Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

Some nights, watching hockey is fun. Other nights, it’s a gut punch and you wonder what you’ve done to make the hockey gods so mad. Tonight, the Caps got out to what seemed to be an insurmountable 2-0 lead, their second consecutive shutout well within grasp. Awesome, right? Then Brooks Laich’s stick freakishly broke on the PK and Winnipeg scored while up three men. 12 seconds later, Dustin Byfuglien rifled a slap shot from the red line that deflected off 10,000 people including Goat, Horn Guy, and Wes Johnson’s mic and bounced in. You gotta be kidding me.

The play that perhaps best summed up the night, though, was a hit that came with under a minute left in the game. You probably missed it. As Jeff Halpern dumped the puck into the Jets’ zone, everybody’s favorite Kazakhstani giant, 6’7” 245-pound Nik Antropov, left his feet and knocked Halpy head-first into the Winnipeg bench. Check it out below the jump.

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Capitals During Wartime: Centerless

[Editors note: over the next month, we'll be looking at the challenges the Capitals face, the trade deadline, and the playoff chase. It's not gonna be fun, but we gotta do this.]

When Nick Backstrom took a blow to the head from Rene Bourque on January 3rd, the Capitals lost the service of their number-one center. Backstrom was on track for a better than 80-point season, which would have been a strong recovery from the slump of ’10-’11. Instead, the team lost the anchor for its top line and its most productive forward.

Without Backstrom, the Capitals have only three strong options for centers: Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, Jeff Halpern. Additionally, Mathieu Perreault, Cody Eakin, and Matt Hendricks have done center duty in a pinch. Meanwhile, the Capitals offense has  been shut out twice in the last three games and have averaged only 23 shots on goal since mid-December. That’s just not good enough.

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New Jersey Devils Pregame: Happy Non-denominational Tidings

Craig is a Puck Buddy. This is his story. @PuckBuddys

Ohai Caps fans! Coinciding with Coach Hunter’s latest round of mind-boggling line changes, we’re changing up things today on the pregamer, too.  No, Doug hasn’t been sent down to Hershey with the other famous Caps redhead, Cody “Swoon” Eakin, but he’s taking a short break from cranking out his inimitable prose, obscure cultural references (he’s still working on Cy Twombly), and his proselytizing on behalf of the radical gay agenda.

Actually, he’s wrapping up the last of his community service obligations that resulted from his conviction in that 2011 World Juniors point-shaving scandal. And truth be told, he was also the one who bought all that liquor for those Russian kids. But luckily for all involved, including international aviation authorities, the team behaved responsibly on that flight home after their big win. In fact, we just heard from a few of our old pals on last year’s Russian team – and even they were appalled by Alec Baldwin’s airline antics last week.

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Caps Beat Preds 4-1 in Mike Knuble’s 1,000th Game

I score? I really score? (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)

Coming into Tuesday’s game against the Predators, the Caps had been inefficient offensively, managing to score only one goal in each of their last three games. Would being confronted with two of the best defensemen in the league — Shea Weber and Ryan Suter — and a team that has played in 10-straight one goal games (7-3-0) somehow help their cause? Also, would an emotional pre-game ceremony honoring one of their team leaders, give the Caps a lift?

You bet your ass it did.

After the Capitals started the game off with four dominant shifts in the Predators zone, Alex Ovechkin — beautifully set-up by Karl Alzner — scored on a breakaway at 7:47 of the first. Later in the period, Nicklas Backstrom wrapped home goal number two of the night, his twelfth of the year. After a scoreless second period, Sergei Kostitsyn ruined Neuvy’s shutout bid with a twisted wrister from just outside the slot. Then Alex Semin decided he felt like scoring. Troy Brouwer, too! Caps beat Preds 4-1.

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Waste of a Saturday Night: Avs beat Caps 2-1

Check out Brooksy’s face. (Photo credit: Michael Martin)

The Washington Capitals headed to the mile-high city to meet the Colorado Avalanche with hopes of a perfect road trip. NOPE.

