KuznetsovGameSeven

Photo credit: Alex Brandon

The Washington Capitals dominated play in game seven against the New York Islanders through two periods. They were constantly parked in the Isles zone, putting pucks on goaltender Jaroslav Halak with ease. The Islanders could barely muster a whimper, with just six shots on goal as the middle frame wound down. Somehow, though, Washington hadn’t found a way to convert: missed deflections, timely saves, and bad bounces led to a scoreboard that reflected little about what happening on the ice.

Then, with 1:25 left in the second period, Joel Ward broke through, poking Brooks Orpik‘s shot through the legs of Halak. Verizon Center erupted into a shining display of pure human joy. But it was still full of Washington Capitals fans, ready to have their hearts ripped out with final game, final period collapse. And just three minutes and 13 seconds into the closing frame, Frans Nielsen did just that with an innocent-looking wrist shot from the slot that trickled through Braden Holtby’s pads. With that, the game was tied. Though the Caps had dominated play, the game looked like it would end with another bitter, bruising fight, with one bad bounce deciding each team’s fate.

But instead, the game-winner would buck the thuggery the series had shown. With around seven minutes left in the zero-sum game, Evgeny Kuznetsov picked up Jason Chimera‘s pass at the far wall, before cutting right through the heart of the New York zone. The play was magisterial, with Kuznetsov floated past Islanders defenders. Instead of firing the puck off at his first look at the net, Kuznetsov held on to it until he got to the near circle. That’s when Halak went down. Kuznetsov saw an opening.

“I just put puck in the net,” he told reporters after the game.

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this-is-painful

The hockey gods just gave the Capitals the biggest gift ever and they could not convert. As John Carlson dumped the puck into the corner, instead of going behind the net, the puck richoeted right into the left circle where Jay Beagle was standing. Beagle put the puck on his forehand and pumped a shot on net, but Halak somehow made the save.

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ChimeraGoal

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Woo! (Photo credit: Alex Brandon)

For the last four seasons, the Capitals had been on a steady decline. During their Bruce Boudreau era runs for Presidents’ Trophy, they were D.C.’s team. For fans since the 70’s and young transplants in suits, Rocking the Red was all the rage.

In 2011, the team started going downhill. Boudreau was fired, with three coaches taking his place since then. Meanwhile, the Nationals got good. The Caps were no longer fashionable. The hockey wasn’t the same either. Instead of exciting run-and-gun matches, the Caps played overly defensive games and then, under Adam Oates, just plain bad ones, missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Despite claiming a sellout every night, Verizon Center was littered with empty purple seats.

But with Washington’s comeback victory in game two, the spark was lit. On Thursday, the Phone Booth was red, proud, and loud. The Caps dominated, beating the Islanders 5-1 and taking a 3-2 series lead.

“We love this,” Karl Alzner, who scored Thursday, told me. “The fact that we see everybody getting excited for it and feeling good about our team and about our chance at winning some games, that’s what’s exciting for us.”

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Photo: Alex Brandon

The Washington Capitals have traded goalie Jaroslav Halak to the New York Islanders for a fourth round pick. Halak is a pending unrestricted free agent who will likely command a five-million dollar contract next season. Meanwhile, the Caps have two talented young goaltenders in Holtby and Grubauer. Then again, Halak is a top-10 goalie and now he’ll be playing against the Caps in the Metro division. I wonder if he’ll be comfortable with that.

One more interesting note: we’ve learned who is calling the shots in the post-GMGM era:

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obi-speaks

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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Jaroslav Halak’s Agent Has Beef With Adam Oates

jaroslav-halak-beefing

Photo: Bruce Bennett

In a season that has been inordinately long and drama-filled, here comes MOAR drama! On Tuesday, Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates announced that Jaroslav Halak would not start against his old team because Halak reportedly said he didn’t feel “100% comfortable” playing. Halak then spent most of the afternoon getting criticized by local and national media for a lack of desire and toughness. We thought this conversation should have stayed private.

Halak’s agent, Allan Walsh, has issued a statement and apparently he agrees with us. I hope you’re ready for some venom, Oatesy.

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Photo: Alex Brandon

The Washington Capitals have less than a 5% chance of making the playoffs. Tonight, they take on the best team in the Western Conference, the St. Louis Blues, in what is practically an elimination game. They need everyone on board. Unfortunately, not everyone is on board.

Speaking with the press today in St. Louis, Adam Oates revealed Braden Holtby will be starting tonight. That wasn’t too surprising until Oates explained the reasoning behind the move. Jaroslav Halak had told the coaching staff he was uncomfortable playing against his former team.

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The Nail: Devils Beat Caps 2-1

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Photo: Bruce Bennett

Tuesday’s Caps game was ugly. The days that followed didn’t get much better. Adam Oates kinda sorta maybe called out Alex Ovechkin on Wednesday for being Alex Ovechkin. The national hockey media devoured it like it was some delicious Chipotle guac. Ovi wasn’t made available to reporters on Thursday to respond.

With six games left, everyone started to realize it would take divine intervention for the Capitals to make the playoffs. If they did make it, they didn’t deserve to be there — and the Capitals knew that.

The scoring got started tonight with an even-strength Alex Ovechkin tally, the first since we still cared about the Winter Olympics. Playing on a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom, Ovi took a feed from Grabo in the near circle before flipping the puck past Cory Schneider.

During a second period in which the Devs dominated play, New Jersey tied the game up. Twelve minutes into the frame, Tuomo Ruutu tipped home a shot from D-man Eric Gelinas to make it one-one.

The Caps headed into the third with a man-advantage, needing their power play to once again save them from disaster. It didn’t happen.

Ryan Carter scored a late goal for New Jersey. Devils beat Caps 2-1.

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halak-new-mask

On a day when Ryan Miller dumped his white mask in favor of a beautifully painted music inspired mask, Washington Capitals goaltender Jaroslav Halak has done the same.

Last week, you’ll remember, we asked Halak if he was getting his bucket painted.

“I’m getting my mask soon,” Halak said to me, too embarrassed to hold up his vanilla bucket. “It’s by a painter [from] Montreal.”

Well today, Diel Airbrush released photos of Halak’s new mask and it’s majestic.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov’s Hand Video Bombs RMNB Interview

evgeny-kuznetsovs-videobomb

With each game he plays, Evgeny Kuznetsov grows more comfortable on the ice. On Saturday morning, twelve hours after recording his first NHL point and first multi-point game with the Washington Capitals, Kuznetsov showed that he’s also growing more comfortable in the role of locker room prankster.

Here’s the story. As I filmed Ian’s interview with Jaroslav Halak, a figure walked towards the stall just to my right. He said “hello” in a Russian accent, came up behind me, and then put his hand in front of my camera for a few seconds. He totally ruined my shot.

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