Alex Ovechkin nets a hat trick against in the Leafs.

GROUP HUG! (Photo credit: Abelimages)

Braden Holtby stones Tyler Bozak on a breakaway. (Photo credit: Graig Abel)

Braden Holtby stones Tyler Bozak on a breakaway. (Photo credit: Graig Abel)

The last time the Capitals played on Hockey Night in Canada, they destroyed the Calgary Flames 7-2 on October 30th, 2010. Coincidentally, it was also the last time that The Great Eight had a multi-goal game.

Eighty-four days and thirty-eight NHL games later, that streak would finally end for Ovechkin against a team he consistently has success against: the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tonight, the Capitals managed to get on the board first for the second consecutive game. Jeff Schultz unleashed a howitzer from the point, and a hard-charging Russian Machine tipped Sarge’s shot past Maple Leafs’ goaltender, Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Despite both teams combining for forty shots through the games first two periods, scoring would not resume until the third.

One minute into the games final’s frame, Ovechkin would strike again, as he set up shop in his new home in front of the net. Unfortunately, the two-goal lead would only last a minute and a half. Leafs’ fourth-liner Tim Brent ended Braden Holtby’s shutout bid, going five-hole after Jay Rosehill’s shot from the point was muffled. The Leafs then astutely seized the momentum and came at the Caps in waves for the next several minutes. That is until Bruce Boudreau wisely called time-out after an icing call.

Matt Hendricks then scored the most beautiful goal of his career on a breakaway and Ovi’s ENHTG (empty net hat-trick goal) sealed the deal. Caps win 4-1.

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Caps beat Isles 2-1, but the Cake is a Lie

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The top line converts, but Ovechkin is pretty mellow. (Photo credit: Lou Capozzola)

I know a special place. A magical place. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where normal men are giants, and struggling hockey teams play like they’ve never been better.  A place called Long Island.

The Washington Capitals spent the evening in that benign growth of land dangling unloved off the mainland. There they met the New York Islanders (29th in the league in… oh let’s just say everything). But the Caps didn’t play down to their competition. Instead they looked like the studs we know deep down they really are. But looks can be deceiving.

Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin delivered a masterful possession that Jason Chimera finished off from the goal mouth. Backstrom then broke his 21-game goalless streak by cleaning up an Ovechkin rebound. On a rail, NYI’s Michael Grabner beat John Carlson’s coverage and Braden Holtby’s read to put the Islanders on the board, but the third period was scoreless. Caps beat Isles 2-1.

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FOR FRAK SAKE: Bolts beat Caps 3-0

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Just lie down, Schultzy. It’ll all be over soon. (Photo credit: Scott Audette)

In Paddy Chayesfsky’s Network, seasoned newsman Howard Beale has a nervous breakdown on live television. At the height of frustration, he compels his viewers to open up their windows and shout, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Don’t know why that popped into my head just now.

The Washington Capitals’ appointment with the Tampa Bay Lightning was supposed to be an impassioned affair: two tied Southeast teams battling for the division lead. That did not happen. The Caps, perhaps reeling from last night’s overtime loss to the Panthers, never really suited up. The ever-improving Lightning took control of the game and never relented.

Dominic Moore waited for the power play to end before scoring, exploiting some lazy defensive work by Washington. Sean Bergenheim followed up with a home-run swing at one of Semyon Varlamov’s flying rebounds. And then Simon Gagne grabbed a loose puck and beat the overwhelmed Varly on the breakaway. The Caps didn’t even try. Bolts beat Caps 3-0.

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Caps Care Casino Night, Year Two

Karl Alzner poses with Emily

Editor’s note: One year ago, Emily Karol gave a newborn RMNB a kick in the pants with her report on the first Casino Night. This year she does the same with the added bonus of Chris Gordon’s photos.

By the way, Emily is looking for a roommate. Available February 1st, she’s got a single bedroom with a private bathroom and a walk-in closet located just 3 miles from Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Email her if you’re interested. Awesome people only, please. Take it away, Emily.

