2011-12 Year-End Review: Keith Aucoin


Photo credit: Clydeorama

Keith Aucoin‘s call-up was a side effect of the Great Center Drought of 2012, that point in time when all of our centers were either dead, or wingers disguised as centers. Even when the Caps are in need, they don’t typically send for Aucoin, but they did this year — and to the surprise of most people, Aucoin became a regular player, even into the postseason. We liked this, because Aucoin is a good guy who has been in our system for a long time, and because we love to be surprised. Go, tiny Cap.

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The Hangover: Some Questions for the Offseason

Photo credit: Paul Bereswill

Hey you: thanks for reading RMNB. Crazy season, right?

We started the year with our Winter is Coming promotional series. We documented a crazy winning streak, and then its astonishing decline. We said goodbye to one coach and hello to another. We saw gruesome injuries. We analyzed the Caps’ struggles at and before the trade deadline in our Capitals During Wartime series. We made posters and signs to pump up the fans and the team both. And we tracked the Caps as they made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.

Yeah, we had exhaustive coverage this season, but there are so many questions left unanswered. Here are few we’d like to address this summer.

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Recap: Caps Stay Alive, Win Game Six 2-1


This is his Ranger-killing face. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)

Braden Holtby has not lost back-to-back games in the NHL in 29 games now. The Caps are the first team ever to win four straight games following overtime losses.

Let’s talk about resilience. Two wins this series following some of the most heartbreaking losses in recent memory, two instances of the Caps picking themselves back up and putting themselves back together. Two times when it wasn’t just talk. For the second time this postseason, we’re going to seven games.

The Great 8 scored on the power play, 88 seconds in. I could not make this up if I tried. Chimera finished off a strong play from Semin to make it — stay with me — an actual two-goal lead. It lasted for most of the game, but unfortunately someone on NBC said “shutout”, so Marian Gaborik scored. Caps beat Rangers, 2-1. 

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Game Six: This Means Ward!


Photo credit: John Tlumacki

The Capitals are back in Washington with a chance to keep their season alive. It didn’t have to be that way. With half a minute left to protect their lead in Game Five, Joel Ward high-sticked Carl Hagelin. The ensuing Rangers powerplay cost the Capitals the lead and the win– and what would have been a veritable chokehold on the series.

After he bested the Bruins in the quarterfinal round, Ward was the target of some vile and feckless trash from Boston fans. After his double-minor penalty led to Monday’s loss, that same pernicious evil erupted from Caps fans as well.

Here are Three True Things:

  1. Joel Ward is not at fault for the team’s loss.
  2. This hate is as rare as it is unacceptable.
  3. Joel Ward is a great hockey player and a great addition to the ’11-’12 Washington Capitals.

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Keith Aucoin goal

Photo credit: Graig Abel

Saturday night, during the Capitals’ 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, future AHL hall-of-famer Keith Aucoin scored his first NHL goal of the season, and his first since October 24, 2009. For those who are counting, that’s 854 days.

“It’s been about two years now, I think, since I last scored a goal,” Aucoin said with a smile to The Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno. “It’s only been 10, 11 games, but it feels like forever, and it was nice to finally get one and help the team win.”

General Manager George McPhee, clearly unimpressed by his feat (or more likely saving cap space ahead of tomorrow’s trade deadline), sent Aucoin back down to Hershey early this morning.

Coiner’s goal was so pretty, it deserves a closer look. Let’s set the scene. After going down 2-0 to the Caps within the first five minutes and then 3-0 by the second period, the Leafs were left scrambling to climb out of a hole. The play starts at 5:13, with the Caps in possession of the puck in their own zone.

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A Good Weekend: Caps beat Leafs 4-2

Photo credit: Graig Abel

Not a bad way to go out. The Washington Capitals’ domination of the Toronto Maple Leafs was likely the last we’ll see from this version of the team. Knowing this, the Caps busted out all their greatest hits from the last few years. Let’s review!

Marcus Johansson wrapped around Reimer’s net for an unchallenged goal in the first minute. Alex Semin fought off Luke Schenn and scored five-hole. Jeff Halpern took two whacks and hit top shelf. Keith Aucoin finished a bang-bang sequence from Johansson and Ovechkin to make it 4-0.

Colby Armstrong cracked the shutout with a wristshot early in the third period. Tim Connolly got a greasy one on a power play to make it interesting, but they ran out of time. Caps beat Leafs 4-2.

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Bruins beats Caps 4-1, Brooks Laich Injured

The Washington Capitals returned to Verizon Center for a matinee match with the Boston Bruins, their second game in 24 hours. Disaster.

Milan Lucic scored after a bad read by Dennis Wideman gave him an opening. Brad Marchand made it 2-0 after Karl Alzner and John Carlson funneled the puck to their own crease. Marchand set up Tyler Seguin for the game’s third– and the second in which Dennis Wideman lost his man. A gorgeous 200-foot series culminated in a goal by Marcus Johansson (or Ward, whatever) and the end of Tim Thomas’s Sovereign Shutout. Peverly got the empty netter. Bruins beat Caps 4-1.

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All photos via Kyle Mace at Sweetest Hockey on Earth.

Centers, centers, centers, everyone knows what the Capitals need right now, and Keith Aucoin is the latest attempt to fix the problem, or at least to temporarily plug the hole. Most of you should know a little more about Aucoin than most call-ups – he’s a lifetime AHLer, a future AHL Hall of Famer, and from what we’ve heard an all-around great guy. We haven’t seen him much in the big leagues, but he’s been part of the organization for awhile now. He’s not going to look nearly as flashy in the NHL as he does in the AHL, but you can bet that he will do his job.

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Videoclip via the Hershey Bears YouTube page

It was a milestone night in Hershey on Saturday. Keith Aucoin registered his 700th career AHL point, Brian Willsie scored his career-high 30th goal of the season and Dmitry Orlov tallied his first career goal at Giant Center. The Bears went on to defeat the Albany Devils 7-4 in front of a sold-out crowd. With the win, Hershey clinched a playoff spot and earned the right to defend their back-to-back Calder Cup Championships.

The most fascinating part of the evening, however, was the line-brawl that was ignited after Brian Willsie scored against the Devils’ fourth line. As the five Bears on the ice went to congratulate each other, Albany tough-guy Chris Murray gave Mathieu Perreault a shove. The feisty, 174 lb. Perreault responded with a flurry of punches and Hershey’s entire line engaged Murray. Pierre-Luc Leblond — yes, the same guy who was suspended earlier in the year for jumping Marcus Johansson — then came to his teammate’s aid, charging towards the pile of Bears as if he were a bowling ball looking for a strike. Mayhem ensued thereafter, as everyone on the ice squared off except for the goalies.

All in all, 34 penalty minutes were doled-out between the two teams, including 14 PIM’s to Leblond and 12 PIM’s to Louis Robitaille. The Bears swept the contentious and brutal season series with Albany, 6-0-0.  Below the jump, Sweetest Hockey On Earth‘s Kyle M. has shared his photos of the brawl.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov and NHL Expectations

evgeny-kuznetsov-development-camp

Photo credit: Chris Gordon (Click to enlarge. He’s got beautiful blue eyes, you know.)

Evgeny Kuznetsov has had quite a year. Not only did he win a gold medal with Team Russia in the 2011 World Junior Championship, become the youngest player to ever be in the KHL All-Star Game and get engaged, but he also had the second-most goals ever in a season for a Russian player under 19-years old (17 to be exact). But how can we measure his success compared to the NHL?

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