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[Ed. note: Jason Rogers, Sperm Whale captain and hockey Hemingway, is back for your amuse bouche. But be warned: do not take his insights as mere foam on the web: so far, he's been more spot on than Vinnie "Legs" Baggodonnouts. You are warned. Follow him now here. Thus endeth the editor's finger-wagging.]

Sasha needs an image consultant.

Sasha needs an image consultant.

The Early Morning Skate: Like a piece of old taffy or an oft-abused Slinky, this season is reaching its final stretch. The Washington Capitals sit a few points out from the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and on Tuesday the good guys from DC take I-95 South (avoid the mixing bowl!)  to North Carolina to face the Staal & Staal Traveling Circus, featuring “Sasha the Incredible Human Enigma?”

This will be the fourth of five meetings this season between our Caps and the Tropical Depressions, and it is time for this Washington team to decide whether it wants to spend May playing hockey or golf. Watch and learn.

The Mourning Skate: What is the length of one point? Is it the width of one puck crossing or not crossing the goal line? Is it the size of one of John “Towelie” Carlson’s skate edges slipping and giving the other team a breakaway? Is it the distance between wherever the first round of the playoffs is held and Jeff “Sgt.” Schultz’s favorite local golf course?

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AP Photo/Ted Richardson

AP Photo/Ted Richardson

[Doug Johnson of the PuckBuddys is back! And he has this preview. Yet another preview. Which, for the record, he doesn't need to do, he just chooses to do. He could stop at any time. Really. Just this one more. Go be co-dependent with him here.]

Morning Skate: Well fiddle-dee-dee. No sooner do we air out the Rangers’ stank from Verizon than the hillbillies from Hooterville return, bringing with them an undiscovered country of smell. Yes y’all, the Carolina Hurricanes are blowing back in, bringing with them their corn-pone, possum caps, crystal meth and Alex Semin, in something like that order.

Of course “stank” is something we all got a heapin’ helpin’ of this weekend. Must we really bring it up again – the juvenile penalties, the evaporating puck-management skills, John Tortorella’s stupid fat face? Apparently, yes.

Just what is happening in hockeyville? What is at the root of this existential struggle? I was contemplating this conundrum when a colleague at work asked me about the loud whooshing in the vent above my desk. “Is it blowing or sucking?” he asked.

Exactly.

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Carolina Hurricanes Preview: Point Break

Doug Johnson: Puck Buddy, dog owner, hockey fan, public intellectual. Follow @PuckBuddys.  

The Pregame: So you gotta give credit where it’s due. Whatever your political leanings (ours is usually doubled over, holding our stomachs, in the loo) that ol’ Newton Leroy Gingrich gets points for some sassy thinking. Seems then-Speaker Stay-Puft, some six years into an affair with a young House staffer (and Tiffany connoisseur) named Calista, basically told his wife Marianne that she would need to “share” him with his mistress. (There we are in the loo again.) At least, this according to ex-wife Marianne – no, not the one he divorced while she was in the hospital, that was a totes different wife! – who basically told Newt to get stuffed. He dumps her, marries the mistress who promptly begins a powerful benziodiazepine regimen (we’re making that part up) and now all is lollipops, the end.

We bring this up, in part because it’s still a larf-riot, but also because we’re doing some sassy thinkin’ of our own. Let’s just say, completely hypothetical here, that you’re the GM of a professional sports team with loads of potential but some underperforming talent. What to do? You want to keep him; sure, who doesn’t? But maybe you could also find a comely, pliable team somewhere else that may just want to share a little of his upkeep and tending while making you look genius. Everyone wins, right?

And thus American civic life dies a muffled death.

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Caps beat Canes 5-1, Cody Eakin Scores First NHL Goal

Photo credit: Gerry Broome

The Washington Capitals last met the Carolina Hurricanes at home for the first game of the season. That game established the 2011-12 Caps as the scoring force we’ve been waiting for. Tonight was more of the same. More delightful, delightful same.

Right after the faceoff, Anthony Stewart redirected a Jay Harrison shot that Neuvirth wasn’t ready for. Jeff Halpern dove for his goal in the second. Soon after, Marcus Johansson provided a gorgeous saucer to Troy Brouwer, who scored effortlessly. John Carlson slapped a big one home on the power play. Cody Eakin scoared his first NHL goal halfway through the third thanks to a smart pass from Alex Semin. Alex Ovechkin slid the puck gracefully to points-leader Nick Backstrom, who executed the layup. Caps beats Canes 5-1.

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Chad La Rose

Chad LaRose (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Editor’s note: Doug Johnson of Puck Buddys writes for RMNB. Tweet at his face.

The Post-Mortem: So, everyone happy?  At least those with Ward and Backstrom shirseys?  Luv U Caps, but we’re tired of writing the “Tale of Two Caps” (See: Hassett, Peter) - you know, the bedraggled guttersnipes everyone wrote off after the 1st period who then come back to show their true mettlel? Memo to Bruce Boudreau and team: We don’t need drama. We don’t want drama.  Please, enough of the plucky comebacks by the adorable yet overlooked (*cough Nicky cough Greenie*) boy heros. Dickens did it before, and better. (Although, Coach, you’d make a memorable Fezziwig). Memo to Ovi:  “In addition to Russian, we’re learning how to lip read. And then we’ll learn how to lip read Russian. быть осторожным!