When I learned that the 2nd annual CapsCare Casino Night and Auction would take place on January 9th, I couldn’t be more excited. I attended the first Casino Night and had a blast, but this year’s festivities hit on the birthdays of both Bruce Boudreau and me. Who could pass up the chance to wear a pretty dress, drink some cocktails, and schmooze with fabulous people on your birthday? Not me.

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Varly Triumphs, Caps beat Habs 3-0

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Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

The Washington Capitals finally met their playoff pals, the Montreal Canadiens, for the first time since that awful, awful night. Recently de-Halak‘d, the Habs remain a formidable team and one that the Caps had no trouble getting amped up to face.

Hershey import Jay Beagle got on the big board first with a stunning no-look, behind-the-back, knick-knack, paddywack shot over Carey Price’s shoulder. Mike Green took a  freight train into a timing play to make it 2-0 off a Nicky Backstrom pass. The score was unchanged until Price abdicated his throne, which is like chumming the water to a shark like Alex Ovechkin. His empty netter finalized the score. Caps beat Habs 3-0.

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Leafs beat Caps 5-4, Stunning Comeback

Mathieu Perreault celebrates his first goal of the year

Mathieu Perreault is the bright spot in this tough loss. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

CAPTION (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Colton Orr helps D.J. King with some facial redecoration. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Former Caps coach Ron Wilson brought his Toronto Maple Leafs to town looking for some redemption in their beleaguered season. The Washington Capitals meanwhile searched for the first win in their so-far unsuccessful extended home stand and switched up their roster to handle injuries from Sloan, Erskine, Steckel. With Hershey hotshot Mathieu Perreault (hereafter Matthew Perot) pinching in, it looked for a while like the goal-crazy Caps of seasons past had returned. But they leaned back in the third period, and… well, I don’t really have the heart to tell you.

Matty got on the big board on his first shift– less than three minutes into the game, deflecting a wrister off Tom Poti from the paint. Clarke MacArthur responded by shaking off John Carlson and teasing Neuvirth with a pause. It took two swings for Mike Knuble to earn a powerplay goal, the 249th of his career, and regain the lead. Perry struck back from the circles after waiting for a screen. Alex Ovechkin scored a whizzer of a wristshot to give the Caps an insurmountable 4-1 lead. Well, sorta. Mikhail Grabovksi, Tim Brent, and Clarke MacArthur each found their chances to exploit the snoozing home team, evening it up in the final 90 seconds. Overtime came and went. The shootout proved to be Mikhail Grabovski’s shining moment– as a spinarama escaped Michael Neuvirth’s pads. Leafs beat Caps 5-4 (SO).

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Alzner, Schultz & Hendricks at British Embassy ‘Stache Bash

Karl Alzner poses with teammates Jeff Schultz and Matt Hendricks

The estimable Chris Gordon of CapsSnaps.com (@Caps_Snaps) tells us all about the limey culmination of Movember at the British Embassy, attended by three of our favorite lip-adorned Capitals. Take it away, Chris.

It was clear the evening was going to be different when Jeff Schultz and Matt Hendricks showed up at the British Embassy dressed as policemen. Schultz had been combing the Internet looking for prominent mustachioed actors to dress up as: Burt Reynolds or maybe Tom Selleck from Magnum, P.I.

With the Caps on the road, he ran out of time. So MacKenzie Kelley, Schultz’s girlfriend, did the next best thing and bought police uniforms at a costume store.

Getting in the spirit of the event, Dominick Chilcott, the deputy head of the British Embassy, thanked the Caps for showing up as “The Village People.”

The occasion was a mustache-growing contest among the British, New Zealand and Australian embassies for Movember. Hockey is hardly a big sport in Britain, but the Caps met the crucial test to attend: they had mustaches.

