In the new age of sports media, if you’re a superstar who has not won a championship or somewhat improved your stats from the year before, you get branded an overpaid heel and get flogged furiously by big-name network TV analysts for not trying hard enough or being too dim to adjust your game. It’s hard to recall now, but there was once a time when Ilya Bryzgalov’s fascination with space was just a personality quirk from an elite goaltender.

But if you’re Alex Ovechkin, a man whose every breath is compared to Canada’s favorite son, Sidney Crosby, a successful position change, an attitude adjustment, and some new hardware still may not guarantee positive reviews from the media.

Let’s take everybody’s favorite oddly dressed, bigoted uncle, Don Cherry, who gave an interview to Sovetsky Sport’s Leonid Varshavsky before game five of the Stanley Cup Finals. While predicting Ovechkin will be even better next season, Cherry still managed to get a couple digs in on Ovi for “taking all the criticism from the press too close to his heart.” How dare he. Also, Cherry has no idea who Maria Kirilenko is.

Igor Kleyner has your translation.

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KHL Signing Open Thread

After midnight came and went, hockey’s biggest league is now out of order and NHL stars are free to sign contracts withh Russia’s KHL. Free from their contractual obligations as of now, players can sign with teams overseas (though some leagues, such as Swedish Elitserien (SEL), don’t allow temporary contracts).

Earlier, the KHL announced requirements for players signing temp deals. A single team can sign no more than three players and only one of them can be non-Russian (though teams are not obligated to dress more than five foreigners to games). They don’t count against the salary cap, but they can’t be signed to contracts worth more than the 65% of their NHL deals’ annual value.

Foreign KHL players must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Play in more than 150 NHL games in the previous three seasons;
  • Have KHL experience;
  • Be a Stanley Cup winner or finalist;
  • Be a winner of one of the NHL’s annual awards;
  • Play for their national teams on the 2010 Olympics, one of the last two World Champs or one of the last two World Junior Champs.

These rules don’t apply to the KHL teams representing countries outside Russia.

Below the jump, we give you the blow-by-blow of the KHL’s version of a free-agent frenzy.

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Everything is Happening! Pens beat Caps 4-3 (OT)

Photo credit: Justin K. Aller

Yawn. These Washington Capitals / Pittsburgh Penguins games are always such tedious affairs. Nothing interesting ever happens.

Okay, but for real. This game was a monster. The Capitals looked wounded in the first period, surrendering easy goals early and firing just four shots on net. They came back in the second transformed and reinvigorated. After Mike Knuble crashed the net and just barely missed a goal, the offense turned on. The Capitals regained the shot lead and kept their foot on the gas until the very end.

No one challenged Kris Letang on the power play, so he had a great lane and great screen on the game’s first goal. James Neal flicked one past Neuvirth right after a face off to make it 2-0. The game was six minutes old.

In the second, Dennis Wideman set up Brooks Laich for a crucial goal during 4-on-4. Alex Semin cleaned up Mathieu Perreault’s rebound to tie the game and blow our freaking minds.

In the third, Alex Ovechkin caught a wide pass from Alex Semin and beat Marc-Andre Fleury to open up a lead. James Neal finished off a brilliant zone entry by Evgeni Malkin to knot the score again. That tie took us all the way into overtime, where Malkin casually tipped in the game-winner. Pens beat Caps 4-3 (OT).

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The NHL is Back on Russian Airwaves

After long negotiations, the Russian National Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) has secured the rights to broadcast the NHL on their sports channels (free SD Russia 2 and cable HD Sport 1).

Back when RMNB was in its infancy, I described what it was like to be a fan of the Washington Capitals in Moscow. Staying up until 6am and searching the internet for feeds of Caps games (where there’s no guarantee I will hear Joe B. and Locker), is neither convenient or healthy.

Understanding this shortfall, the NHL started offering a Russian version of their website this season, and they allowed Europeans to watch games on NHL GameCenter Live. The VGTRK deal — which was completed in November — is another step towards globalizing the NHL.

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Alex Semin: Bettman Has Never Been to Siberia!

Alex Semin

Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

In his first game back since January 8th, Alex Semin led the Capitals with four shots on goal in 17:47 of ice time. After a 12 game layoff that stretched over 26 days, Sasha Minor looked rusty and missed on several golden opportunities. The Capitals fell to the Sharks 2-0, and endured their eighth shutout of the season.

