I Got the Jersey Off Eric Fehr’s Back

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Every year I’ve enjoyed watching the Jerseys off Our Backs ceremony. It was always fun watching fans and players interacting in that fashion. And every year, afterwards I would turn to my mother and say, “Someday that’s gonna be me.”

Last Tuesday I came home from work to the surprise of a lifetime from my mother.

“So, I just got off the phone with our new ticket rep… She just called to say ‘hello’ and chat…. Oh, and by the way we’re doing Jerseys Off Our Back on Sunday.”

I almost cried when I heard those words. Our family had never won ANY prizes through the Season Ticket Holder contests, so this was a gigantic surprise.  For the next few days, it was all I had on my mind: Who would I get?? Someone I adore?? Will I be able to retain composure, or would I be overcome by teh feels and crumple to the ice in a teary ball?

Sunday came around, and two periods of hockey later, I was leaving 104 for the last time this season to check in for the event. I ended up being early, so I caught the first half of the third period from the top of the steps. But soon, we all had envelopes in our hands and were making our way downstairs to wait for the end of the game. Overtime and the shootout was spent in a hallway by the visiting locker room, so we had no TV to watch the end of the game on. Thankfully, the guy in front of me got CSN on his smartphone so we were able to see the (unfortunate) end of the game. Once the Lightning had made their way to the locker room, we all headed out onto the ice!

My hands were shaking. I was gonna be third to go, which was better than first, but I still had the jitters. Soon enough the spotlight was on me and I was told to open my envelope. I was overjoyed by the number inside: 16.

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Photo: Chris Gordon

On Monday, the Washington Capitals held Breakdown Day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. For two hours, Caps players filed out of the locker room and conducted exit interviews with the media. Because of the whole no playoffs thing, there were a lot of long faces.

There’s about three hours of interview video to surf though on Monumental Network. Because I hate myself and care only about you, dear reader, I’ve transcribed all the key quotes. And because this is RMNB, I also pointed out the fashion choices. Sadly, there was no crazy hair this year.

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Photo: Alex Brandon

With 42 seconds left in the Capitals’ 4-0 win over Chicago, Jay Beagle skated to the bench looking for a change. He had been on the ice for three shifts in the last four minutes. His teammates, however, were adamant that he stay on the ice. But finally, after Beagle crawled over the bench wall, Eric Fehr stepped on for the final shift.

“I felt bad for him because I knew how tired he was,” Fehr told me. “I could see it in his eyes. He doesn’t get that look very often. He was begging to come off. I took a second and evaluated it and figured I better go.”

Said Beagle of his reaction: “I said “’I’m not! I’m not staying on. I can’t even move my legs anymore!”

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The Achilles Heel of the Capitals Power Play

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Photo: Patrick Smith

The Caps are bad at defense and give up a lot of odd-man breaks. Even when they win, Washington can’t hide that flaw. One aspect of that is particularly troubling: the amount of rushes they allow on their own power play.

The Capitals man-advantage has kept them afloat all year, generating about a third of their offense. However, against the Stars their PP could barely get going. Dallas had two breakaways on Washington’s opening power play, which was quickly negated by a John Carlson slash.

“Usually odd-man rushes are our breakdowns, not necessarily great plays by them,” Carlson said after the game. “We can’t let that happen. We’re too good of players.”

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Eric Fehr: Whew.

Midway through the second period of the Washington Capitals game against the Anaheim Ducks, Caps defenseman John Carlson had an oopsy. As Captain America attempted to clear down the ice, he nailed Eric Fehr right in the side of the head with the puck.

Not good. Commence freaking out.

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The last few weeks have been enough to turn even the most stalwart of Caps fans  unhinged and overstressed monsters. It’d be really easy to become cynical and cop an attitude about the team, but that’s why it’s so important to keep everything in perspective.

Reader Taylor P. wrote us a story last week that was exactly what we needed. Taylor and her brother had an encounter with Eric Fehr and Troy Brouwer at last Tuesday’s game against the Penguins. It was a little moment, but maybe little moments are what this team and this community need to remind ourselves why we’re doing this in the first place.

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Joel Ward Hides in Weeds, Scores 20th Goal of Year

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Photo: Paul Frederiksen

Only one line on the Capitals is made up entirely of double-digit scorers: the third line of Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, and Joel Ward. As we’ve mentioned before, they have been Washington’s top scoring threat outside of Alex Ovechkin this season. Sunday, Ward tallied 20 goals for the first time in career, while also assisting on Chimera’s foot-goal earlier in the first period.

“My karma paid off,” Ward told me after the game. “For me, I just hide in the weeds and try to look for some loose pucks.”

Ward had already topped his previous career high of 17 goals on the first of the month in Boston. Always a solid checking line forward, the 33-year-old has taken off as an offensive force this season. He already has six more goals this year than he did in his first two seasons with the Caps combined (six in ’11-’12, eight in ’13). Caps head coach Adam Oates has also given Ward a prime spot down low on the power play this year, which accounted for his goal against the Leafs. Per your boy Mike Vogel, members of the third line have been on the ice for 10 of Washington’s last 13 goals.

“I’ve counted on Wardo and Chimmer all year long,” Oates. “They penalty kill, power play. Big bodies that we count on for a lot of minutes to get territory for us. It’s good to see them rewarded because you don’t get a lot of accolades based on that, doing grunt work.”

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Eric Fehr celebrates his goal on Monday. (Photo: Rob Carr)

The Capitals have scored 185 goals this season. Alex Ovechkin has 44 of them. For most of the season, the team has struggled with secondary scoring. Lately, however, some of their complementary players are coming alive.

Troy Brouwer has eight goals in 11 games. Brooks Laich had goals in two straight games coming into Monday. Though Laich has being missing practices and morning skates due to a lingering groin injury, he played great against the Penguins, scoring a goal that was later credited to Nick Backstrom. Laich did register an assist, marking his third straight game with a point.

Monday, the third line of Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, and Joel Ward provided half of the Capitals’ offense in a 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh. They greatly titled the ice in their favor, scoring the Caps’ first goal early in the game.

“I thought Fehrsie’s line might’ve had the best game they’ve had all year,” head coach Adam Oates said. “You feel it on the bench. You hear the guys talking on the bench. Your job is to try to have the next line follow and keep it going.”

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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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Caps Get Chances, But Not Goals, Against Sharks

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Photo credit: Rob Carr

Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates has been searching for five-on-five production all season. While Alex Ovechkin has thrived, other members of top six have been less consistent. After the first period on Tuesday, Oates had a new iteration for the first two lines: Eric Fehr-Nicklas Backstrom-Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich-Mikahil Grabovksi-Alex Ovechkin.

“We haven’t scored a lot of goals the last couple games and he’s looking for a spark,” Laich told me of Oates’s change. “Our line had a couple of good chances.”

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