Karl Alzner, the third Cap at the “Stache Bash”, did not wear a costume, but he did burnish his image. He confessed that his mustache had come in a little blond and had been dyed.

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Jessica’s Movember Birthday Adventure with the Caps

Jessica with Eric Fehr

Editor’s note: November was a remarkable for the Washington Capitals. Not only because of the team’s success (10 wins in 14 games), but also the mustaches some team members grew. Movember, as it is called, is a month-long charity event to raise awareness for men’s health. Reader Jessica M. shares her story of the Movember party held at Lyon Hall this past Sunday night.

John Carlson poses with Jessica.

John Carlson poses with Jessica.

Well, this past year has been pretty crappy for me. At 36, I was diagnosed with two different kinds of cancer and underwent four surgeries (including the one that led to the first diagnosis). Thankfully, both tumors were caught early and I am now cancer-free. So I decided to celebrate the hell out of my birthday this year.

My husband Kevin and I had already bought tickets to the Caps/Canes game on the 28th, my birthday– we splurged and got seats four rows off the ice. Now seems like a good time to add that I’ve only once seen a game live that the Caps lost, and that was seven years ago in the pre-Ovi era (I remember because it was on my 30th birthday). So unlike Peter, I have a pretty good record for seeing Caps wins. I have to admit, I was afraid that record was about to go down in flames after the score was tied with 2.2 seconds left to go, but the boys pulled out a win on my birthday! That was present enough right there.

But I had more celebrating to do. We decided at the last minute to get tickets to the Movember party at Lyon Hall. Since I’ve survived cancer this year, it’s become a cause near and dear to my heart. My grandfather died of prostate cancer; my father-in-law thankfully did not, though he did undergo treatment for it. I think it’s really important to raise awareness of certain cancers, both men’s and women’s, that don’t get a lot of attention, so I’m grateful to the Caps for participating in Movember this year. And thanks also to Lyon Hall for hosting the event!

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The Constant Changing Of The Linemates

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The Caps blew out Tampa Bay 6 to nothing, and– just when we thought sitting Fleischmann was the answer the lines were clicking– we got more change. Admit it: you thought line combos were chosen using random ping pong ball selection. How else can you explain the constant Changing Of The Linemates?

This week we’ll take a quick look at how the top 6 line combos and blueline pairings are doing at even strength and how the goalies are doing overall, with respect to scoring chances. In the following weeks (as I get more comfortable with SQL) I will add goals scored for and against. For now it’s just scoring chances. I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. As always, you can find the spreadsheet online.

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Poor Effort, Bad Bounces Sink Caps: Thrashers Win 5-0

Braden Holtby: despondent.

A despondent Braden Holtby looks on after giving up the third goal of the night. (Photo credit: John Bazemore)

Ovi reacts after missing a shot in the second period. (Photo credit: John Bazemore)

Ovi reacts after missing a shot in the second period. (Photo credit: John Bazemore)

When Joe B. and Locker finished their pre-game intros and CSN cameras zoomed in for the opening face-off, it was hard not to notice the rows and rows of empty seats in Phillips Arena. The Capitals, seemingly aware of their surroundings, lacked energy and focus and proceeded to play down to their opponents. After giving up three quick goals to Ben Eager, Nik Antropov, & Evander Kane respectively, Braden Holtby was quickly summoned to the Caps bench by an enraged Bruce Boudreau.

Michal Neuvirth was steady in relief, but unfortunately for the Capitals, they were never able to locate their game after the switch. The offense was blessed with quality scoring chance after quality scoring chance but all resulted either in a missed shot, a ping off the post, or a solid save by Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

Evil cheeseburger-eater Dustin Byfuglien then put the game officially out of reach, closing the second period with a nifty short-side wrist shot past Neuvy. And let’s not even talk about that Burmistrov goal. I’m still angry at Jeff Schultz, who stopped skating, got deked out of his jockstrap and resembled a giant, awkward pylon on the play. Whatever. Thrashers win 5-0.

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