After the game, SovSport’s Pavel Lysenkov caught up with Semin and asked him how he felt in his return, his thoughts on Bruce Boudreau’s trap, and what it’d mean to him to open next season in Russia. RMNB’s Igor Kleyner has your translation below the jump.

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Alex Ovechkin: “Hang On, Malych. Such is Life.”

Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom look for revenge on Matt Cooke.

Photo credit: Greg Fiume

In Sunday’s matinee against their most hated rival, the Washington Capitals had their second straight dominant performance, beating Pittsburgh at home 3-0. Since they lost to the Pens in game seven of the 2008-09 playoffs, the Capitals have won six out of their last seven meetings and have outscored the Pens 29-17 during that same span.

Unfortunately, there were two key incidents that overshadowed talk of the game itself. First, Tim Wallace tried to exact revenge on “Danger” Dave Steckel for his incidental contact with Sidney Crosby in the Winter Classic. And second, perrenial agitator Matt Cooke tried to take out the Great 8 with a knee-on-knee collision late in the third period.

After the game, SovSport’s Pavel Lysenkov spoke with Alex Ovechkin and asked him what he thought about Cooke’s hit, the physical nature of hockey, and Evgeni Malkin’s season-ending injury. Below the jump, RMNB’s Igor Kleyner has the translation.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov

When a Caps Prospect goes above and beyond the call of duty, a one paragraph summary in Prospect Watch does not suffice. Today, we detail the fantastic first half of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s sophomore KHL season. Take it away, Fedor.

Kuznetsov raises his arms to Traktor fans during a post-game celebration routine. See our video below to see what we mean.

Kuznetsov gestures to Traktor fans during a post-game celebration. See the video below for more.

During the 2010 NHL Entry Draft on June 26th, General Manager George McPhee had his sights set on one player. In his eagerness, he even tried to trade away a prospect for a move up ten spots in the first round to get his man. That would prove to be unnecessary.

Evgeny Kuznetsov fell to the Caps at pick number 26. “We think he’s a very, very dynamic player,” McPhee said of Kuz at the time. “He can skate, he thinks the game well, he moves the puck, he really attacks the net.” Braden Holtby agrees.

Fast-forward five months. You’ll find the 18 year-old tearing up the KHL in only his second season. Since being put on the “Young Guns Line” with Andrei Popov (a Philadelphia Flyers ’06 draftee) and Anton Glinkin, Kuznetsov has found some serious chemistry with his linemates. He has four goals and two assists in six games since the EuroHockeyTour break ended on November 17th. His team, Traktor Chelyabinsk, has won five straight games.

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The two kapitans, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Ovechkin

Sunday per Championat.ru, Washington Capitals Superstar Alex Ovechkin and recently-signed New Jersey Devil Ilya Kovalchuk held a charity hockey game at Sokolniki Arena in downtown Moscow. The reason? To raise money for the children affected by the terrible wildfires in Russia this summer. The high-scoring match ended in a 13-13 tie and raised 13,870,000 ruble or $451,900 American Dollars for the children’s fund.

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What Is Alex Semin Worth In Fantasy Hockey?

As close as we could get to Alex Semin in a Fantasy!

“Is it October yet?” takes a back seat to “Is it Draft Day yet?” for us Fantasy Hockey poolies. We eagerly wait to draft Ovechkin or any other Capitals our forwards, defensemen and goaltenders and trash talk our way to victory! However, one player’s value seems to be fairly uncertain: Alexander Semin. ESPN has him ranked as the 8th best player overall for your fantasy team, while Yahoo’s Puck Daddy ranks him 33rd. We here at RMNB try to answer the most important question facing you on draft day: What is Semin worth in fantasy hockey?

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willie-mitchell Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images North America

“We need a blueliner” is a typical Caps Fan’s lament this offseason (second only to DAMMIT!) and recently unrestricted free agent defenseman Willie Mitchell has been rumored to be in the Capital’s cross-hairs. Mitchell has been training and skating for 18 days and is finally symptom-free after his latest concussion – all fueling speculation that his signing is imminent.

But would Wilie Mitchell a good fit on the Capitals’ blueline?

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