Mark French

Photo credit: Ian iPad

Over the offseason the Hershey Bears saw several key veterans sign elsewhere, such as future AHL Hall of Famer Keith Aucoin, 2011-12 AHL leading scorer Chris Bourque, and fan-favorite enforcer Joel Rechlicz. The team also had to deal with a peculiar problem due to the lockout: two head coaches, Mark French and new Caps bench boss Adam Oates. Capitals general manager George McPhee mandated that Hershey learn Oates’ new system, so that the organization’s minor league players could be used to it by the time NHL games started being played. All this change has seen the team scuffle to a .500 record through 34 games this season (16-16-1-1).

But now things are starting to look up. Before it was announced that the lockout had been lifted, Hershey had been getting its best goaltending of the year from Braden Holtby, who was recently named AHL player of the month for December. Stan Galiev, who had been struggling with his transition from junior hockey, is starting to look more comfortable on the ice and more worthy of his #29 prospect ranking from Hockey Prospectus. The organization also has a surplus of quality goaltenders in the ECHL knocking at the door of the AHL: Philipp Grubauer and 2012 seventh-round pick Sergey Kostenko.

On Saturday, after the Bears’ 3-1 loss to the Binghamton Senators, I asked French if this is the best he’s seen Braden Holtby play, if the sky is the limit for Riley Barber, and if Caps fans should be worried about Galiev’s early season struggles.

My full Q&A with French is below the jump.

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Photo credit: MDNA Tour Facebook page

Fifty-four-year-old pop icon Madonna made her grand return to the area this week, performing two sold-out shows at Verizon Center on Sunday and Monday. During one of the concerts, something quite spectacular happened. Something that without HD video, I could not have confirmed or believed could possibly be real.

You see, during a break in music, Madonna chatted up her fans and asked if anyone would like to write a four letter word which describes her on her back. As Madonna gazed out to the crowd, she settled on two young Swedish men in the front row — who happened to be Washington Capitals forwards Mattias Sjogren and Marcus Johansson — and tossed them a marker.

As Johansson goofily grinned and filmed with his iPhone, Sjogren scribbled “Sexy” on the back of one of the most famous singers of all-time. Really.

You’re gonna want to see this.

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Pittsburgh Penguins Pregame: The Epicenter of Suck

Illustration by Ian Oland

Heeeeeere’s Doug Johnson of PuckBuddys fame. Tweet his face.

The Pre-Game: I think it was Benjamin Disraeli who said “Sometimes cities just suck.” Or maybe it was Don Rickles. We’re getting our historical figures mixed up.

Look, there’s nothing that stinks about San Diego, the actual place. It’s lovely. Or Phoenix, for that matter, if it weren’t for all the whack-a-doodles. Vancouver: now there’s a dandy city for you! If you can just get over all the residents piously reminding you just precisely how dandy it is.

On the other end, there are places like Mogadishu, a city that, I can comfortably assure you, sucks. Or vacation paradise Pripyat!  – home to the entombed Chernobyl perpetual light bulb. Pyongyang. Philadelphia.

Then we come to the middle ground: decent places inhabited by truly awful organizations. Pittsburgh comes to mind. Hoorah, it’s beautiful and their food isn’t too toxic and the local rumor is that there’s even a museum or something. But it’s also home to the rat burrow of unctuous fink Richard Mellon Scaife and his poisonous heirs, and the ‘Terrible Towel’, which we rank as only just below Scaife as scabes-inducing. The Pittsburgh Penguins… and Dan Bylsma. Think about that for a moment: both the Penguins AND Bylsma (and his douche-hat) compressed into one geographic point. That single distinction alone  is enough to push Pittsburgh to new title holder: Epicenter of Suck.

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Photo credit: Greg Fiume

The hard part is over. Mathieu Perreault led the Capitals with five points in four preseason games and snatched the final roster spot from favorites Cody Eakin and Mattias Sjogren.

Last season he showed the ability to drive puck possession, finishing with the fourth best Corsi relative to the competition on the team, behind only Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin.

Consistency, however, was a bigger issue. He earned all fourteen of his points in just nine of his 35 games played and wasn’t able to claim a center spot that was up for grabs.

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Garrett Mitchell attempts to headbutt Scott Wietecha into submission. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

After losing the first scrimmage game, Group A turned the tables on Group B on Thursday to take the second match of Development Camp, 4-3, in the shootout.

Garrett Mitchell, David Citviarese and Danick Paquette tallied Group A’s goals in regulation, while Travis Boyd scored twice along with Reid Edmondson in Group B’s losing effort. Mitchell also added the only shootout goal.

Below, I recap the game in photos.

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Mattias Sjogren gets high-sticked, loses tooth, remains lovely and Swedish.

When asked for his thoughts on 23 year-old Swede Mattias Sjogren, Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau had little to provide Monday morning at Washington’s Development Camp.

But three hours later, and with Sjogren missing a tooth, the bench boss was impressed.

“A minute in, I’m going, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Boudreau said. “He went around the net and I think the goalie’s stick came up and knocked out a tooth and welcome to North America.”

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