The Caps had a couple of busy days off after the Ducks game. While Ovi was managing ‘Bench-gate,’ Brooksie, Sasha, and Coach Woods visited the Kent Gardens Elementary for a hockey clinic in the school gym. They had Air Slapshot in tow – if ‘tow’ is the right word to describe dragging along an inflatable mascot (which looked like it had become untethered from a Pink Floyd show). The video and the pics from the day were adorable. However, reports from our McLean bureau (and the school nurse’s office) tell a different story – three school kids ended up on the wrong end of some O zone penalties. Neither the players or coach addressed ‘Stick-gate,’ but Sasha was heard muttering something in Russian (“Чувствительная кожа”), as he was hurried away from school grounds.

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Screengrab via @TFGot.

In the Capitals thrilling 4-3 overtime-victory against division rival Carolina, there were several bigs hits of note. Nicklas Backstrom rocked Jiri Tlusty’s world with a fantastic counter-hit and Alex Semin decked Hurricanes Bryan Allen at the end of regulation.

While Backstrom’s hit was totally clean (shoulder to chest), Sasha Minor’s hit was borderline dirty and 2,000 percent unnecessary. Don’t believe me? Check out the video.

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Mike Green Game Over

Photo credit: Nick Wass

It’s been a long time. The Washington Capitals are back in action, opening up their 2011-2012 season at home. Hosting the Carolina Hurricanes, the Caps have a lot of drama in their rear view, and a lot of questions to answer. Goalie drama, Alex Ovechkin’s return to glory, Sasha cares, the new guys, offensive doldrums. You’ve heard it all before. Get ready for some answers.

In the second period Eric Staal put the puck past a sucked-out Michal Neuvirth. Hooked up by a smart outlet pass from John Carlson, Alex Semin guided the puck in to tie it up. That near-goal Jason Chimera breakaway thing happened for the billionth time, but Jason finally hit his target. But Eric Staal tied it up early in the third by waiting in the right spot. On a climactic 5 on 3, gorgeous Brooks Laich returned the rebound. But with the extra skater, Jussi Jordache Jokinen snuck one past Neuvy. In a penalty-ridden OT, Mike Green served the puck into– and beyond– Boucher’s love-making region. Game over. Caps win 4-3 (OT).

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[Editor's note: We are proud to welcome writers Craig Brownstein and Doug Johnson to the Russian Machine! You might already know Craig and Doug from their gay-focused hockey blog, Puck Buddys. You are hereby required to follow them on Twitter: @PuckBuddys. Puck Buddys is increasing its scope from Caps-centric coverage to the whole NHL, so you'll see C+D here a lot, especially for game previews. Please give them a very warm welcome and let us know if they break anything expensive.]

And now, a new season kicks off with an ominous sign of the Hockpocalypse - teh gays are now writing about the Caps for RMNB: a risky collaboration between the established Russian royalty (or oligarchy), and the gauche, nouveau riche upstarts.  The cheeky bastards of the hockey world will occasionally share insightful analysis, anatomy lessons, and keen fashion sense with a wider cross-section of the Caps fanbase. The questions on everyone’s lips?  1) Who’s going to embarrass the other first?  Answer: We’re demonstrating that right now. 2) How did RMNB end up with us? Answer: Dave Nichols of District Sports Page already grabbed all the talented free agents.

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Fancystats Crash the ESPN Mock Draft

Anze Kopitar

Anze Kopitar celebrates a goal last year against the Blackhawks. (Photo credit: Harry How)

Editor’s note: You can win a 1-year subscription to ESPN Insider and a $25 gift certificate to Front Page VA by guessing Neil’s first two draft picks tonight. Check out the details on our Facebook page.

As part of ESPN.com’s NHL family, I was invited to participate in their fantasy hockey draft this past Tuesday. Just me and guys like Craig Custance, John Buccigross, and Scott Cullen.

No pressure.

Victoria Matiash has already given a bird’s eye view of the draft, but I thought I would run through my thought process on various picks and give you some ideas for your fantasy draft. Plus, you can see how I do for the season because we are making the results public.

Here were the ground rules for the draft:

Participants included, in original order, Craig Custance, Tristan Cockcroft, Tim Kavanagh, John Buccigross, Pierre Becquey, Michael Hume, Victoria Matiash, Neil Greenberg, Sean Allen and Scott Cullen. Categories include goals, assists, power-play points, plus/minus, penalty minutes, shots on goal and average time on ice for skaters and wins, save percentage and goals-against average for goaltenders. Slots to fill include nine forwards, five defensemen, one “utility” skater, two goaltenders and a five-man bench.

My philosophy was simple: grab young, healthy, talented players with upside. Let others worry if Patrick Kane would be healthy or if Sergei Kostitsyn can once again score 20 goals on less than 100 shots.

I had the eight pick. With my editor Mike Hume drafting before me (he knows which players I fancy) and Cullen having back-to-back picks behind me I knew I had to make strategic decisions.

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Alex Ovechkin Signs Six-Year Deal with Bauer

Ovi sports his new gear. Click to enlarge. (Photo credit: Bauer)

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

The world’s most famous hockey player has got some new gear. After dropping CCM over the summer, Alex Ovechkin unveiled a new six-year sponsorship with rival manufacturer Bauer, whose equipment Ovi used for the first three years of his career. This is Ovechkin’s second new sponsorship of the week after news of his long-term deal with superpower Nike for “lifestyle” and “performance” products surfaced on Thursday night.

“I think that CCM treat me well,” Ovechkin told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “They help me a lot and without that project I can’t score 65 goals. But in that kind of moment and that kind of situation right now, I feel that Bauer is company who I’m looking forward to work with. I played with this stick a couple years ago and I like it.”

The move doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. With Ovi’s ditching CCM — and therefore their parent company Reebok — that left Bauer as the only company with the cash to pickup a superstar endorsement.

The move was also teased on Bauer’s Web site over the holiday weekend, with their home page sporting a picture of skates with the Great Eight’s trademark yellow laces and the banner “This year will be different.”

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