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Nicky calmly celebrates his second period goal while Ovi spazzes out. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Brads bleeds after his first period fight with Troy Bodie. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Brads bleeds. No big. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Unquestionably, the Washington Capitals came into tonight’s tilt against Carolina facing adversity for the first time all year. They had lost three consecutive games, two of which pathetically, and had generally looked careless and sloppy throughout each. After Monday’s 5-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils, their jolly Captain faced questions about his leadership after showing a lack of tact during Bruce Boudreau’s press conference with Caps media

The Caps also came into tonight’s game a bit bruised up. They would be forced to pick themselves off the mat without early-season standouts Michal Neuvirth and Mike Green, who were nursing lower-body and upper-body injuries respectively.

So in came the recently-rehabbin’ Semyon Varlamov, Tom Poti, and a reinvigorated Russian Machine.

Tonight, it only took two minutes to realize that our beloved Caps came to play. Alex Ovechkin laid out Chad LaRose with a fiery open ice check. Unequivocally, that hit set the tone of the game.

Nicklas Backstrom then decided to celebrate his birthday in fashion – albeit a day late – scoring in both the first and second periods. Semyon Varlamov made all the big stops when needed and our heroes dug deep and prevailed despite third period momentum-changing tallies by Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal. Thanks to Brooks Laich, the Caps beat Carolina 3-2. LOSING STREAK OVAHHH!

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Armchair GM: Fiddling with the Roster

Marcus Johansson looks great in a Bears Uniform.

The Capitals’ awful, awful, very bad, no good week came to an unexpectedly pleasant finish on Saturday night. Alex Semin’s hat trick and Tomas Fleischmann’s OTGWGFTW capped off a miserable stint for the team.  Two deflating losses to the Bruins provide an excellent case study in the Caps’ problems: aside from a soaring PK squad and a competent netminder, the Caps are struggling.

That’s why we assembled the Russian Machine Brain Trust, formed to fight the foes no single hero could withstand. We put on our tweedy jackets, pack our pipes full of snuff, put some Mingus on the hifi, and did some armchair GMing. What follows is our panicked odyssey through the Capitals roster, our premature prognostications, our malevolent molestations, and one cheap crack about John Erskine’s facial hair.

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David Steckel and Mike Knuble At Redskins Cowboys Game

David Steckel and Mike Knuble at Skins Cowboys Game

Mega-sports-celebrities LeBron James and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were at the Redskins Cowboys game tonight. One rooted for the good guys and one rooted for the bad guys. That’s cool and all, but we here at RMNB don’t give a crap about them. (Though Dale Jr. was awesome in that one Three Doors Down video.) What we care about are guys with character. Guys who will take out my trash if I need them too. Guys who will awkwardly attempt 70 yard field goals with pucks on a wooden platform while in really tight polo shirts. So when we saw that Stecks and Kanoobs were hanging out at tonight’s Skins game via a Ross Hollebon photo, we had to put it up.

S/T to Melissa (@Love4Greenie) who first alerted us to this photo.

Does Everyone Need More Bradley?

matt-bradley

Everyone Needs More Bradley, right? Whether Matt Bradley was scoring game winning goals, working the PK against some tough competition, staying out of penalty trouble or just plain acting like a superhero, the Caps definitely needed more of it.

But do all players benefit from playing more with Brads?

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Gordon Opens the Floodgates! Caps Beat Habs 5-1.

OvieOnHisKnees

Ovechkin hails his Canadiens fans after his second-period goal (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Ryan Remiorz)

Finally, the Washingon Capitals finish a game in sixty minutes. But tonight’s soaring victory over the Montreal Canadiens nearly wasn’t such. Without Boyd Gordon’s brilliant short-handed goal early in the second period, the Caps might not have detonated the goalsplosion that followed.

Relying mostly on that 20 minute score buffet, the Caps easily bested the Nads 5-1.  Caps take the series lead 2-1.  Natch.

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Me Laich-y! Caps Beat Bruins 3-2 OT.

Me Laich-y. Brooks Laich Scores The Game Winner in Overtime. Caps Beat Bruins 3-2.

