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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A Primer to the Washington Capitals 2011-2012 Season

Primer to the 2011-12 Capitals Season

If you took a break from hockey after May 4th, when the Tampa Bay Lightning swept the Washington Capitals out of the playoffs, we completely understand. It was rough. But the new season is here, along with reasons for renewed hope. So in case you’ve been avoiding hockey in general and this blog in particular, we’ve prepared a primer to catch you up.

Here is everything you need to know about the Washington Capitals but were afraid to ask (2011-2012 edition).

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Winter is Coming in 15 Days

Photo credit: Michael Connor/The Washington Times

Photo credit: Michael Connor/The Washington Times

Editor’s note: To get you properly revved up for the season, each member of the RMNB crew will take a longing look back at some of our favorite goals from days gone by. You can call it nostalgia or cheap summer content, but it’s really a reminder: WINTER IS COMING.

The date was April 24th, 2009. The Washington Capitals had taken up their old tradition of digging a hole for themselves. The count was three-to-one, and the New York Rangers were looking to wrap this series up on the road.

So here’s the scene: John Tortorella is still dry, Sean Avery is wearing some D&G three-piece instead of his hockey sweater, and the Rags are on the power play. Your boy Boyd Gordon gets the puck behind Varly and sends it around the boards. It takes a weird bounce to get past the blue line– with Matt Bradley in close pursuit…

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The Sasha Cares Bar Graph

Alex Semin

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

It was just another quiet August morning …until Neil Greenberg totally ruined it. Finding an interview between Matt Bradley and TGOR radio in Ottawa, Neil alerted the world using the twitters.

And then, sadly, no one on the internet wrote about it.

In the interview Matt Bradley seems to characterizes the Washington locker room as having a certain nonchalance, a malaise, insouciance, and probably other French words, too. Bottom line: Bradley thinks the Caps don’t care. And one player is called out by name: Alexander Semin.

But we think Sasha cares. We know Sasha cares. How do we know?

WE MADE UP A BAR GRAPH.

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At 35, Tomas Vokoun knows he doesn’t have much time left be on a winning team with a chance at the Stanley Cup. And for the Czech netminder, Washington, DC is the place be as he signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal to come to the Caps Saturday.

“The money side, it’s not great but, you know, I think the opportunity is unbelievable,” he said on a conference call Sunday morning. “I decided that this chance for me to extend my career and play for a great team and have fun playing.”

Vokoun, who has at total of 262 big league wins, has been in the playoffs just twice in his NHL career, spending the last four seasons with the cellar-welling Florida Panthers. In those years in the Southeast Division with the Cats, Vokoun got an up close look at the resurgence of the Capitals in the Alex Ovechkin era and liked what he saw.

“I know how good that team is,” said Vokoun, who turned down a three-year offer from the Panthers. “I know I’m going to have fun. I’ve been on winning teams before but nothing like Washington. … I just felt I wanted to move on and try something different.”
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Matt Bradley

By all indications, Matt Bradley will not be back with the Capitals next season.

According to Larry Kelly, Bradley’s agent, the 33 year-old winger never received an offer from Washington and is set to become an unrestricted free agent Friday, July 1, at 12 PM Eastern Time.

“They indicated a number of months ago that there would be an offer for him in eight to ten days and there’s been no offer and we’re not expecting one,” Kelly told RMNB. “I think Matt’s a very, very valuable hockey player and I think he’ll do fine in free agency.”

Bradley, who became a fan favorite in DC, has played the past six seasons for the Caps and registered 11 points including four goals in 61 games last year. The Stittsville, Ontario, Canada native has a total of 59 goals and 93 assists in in 677 career NHL games including playoffs. He was previously playing on a three-year contract that paid $1 million per season.

Brooks Laich is Back; Ladies, You Can Exhale Now

Brooks Laich

It looks like six more years of high-fives and tire changes are on tap. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

As all of you Brooks Laich fans kept hitting refresh instead of working Tuesday morning, the Capitals announced that the soon to be unrestricted free agent had re-signed with the team to the tune of six years and $27 million.

“There was never a serious consideration to go anywhere else,” Laich said. “The main core of this team is very young and if you can keep that together, you’re looking at a chance to win a championship for potently the next 10 years, rather than just a window of two to three years. That was a great motivator to get me re-signed.”

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A happier time. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Less than a day after the Caps dropped their second game of the series to Tampa Bay, Bruce Boudreau was asked to assess the state of his club:

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Ovechpunch! Ovechpunch! (Photo credit: Jim McIsaac)

On Wednesday, the Washington Capitals will take on the New York Rangers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Caps haven’t faired well against New York this season, losing three out of four regular season games including 6-0 and 7-0 shutouts. In fact, the 7-0 shutout was so bad, Alex Ovechkin found it necessary to fight. However, that was then. This is now. Let’s take a look at the numbers to preview what should be an interesting matchup.

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Alex Ovechkin takes a shot against the Panthers

Just another ho-hum night for Ovechkin: 1 goal, 2 assists. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Semyon Varlamov: Your game's number one star. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Semyon Varlamov: Your game's number one star. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

In a matchup between the Eastern Conference’s best and worst teams, Bruce Boudreau opted to scratch three of his regulars — Jason Arnott, Scott Hannan and Alexander Semin — in the Capitals final home game of the regular season. After seeing his team play a tough 65 minutes in Toronto, Boudreau saw no compelling reason to field his best roster, especially considering the Capitals had already clinched their fourth straight Southeast division title.

Despite there being some signs pointing to Mike Green returning to the line-up tonight, Boudreau opted to sit the two-time Norris Trophy finalist as well. Boudreau told the Washington Post’s Greg Schimmel after today’s morning skate that, “No [Green won’t play tonight], but you know what, he’s ready to play and, I mean, he’s been symptom-free for three weeks plus. It’s just we’re trying to be as cautious as we can with things, just as other people are with guys that they have as concussions and could probably play, but they want to make 100 percent sure. We feel he’ll be good to go on Saturday.”

The Capitals “B” team, however, didn’t miss a beat. Before the game was a minute old, Marcus Johansson — he of the ever-burgeoning confidence — inside outted Mike Weaver with an extra-crispy move. Helpless and out of position, Weaver took a tripping penalty, sending the Capitals power play immediately onto the ice. Mike Knuble, the beneficiary of a Brooks Laich power move to the net, scored 23 seconds into the man-advantage. Jason Chimera, brilliantly set-up by Nicklas Backstrom, then scored via a tap-in on Washington’s second powerplay of the night to close the opening stanza.

The Capitals would never look back. Sean Collins would score his second career NHL goal on a rarely-seen four-on-two odd man break during the second period, Matt Hendricks would pot a goal in front of the net after some hard forechecking in the corners and Alex Ovechkin would add an empty-net goal, his 32nd of the season. Caps maul Panthers, 5-2.

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