During the mess that was Monday’s brawl-filled Capitals-Bruins game, one play jumped out at me.
With the Caps on the powerplay, defenseman Connor Carrick got the puck. He was the lone guy on the point — with Mikhail Grabovski at his right and Troy Brouwer to his left. Bruins veteran Daniel Paille went after Carrick, thinking he could cause the youngster, playing one of the hardest positions in hockey– powerplay quarterback, to cough up the puck or surrender the blue line.
What would you expect from a 19-year-old on this play? Keeping the puck in the zone and dumping it in would be satisfactory, but that’s not what Carrick did. Instead, he faked an easy pass to Brouwer and then backhanded the puck to Grabovski. No one on the ice except Carrick seemed to expect that play. He kept the Bruins in their own end with a simple, smart pass– showing NHL-quality poise in the process.
George McPhee doesn’t tip his hand often, but during an interview with DC101’s Elliot In the Morning last week, the man some call The Undertaker revealed his softer, less-cage-matchy side when he discussed Matt Hendricks’ new four-year, $7.4-million deal with the Nashville Predators.
With the signing of Karl Alzner, the Washington Capitals are just one Johansson-shaped puzzle piece away from finalizing its roster for 2013-14. Maybe. There’s still a lot of time to make moves between now and October, but what we see now might resemble the opening-night lineup. Most of the other teams in Division D (aka the Patrick++ Division, aka the “Jagr” Division) have already set their teams, so we’ve got an interesting– if a bit premature– idea of how those general managers have allocated their salary for next season.
In short: George McPhee has pinched his pennies on defense and opened up his wallet George Jetson-style for forwards.
Washington Capitals general manager George McPheewent on ESPN980 Wednesday afternoon to talk hockey, and boy did he hit some interesting topics. McPhee explained what characteristics the Caps need to have to become a Stanley Cup winner in the future, and he defended his decision to anoint Brooks Laich the second-line center for next season. “There are a handful of teams that maybe have a better second-line center than Brooks,” he said. “It’s [an idea] we’ve been talking about for a few years, and the time has come to do it.”
The most interesting part of the discussion, however, was McPhee’s remarks on Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is due in North America sometime next year. McPhee admits some frustration about the two-year contract Kuznetsov signed with Traktor Chelyabinsk last spring to stay in the KHL, saying that Kuznetsov went against a verbal promise he made after the 2010 NHL Draft. He also talks about how hard of a contract it was for Kuznetsov to turn down. “He’s 20-years-old, they gave him ten million dollars to play for two more seasons,” McPhee said. “It’s a 13% tax rate over there and even with that, most of the money is under the table. It’s probably no tax.”
The KHL never made Kuzya’s contract public, but it is believed his average annual salary from Traktor is in the two-million range. That would mean that the KHL gave Kuznetsov a bonus around $5 million to stay. And, as we learned from an Igor Kleyner post last year, the KHL’s Legal Regulations handbook has a open-ended rule that allows the league to do exactly just that.
[Traktor] may also apply to the KHL for a special stipend to supplement the young star’s salary. There are no specific limits on the amount of such a stipend, or any clear criteria defining eligibility.
Below, check out McPhee’s entire interview with ESPN980.
Red’s definitely his color. (Photo credit: Harry How)
Back on January 6, 2011, Team Russia made the biggest comeback in World Junior Championship history, scoring five unanswered third period goals against Canada to win the gold medal. Then-18-year-old Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov centered the team’s first line and led the charge, assisting on three of the team’s goals.
Kuznetsov’s assist on Vladimir Tarasenko’s game-tying goal made him a hero in Russia and known to hockey fans worldwide. The play was was a perfect example of how he might play center in the NHL. Kuznetsov back-checked a Canadian player and stole the puck. After some diligent forechecking, he found Vladimir Tarasenko in the slot with an uncanny no-look pass.
Let’s play a game. I’ll quote from an article, and you tell me if the author is talking about the 2011 Caps or the 2013 Penguins.
For the second straight postseason, [Coach] let the reins slip on his team. In both series, he fumbled and bumbled and finally grabbed them again, only it was too late to guide the wagon train away from the cliff’s edge.
That in consecutive playoff eliminations, the [team] haven’t just lost, they’ve come unhinged.
Bylsma’s contract would have been up after the 2014 season, so action by GM Ray Shero seemed necessary before the season began. Shero extended Byslma, a move that the Pensblog said makes “unlimited sense.” As they put it before the signing, “If the Pens don’t extend Bylsma, firing him will be all anyone talks about next season.”
Now that Ray Shero has re-upped Bylsma and voiced unwavering support for his embattled coach, we might expect smooth sailing for the Penguins from here on out. But to do that, we’d have to ignore all the eerie similarities between Bylsma and Boudreau– and the not-too-distant memory of what happened to Bruce just a few months after his own GM endorsed him.
The day after Christmas, Nicklas Backstrom was skating in a KHL game for Dynamo Moscow. Midway through the second period of a 1-1 game, Nick took a pass in the far corner. He attempted to spin around and take the puck behind the net. Instead, Backstrom was slammed into the boards by Milan Kytnár; his face hitting the dashers. Backstrom got up, clearly shaken. He left the game after one more shift.
Given Backstrom missed 40 games last year after being concussed by Rene Bourque, this was a scary blow. Dynamo, however, insisted that his brain didn’t take the beating. It was, they said, a bruised neck. Backstrom’s agent reiterated that. But then Alex Ovechkin said something funny when asked about his teammate’s injury: “Sometimes it’s not hard hit, you just feel a little dizzy.” Dizziness, of course, does not usually go along with bruises.
Ribs salutes the fans after his overtime goal in game five. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
For perhaps the final time in DC, Mike Ribeiro is #swag. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)
The Washington Capitals have been searching for a second-line center for years. Last summer, they finally got one. In a shortened season with the Caps, Mike Ribeiro was excellent — even when his team wasn’t. He anchored Washington’s power play, turning Alex Ovechkin — a guy the Caps have invested $123 million in — into a lethal threat. He stabilized the top six. He led the league in points on the man advantage, a huge source of the team’s scoring. He will soon be a free agent. The captain wants him back, though, and so does the coach.
After a thrilling third period comeback against the London Knights, the Plymouth Whalers wilted in overtime to Dale Hunter’s crew, 5-4. The game five loss in the OHL’s Western Conference Finals ended Plymouth’s season. The good news for Caps fans is that because of the Whalers early exit, 2012 first-round pick Tom Wilson will be able to make his debut in the Capitals organization imminently.
“To bring the kid straight to the NHL — maybe he’s ready for the NHL — but I’d rather him start in Hershey and see how it goes,” McPhee explained. “If he’s good enough to play here, you can make a change. It helps everyone to spend a little time in the minors.”
A few minutes after Plymouth’s loss Friday, the voice of the Bears, Scott Stuccio, confirmed what McPhee said, expecting Wilson to join Hershey in their playoff series against the Providence Bruins.