Weird bounces, Long goal reviews & Floating Pucks. What a fun night. (Photos by Nick Wass)

Weird bounces, Long goal reviews & Floating Pucks. What a fun night. (Photos by Nick Wass)

Funny isn’t it that the Capitals and Bruins will meet twice in the last week of the regular season before playing one another in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If tonight’s game sets a precedence for next week, we’re due for some entertaining hockey.

Tonight’s victory over Boston saw goals from fan favorites Nicky Backstrom, Mike Knuble and Books Laich, who secured the overtime gamewinner. Despite the everpresent physicality of Zdeno Chara’s bleeding nose and the dynamism of Patrice Bergeron, the Caps emerged victorious. Three games or bust.

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Oops. Russian Machine made a boo boo. (AP Photo)

Oops. Russian Machine screw up big time. (AP Photo)

At around 2:00pm, after Alex Ovechkin was tossed and Chicago was starting the third period with a 3-0 lead, I got a call from RMNB lead writer Peter Hassett who’s currently spending his last day in California for a weekend wedding. He said and I quote:

“I thought the Tampa Bay Game was the disaster game of the season. I guess it’s this one now.”

I reminded him that there was still 1 full period of play left- which is a lot of time for the Capitals even without Ovechkin – and that Chicago blew a similar 3-0 lead to the Flyers the day before. Undeterred, Peter replied “Dude, It’s Over.”

So of course, the Capitals were victorious and won in Overtime over a stunned Chicago Blackhawks team, 4-3. SORRY PETER. We’re just going to warn you now, we’re not in the mood for happy bullets.

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Caps Beat Wings 3-2 Thanks to Theo!

Jose Theodore Shuts Down Red Wings, Caps Win 3-2

#needsmorebradley We think yes.

#needsmorebradley We think yes. (AP Photos)

EVEN LATER UPDATE:  Lisa Hillary comments have been clarified.  Varly’s involvement in the Olympics is “doubtful”.  This is definitely a more pessimistic take than others are sharing, but not completely dire.

LATE UPDATE:  During the post-game report on CSN, Lisa Hillary reported that Semyon Varlamov has had another setback in his recovery (groin, then MCL strain).  According to CSN, Varlamov will NOT be playing in the Olympics.

Every year, the Detroit Red Wings are a staple of the playoffs. It’s a truism of hockey that to get to the cup you must first go through them. For the bigger part of tonight’s hockey game, it looked like the Washington Capitals were not up to the challenge. But there’s a new truism — one that the Capitals have coined– that strength comes from depth. Through the efforts of low-key players like David Steckel, Matt Bradley, Jose Theodore, and Nicklas Backstrom (okay, he’s a superstar); the Caps came back to win a crucial game.

Let’s review shall we:

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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Bolts Beat Caps 7-4

CSN+'s broadcast of tonight's game was almost as ugly as the game itself.

CSN+'s coverage of tonight's game was as ugly as the game itself.

My job is not easy tonight, friends. This game obeyed no laws of hockey that I know to be true, and it shakes me to my very core. The Tampa Bay Lightning take two points and a victory away from their 7-4 win over the Washington Capitals, but they leave questions and doubts in the minds of Caps fans worldwide. For starters, wtf just happened?

Let’s get this over with:

  • Lil Goalstopper Supreme Michal Neuvirth was tested relentlessly in the first period, and he was found wanting. He delivered a couple great stops, sure, but four pucks got past him. Neuvi-not-Neuvy can share the blame with an incompetent defensive force, but he certainly earned the hook Boudreau offered him after the first period.
  • Nicklas Backstrom has a reputation for being a self-disciplined playmaker, but tonight he flipped the bill. Backy gave up two poorly timed penalties and created no plays.
  • Mike Green scored two great goals and flirted with the Hat to no avail.
  • After a missed call, Alexander Ovechkin got into a brawl with Tampa Bay right winger repeat offender Steve Downie. The two split minors, but upon exiting the box Downie instigated another fight. Kapitan was dropping his gloves when all of a sudden
  • Matt Bradley, who is probably the heart and soul of this team, takes his boss’ spot in the fray. I guess Brad could not allow the games best weapon to be locked up for another penalty. That’s a real team-player move, and we commend him for it. If we had a sense of humor, we might even make a joke. For his heroism, Bradley was given a game misconduct.
  • David Steckel and his baby face even got in on the fight action. For some reason the Eddie Haskell of the Caps agreed to drop gloves with ultimate warrior Zenon Konopka. Steck put his dukes up, and landed a lovely first cross, but that was pretty much it. The refs must have decided to break up the fight when Zenon’s arms got tired.
  • The Bolts grabbed 4 power play goals. Excepting a few bright spots from Brian Pothier, the Caps’ defense were inequal to the task of stumping Tampa Bay’s …electrifying… offense. (You know we’re unhappy with the game when we let a horrible pun that like that make it to post.)
  • Here’s a bright spot. The Caps led shots on goal 16-5 in the second period. We’d like to think that Ovechkin roused his teammates from sleepwalking through the first. In the same manner, we suspect it was Captain Caveman who led the team into the barfight-on-ice that concluded the game.

