieving team are now coaching in hockey.

The number is staggering.

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Photo credit: Plymouth Whalers

Washington Capitals first-round pick Tom Wilson put up another impressive playoff performance. In game two against regular-season champions the London Knights, Wilson scored three goals and added an assist (unofficially as of right now) as his team won 4-3 in double overtime.

Potential 2013 first-rounder Bo Horvat opened the scoring after winning a puck battle in the corner, giving the Knights a 1-0 lead that they preserved until the end of the first period. Wilson tied the game in the second, holding his stick behind his back to score a wild deflection goal.

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Olie Kolzig

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Olie Kolzig is remembered as the greatest goalie in Capitals history. A staple in Washington’s net for over a decade, Kolzig led the team to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance and became one of the franchise’s most beloved players. These days Kolzig has a different role. In his second year as associate goaltending coach, Kolzig spends his time mentoring the club’s young netminders in both minor leagues. The influence of a veteran has apparently rubbed off on the players– Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth recently added the German goalie’s likeness to his mask, a gesture Kolzig deeply appreciated.

On Sunday, I spoke on the phone with Olie The Goalie, who was in Hershey scouting the Bears game. As the NHL season approached, Kolzig gave me his thoughts on the Caps goalie duo, the distractions Braden Holtby faced last season, and what he sees next for Alex Ovechkin. He even told me what he thought of Tom Poti‘s return to hockey and what that could mean for the organization.

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This is a Garage League and Other Lockout Lessons

Ted Leonsis

I guess it’s appropriate to start by saying that we’re all unimaginably happy about the return of hockey. That said, we’ve learned a lot over the four-month lockout, and this seems like the appropriate time to take stock.

Lesson 1: Mario Lemieux was right

The NHL is a garage league. I’m not talking about riff-raff players spoiling up the staid finesse hockey of a bygone era; I’m talking about business competence. Since my adolescence, the NHL has lost part or all of three seasons. Fans who have been following hockey for a decade have seen 20% of that time obscured or obliterated by lockouts.

Imagine running a business where you do work 80% of the time. The rest of the time you’re struggling to master a skill most functionally social humans learn in kindergarten: sharing. Your business plan is flawed.

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We’ve been through this before. No matter how poor I am, my frugal instincts go out the window when Washington Capitals treasures are unearthed online. So that’s why on eBay last week, I shelled out even more cash on some vintage postcards depicting two iconic Capitals in all their early 80s glory.

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Photo credit: Joel Auerbach

When we last left Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth, he was calling Braden Holtby his weakest competition and patting himself on the back for convincing Tomas Vokoun to go to Pittsburgh. That was just the warm-up.

In the remainder of Neuvirth’s interview with František Suchan of iSportz.Cz, the Czech goalie shares his honest opinion of pretty much every other big-name Capitals figure. He gives Alex Semin the classic “he could have been the best player in the world, but he doesn’t want to” line; he laments Alex Ovechkin‘s decline but praises his leadership; and he sheds no tears over the exit of Dale Hunter.

Hoo boy, here comes some tawdry stuff.

UPDATE: Read our statement on interpretation and translation.

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Farewell, Dean Evason

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Tuesday afternoon was a busy time for ex-Capitals coaches, as Dale Hunter was officially re-hired to be the London Knights head coach and long-time assistant Dean Evason was hired by the man who originally drafted him into the NHL, David Poile, to coach the Milwaukee Admirals, the AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators.

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Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

When Dale Hunter’s made his decision to resign as the coach of the Washington Capitals, the disappointment of his players was manifest as they conducted their exit interviews at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. For all the talk of Hunter’s defense-first game plan, the coach’s strategy was barely mentioned by the players. Instead, they praised something else: the accountability he brought to the team. Gone were the days of stars — or captains — getting a free pass. Every player was forced to work together, no matter what line or how much ice team they got.

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Bad Romance: The Saga of Tomas Vokoun


Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Tomas Vokoun got all dressed up for 2011 summer free agency, put on his glittering career numbers and his solid veteran history and waited for a dancing partner. It didn’t go as planned.

He watched his old team hook up with a new French Canadian flame, watched the Philadelphia Flyers fall all over themselves for Ilya Bryzgalov and the Phoenix Coyotes chase a tall dark unknown. Somehow, at the end of all the frenzy, Vokoun was left without an offer.

Left with few options, Vokoun agreed to a mercenary marriage of convenience with the Caps, an embarrassingly cheap, $1.5 M one-year deal. The Czech veteran got to play on what should have been a contending team and get his name back out there; the Caps got an apparent upgrade in goal. Everyone wins, right?

Wrong. The loveless arranged marriage quickly went sour, and abruptly came to an end today as the Caps traded Vokoun’s rights to bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he promptly signed a two-year deal. How could things have gone so wrong with a goaltender who could been the MVP? Let’s take a look.

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Photo credit: Greg Flume

The final day of media availability is often referred to by reporters as the longest day of the year — and probably the least enjoyable. The news about Dale Hunter deciding to go back to his digs in London created a lot of buzz, and stories were told– like about how Jay Beagle tried to put his skates on over his swollen, broken foot before Game Six. But the general mood was one of somber –- not surprising, given how close the team came to Eastern Conference Finals.

The Capitals have a handful of free agents to deal with during this offseason, but none of them are as high-profile or as controversial as Alexander Semin. Will he bolt for the riches of the KHL, sign with another NHL team –- or return to the Capitals? I didn’t expect a straight answer to the question, so we just talked about… well, whatever he wanted. That includes Hunter hockey vs. Boudreau’s open style, the success of Braden Holtby, and his ice time.

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