There it is. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
At the start of the 2008 NHL season, Mike Green came to camp with just 15 sticks. They were Easton Stealth CNTs. At the time, Green said his sticks had been discontinued for “a while.” He would be getting no more. Over the course of that season, Green posted unbelievable numbers for a defensemen, scoring 31 goals. Looking at the goal leaderboard for that season, Green is just below some of the most high flying scorers in the league: Malkin, Toews, and Crosby to name a few.
At one point Green scored a stunning 10 times in eight straight games. The goals during the streak all came off the same Easton, which Green said was the best stick he’s ever played with. Reluctantly, he agreed to donate it to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“You can only be superstitious for so long,” Green said.
Green’s moment of reckoning came on May 2, 2009. Playing in game one of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Green broke his last surviving Stealth CNT.
Sunday’s game between the St Louis Blues and Washington Capitals has been surprisingly physical. Big hits punctuated the first period, including one that caused an injury to Shattenkirk, but this dirty boarding by David Backes on Karl Alzner was the worst yet.
It’s pretty simple in its dirtiness. Alzner skated to the puck at the boards. Backes lined up and hit him right in the numbers, smearing Alzner’s face into the glass.
Glorious human being. (Photo credit: Alex Brandon)
On January 1, 2011, Eric Fehr blasted into the offensive zone, along with the puck. He unleashed bullet of a wrist shot off the slushy Heinz Field ice. It was his second goal of the game, the 2011 Winter Classic, cementing him in Capitals history.
On Saturday, Fehr scored twice against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a redux of sorts of his 2011 outdoor game performance. Well, according to everyone but him.
“Not really,” Fehr said when asked by Alex Prewitt if that game brought back any memories. “Different kind of goals and obviously different building.”
Today, however, his goal was close as you could get to 2011: breakaway, unassisted, outdoors, and happy times at the end. Nevertheless, Fehr stuck to his talking points, giving nearly the same answer he provided the media Saturday.
“Not really,” Fehr said when asked, once again, if it brought back any memories. “It was a little bit different.”
Still, he was happy.
“It always feels good to score goals, I won’t lie to you,” Fehr, who attributed his play to “some good fresh air,” told me. “The ones in the Winter Classic feel extra special.”
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis saw it coming.
“I walked in today and saw Eric and said ‘You’re our x-factor,” Leonsis told me.
Photo: Bruce Bennett
Nate Schmidt recently found himself watching from the press box for two games while Jack Hillen took his spot beside Mike Green. Hillen is an adequate player, but should be seventh on the Caps defensive depth chart among those healthy.
That isn’t to say that Hillen should never get a sweater. Over the course of a season, it’s fine and good to work in a guy like Hillen here and there so rust doesn’t build up, but Barry Trotz has made it clear that the reason Hillen was given a sweater recently is because, in his opinion, Schmidt had played his way out of the lineup. Schmidt’s recent benching is another questionable lineup decision by Barry Trotz, wherein he seems to focus on the “big mistake” as opposed to the underlying processes and actual patterns of play.
Hockey is a funny. Sometimes the offensively inept Brooks Orpik scores the prettiest goal of the season in a 20-round shootout. Sometimes shy-shooting Karl Alzner scores a skill goal on Vezina trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, which is what happened on Thursday night.
I don’t get it either, but look at this.
Artsy. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
“Tom Wilson needs to play like Tom Wilson,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said early this month. “If Tom Wilson starts to play like someone else, then he won’t be on the first line.”
It’s been over a month since the bellicose winger got promoted to top line duty. He was in full bloom on Thursday, agitating the Blue Jackets all night. His premiere moment of belligerence came midway through the second period when Wilson goaded James Wisniewski into taking four minutes of penalty time for attempting to disfigure Wilson’s face.
Wisniewski’s assault failed, his stick snapping upon contact with Wilson’s chin.
When we heard a superhero foundation was holding a fundraiser in D.C. featuring Caps players Karl Alzner, Troy Brouwer, and John Carlson, we put our best subject-matter expert on the case. Here’s a report from RMNB Senior Spandexed Superhero Correspondent Brouwer Ranger Nathan on “Heroes Rock the Red.”
Spirits seem to be rebounding among Caps fans following back-to-back victories against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Carolina Hurricanes this weekend. A handful of them came out to celebrate the nascent winning streak with Caps players and a bunch of superheroes while raising money for Foundation 4 Heroes (F4H).
Brouwer and Carlzner signed autographs, took photos with fans, and tended bar at City Tap House DC to raise money for the F4H, which takes a unique approach to supporting kids with life-threatening diseases. The non-profit sends superheroes like Captain America and Wonder Woman to visit kids and encourage them to find the superhero inside themselves.
If I were to tell you that the Caps have a new young defensemen whose first half season compares very respectably relative to the first half a season of Mike Green, John Carlson and Karl Alzner, you’d probably be excited, right?
Okay, be excited.
Tuesday’s game against the Flames was Nate Schmidt‘s 41st in the NHL. Regular readers of the site know that Peter is a huge Nate Schmidt fan. While I haven’t written much about Schmidt here on RMNB, I’ve written about him elsewhere and think the Caps made a great decision in keeping him in Washington this season.
Photo: Amanda Bowen
Last week we looked at the Caps forward deployment thus far under Barry Trotz. This week, I’m going to take a look at the defense. In doing so, we’ll find the Caps have a shutdown pair fairing questionably, a steadying pair that may be better suited to shutdown than our current shutdown pair, and then a pair of possession monsters who are owning the minutes they are being given.
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