There’s more to say about this game. As Master Blogger Ian “Oland-is-the-kind-of-hammer-you-want-on-your-back-end” (and yes that’s a Craig Laughlin quote) Oland said, tonight felt like a few dozen games strung together. Frankly, we’re demoralized. The Capitals got outplayed and outfought for fifty nine minutes and fifty nine seconds. We’re thankful that the officials handed out a mercy kill and spared us that last, grizzly second.

The Washington Capitals have THREE more games to play this week. Tomorrow night the boys from Chinatown will drag their bruised carcasses to Sunrise, Florida. Here’s the part where I usually say something optimistic, but it’s hard to be plucky when your favorite team just got beaten up– figuratively and literally.

Off-Day News Update

Verizon Center is quiet tonight, spared from hockey games and gun fights alike. Despite that, this is in no way a quiet day for the Washington Capitals.

  • As we reported regurgitated last night, David Steckel has signed a three-year extension with the Caps.  We like to see Steck happy, but we are curious of this deal’s provenance.  The left winger is a serious grinder, tallying only 5 points all season, and he’s the only regular player in rotation on the wrong side of the plus/minus ratio (-1).   As always, we defer to the infinite wisdom of GMGM, who will forget more about hockey than we’ll ever learn.
  • Everything I said nice about George McPhee just now?  Forget it.  Tyler Sloan has also signed a contract extension.  Sloan is a swingman, which we think means he is good at neither offense nor defense.  When the Caps had a blueliner meltdown last week (Jurcina traded, Pothier injured, Erskine erskined), Sloan still didn’t play.  Sloan is -2 this season, but that number means very little from such a small sample size.  You gotta think Bruce Boudreau and the Caps management know something about these guys we don’t know.
  • Karl Alzner has been sent back to Hershey.  Does this mean that Sloan will be on a D-pairing on Thursday?
  • Caps prospect John Carlson is the talk of the town today after his OT win against Team America’s Hat in the World Junior Championship.  He showed impressive composure and patience in that breakaway goal, opting to shoot instead of risking a pass (a lesson his future teammates might want to learn!).  Carlson’s play deserves to be on every sports show’s highlight reel this week.
  • Not-captain Brooks Laich was on the Elliot in the Morning radio show on Wednesday morning.  He assures us that everyone still loves Theodore.  We are assured of this.
  • Tarik El-Bashir reports that Jose Theodore will start in goal against the Ottowa Senators tomorrow night (WaPo).   After having warmed the bench for what seems like weeks, Bruce Boudreau says, “We’re going to need Theo to play and we’re going to need Theo to play good. We’re going to need Theo to get his confidence.”  I love BB and his garden-salad-y wisdom, but this is crazy talk.  Sitting the guy in favor of Neuvy the newbie does nothing but rob Jose of confidence.  Although I’m alone on this among the RMNB staff, I think Theodore is a terrific netminder, and he possesses one of the best glove hands in the NHL.  If he’s having a crisis of confidence, the team should show him support.  That means giving him ice time, and — once he’s out there– not feed him to the wolves.  Bottom line: if Tom Poti learns how to clear the puck in the next 20-odd hours, all should be fine.

That’s all the news that fits for tonight.  We’ll be back tomorrow night to chronicle the Caps’ thunderous 6-1 defeat of the Senators, and what we predict will be the team’s first hat trick of the season (by Matt Bradley).  Stay tuned to see if we’re right!