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Before Saturday’s game, I visited Kettler Capitals Iceplex and asked players for their Olympic picks. With the Caps sending five players to Sochi (Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Martin Erat, and John Carlson), I wondered where Washington’s non-Olympians would place their allegiances.

I figured that since the RMNB staff was able to put its own biases aside when we made our predictions, maybe the players would do the same and maybe even offer some hardcore, dispassionate hockey analysis.

Nope. Not even a little.

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Dirty Hit? Matt Martin Boards Dmitry Orlov (GIF)

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Eighteen minutes into the second period of Tuesday’s Capitals-Islanders game, New York’s Matt Martin boarded Dmitry Orlov.

About 15 feet inside the Islanders zone, Orlov gained the puck. He teed up to pass it deeper, turning his body into the pass. That’s when Matt Martin, skating from the other side of the ice, put a shoulder and elbow into the back of Orlov’s shoulder.

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Standings Free Fall: Devils Top Caps 2-1

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Ugh. (Photo: Andy Marlin)

Just like Alex Ovechkin, ya boy Peter was out with an injury tonight. Undisclosed for those asking. I’m nursing the flu. We’re sort of like the Caps of Caps blogs right now.

Embarking on five game road trip with their dads in tow, the Caps headed to newly Cory Booker-less Newark for date with the Devils. Allowing the fewest shots per game in the NHL and featuring the blue-hot Cory Schneider, New Jersey didn’t look like great opponent to get Washington’s hapless offense going. They weren’t. Yep, it’s gonna be one of those again.

As usual these days, the game got off to a horrid start. Five minutes in, Dmitry Orlov made another silly mistake, fumbling the puck in the Caps offensive zone. Steven Gionta and Ryan Carter went the other way on the odd-man break. Shockingly, Mike Green did not misplay the 2-on-1. It wasn’t enough. The puck snuck past Michal Neuvirth off the blade of Gionta.

Early in the second, Adam Henrique put the Devs up by two with Orlov in the box for holding. Jaromir Jagr made the play, fabulously skating through the Capitals defense before feeding the puck in front for his second assist of the game. Facing this Capitals offense, it looked like that was all New Jersey needed.

Jason Chimera, however, had other ideas. Midway through the third, he deflected a John Erskine shot from the point for his third goal in seven games. It wasn’t enough though.

Seven in a row. Devils top Caps 2-1.

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Not Again: Rangers Slam Caps 4-1

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Photo: Scott Levy

Coming into Friday night, the Caps had been playing well. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they nearly beat two of the league’s best teams. But then they played Columbus. It was a disaster, and a moment of reckoning.

After the game, the fan base — and the team — seemed to hit the panic button. People on Twitter smashed their keyboards, pointing out Washington’s glaring defensive holes and overreliance on the power play. None of that, however, is anything new. It’s not likely to change before playoff time either.

On Saturday, Adam Oates came up with wacky line combinations in hopes of righting Washington’s four game skid. It didn’t work.

The game got off to an awful start when Rick Nash picked off a silly defensive zone pass from Dmitry Orlov to put New York up just 70 seconds in. Fifteen minutes later, Nash was at it again. A lack of spatial awareness led to two hooking penalties on the Caps. On the ensuing 5-on-3, the former Blue Jacket floated a weak wrister through Phillip Grubauer’s legs. About a minute and a half later, Derek Stepan put the nail in Washington’s coffin with a shot though traffic. Braden Holtby came in, but the game was already over.

Ovechkin tried to give the Caps life with a 5-on-3 bullet early in the second, but Ryan Callahan put Washington back in their place just 86 seconds later. This was never a game anyway. Rangers slam Caps 4-1.

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Johansson (red) laughs during the preseason Capitals Alumni Game. (Photo: Chris Gordon)

The Washington Capitals’ defense allows the second most shots per game in the NHL. They’ve put perhaps their best defensive prospect, Dmitry Orlov, through recall-scratch-repeat hell. Now that Orlov is finally playing, he’s paired with a guy who has a similar skill set, Mike Green.

Then there’s the frequent shuffling of the Caps blue line deck. Due to injuries, on-ice struggles, waiver pickups, and call-ups from the minors, Washington has used twelve different defenseman this season. Just about every blue liner in the organization has gotten a shot as part of the 2013-14 Caps D corps.

As we head towards the stretch run, the Caps seemed to have settled on a lineup for now: John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Mike Green, Dmitry OrlovJohn Erskine, and Connor Carrick. Though Washington’s defense has been its biggest flaw, its recent improvement may also their best chance at making — and succeeding — in the playoffs.

A few weeks ago, I spoke with assistant coach Calle Johansson, the man who runs the Caps’ blue line, and asked him about some of his decisions, including some of the positives from this season.

The full transcript is below.

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Photo credit: Rob Carr

In overtime, unless you’re a really bad hockey team or extremely good at shootous, you play to win the game. A minute and fifteen seconds into overtime, the Washington Capitals tried to do exactly that, making an aggressive play in the Carolina Hurricanes’ offensive zone to try and secure that one extra standings point.

They paid the price for it however, as Jeff Skinner scored his hat-trick game-winning goal on a jailbreak odd-man rush into the Capitals defensive zone.

Every Capital on the ice minus Philipp Grubuaer shares blame on the goal. Let’s take a look at the bad reads and bad decisions. (This is as close as we’ll ever get to a Justin Bourne Systems Analyst post.)

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A Short Timeline of Capitals Players Requesting Trades

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Photo: Greg Fiume

Two thousand thirteen has been a year of reinvigoration for the Capitals. After a dreary start to the lockout-shortened season, the team began a Cinderella-story rally in March that carried the team into the playoffs and their captain into another MVP trophy. But the last few months have revealed a Capitals team that is not uniformly happy with their spots on the team. While new coach Adam Oates has made his stars happy, a number of lower-tiered players have grown discontent. Three players have requested trades in the last six weeks.

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Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov had a great start to the first period. He tallied a secondary assist on Mike Green’s power play goal and had a few good scoring chances.

But I wanna focus on another first period play. It was Orlov’s feistiness after the whistle, which may or may not have been dirty.

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[Editor's Note: Though he's one of the best players in the world, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is also a normal guy who likes to take in a movie every now and then. That's how RMNB reader Mahesh P. came to run into him and have a night he'll remember forever. Let's turn it over to Mahesh.]

My brother and I found out that Troy Brouwer would be at Tysons Corner Mall a few Thursdays ago, so we decided to go meet him. We were indeed successful in meeting him and he seemed like a really nice guy. I told him that I really like the way the 2nd line is playing right now and that they are cycling the puck really well, which he agreed with obviously. I also mentioned that I really like when Oates puts Fehr in the top 6. To this, Brouwer said “I agree, I think Fehr is really good because he plays well.” So, I would call that a successful meeting.

As amazing as the night had already been, it did not end there.

My brother and I decided to go to see the new Hunger Games movie in the same mall after meeting Brouwer. We debated whether or not to buy the tickets on our phone before dinner so that we wouldn’t have to stand in line at the box office. For the rest of my life, I will be thankful that we decided not to buy the tickets in advance.

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Photo credit: Frank Thorp

Last week, Dmitry Orlov spent his off day surprising a youth hockey team and joining their practice in Laurel. Today, he’s learning some good ol’ fashioned American history, taking a tour of the Capitol building along with his girlfriend Varya, his Russian bro Alex Ovechkin, and Maria Kirilenko.

I’m glad to see Ovi put on his finest sweatpants for the occasion.

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