Cody McLeod chipped the puck from the blue line; Neuvy didn’t even see it. Alex Semin scored his first goal since November 23 with a really smart wrister. Erik Johnson snapped his own goal drought just a minute later. That was the GWG. Avs beat Caps 2-1.

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Winnipeg Jets Pregame: Now Boarding, ReSet Airlines

Doug Johnson, weaver of words, Puck Buddy. Connect with @PuckBuddys via a series of tubes.

The Puck Drop: Lesson – don’t waste all your good rival city bile in your first pregame post. You may get the hahas, but it doesn’t leave you much room for new jokes. Lesson: as we continue to repeat until GMGM hears us, there are two Caps teams. One team is Ninja Master, the other is Donkey Kong. There is no telling which will show up, and this must be fixed.

Lesson: do NOT write mouthy, taunting blog posts your team (or butt) cannot cash.

Lesson: if a team is going to win, it will win as a team. The Caps seem to have a hot-shot mentality of late; namely they play really well, until something unexpected happens. Not a first goal, as we seem to play better if we’re just one down, but a second, surprise goal. At that point you can almost see the shoulders schlump, the feet get leaden and the team lose heart, players scrambling to pump the sinking ship (almost like how and fans Verizon last night). Panic does not become a great team. Keep calm and carry on.

All of this is to say: we must be humble if we are to be great.

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Lessons in Humility: Flyers beat Caps 5-1

Greg Fiume

Photo credit: Greg Fiume

One morning during high school, I dressed up like the Devil for Halloween and then got roughed up by a tough guy. I remember cowering on the floor of the hallway, dressed up like an idiot. With our site all decked out in Jaromir Jagr flamebait, I feel the same way.

The Philadelphia Flyers taught the Washington Capitals humility and shame in a 5-1 mauling. All that bravado and confidence from two wins in a row? Evaporated. Flyers beat Caps 5-1.

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Toronto Maple Leafs Pregame: Make Believe!

Paul Hunter/Toronto Star

The Pre-Game: Oh Lordy, we hate being right. Especially if it involves Canada. Not as in: their single-payer health care system is far more efficient than our insurance company-laden poop pie. More like: there’s no more dangerous team than an underestimated one with shelves of talent and an insane fan base. (Either way, it’s a poop pie, frankly.)

So here we are, game 3 of 3 of the road trip, landing us square in Squaresville: Toronto. (Wagging finger in old maid mode:) We warned you about those teams! We cautioned against squads whose numbers didn’t quite look right, yet had piles of skill ready to dump on the ice! What, you didn’t listen? You think you know better? Are you listening to me?

Uh, no, chances are, you’re not. At least not based on the last few Caps’ book in Vegas. We think that changes Saturday.

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The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) teamed up with the Capitals’ Tomas Vokoun and Jeff Halpern a few months ago to shoot a PSA encouraging parents to check ratings when choosing games for their children — what Vokoun calls a “box check.” The ad, which has been playing without sound in Verizon Center bathrooms all season long, has finally made it to YouTube and we have it above. One word of advice for companies looking for a Caps spokesperson: Halpern is a natural!

Below the jump, check out a few behind-the-scenes pics from the ad via ESRB’s Facebook Page.

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Have You Heard? The Caps Are Back.

I feel like I’ve seen this person before… (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Fans enter Verizon Center before the season-opener. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

One hundred fifty-seven days. That’s a long summer for Caps fans. And Saturday night at 7:09 P.M. Eastern Time when six ounces of vulcanized rubber tumbled toward the ice sheet it was finally over.

“The atmosphere was great,” Alex Ovechkin told reporters after the game. “The fans push us forward all the time. It’s nice to play at home, especially the first game. I know everybody was missing hockey here so it’s nice to come back.”

The trademarks of Caps hockey were all there last night: Sam Wolk pursed his lips to his horn and let lout three loud blasts at the drop of the puck; Wes Johnson bellowed out the name of Alexander Semin (heavy on the “r”) after Washington lit the lamp for the first time this season on Sasha’s tally; William Stilwell, better known as the Goat, let out a thunderous roar of “Let’s Go Caps!” as he stomped the metal beneath his feet when shown on the big screen in the second period.

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