Photo Credit: Nick Wass

The Washington Capitals think they have a shot at the Stanley Cup. This season began with a pitiful start under new head coach Adam Oates, but the team is better now. They’re used to his system, they’re healthier, and they’re picking up pieces to help them in the short-term.

“We weren’t going to be sellers,” said George McPhee yesterday. “You never know once you get in. Let’s see what happens.”

“We have a good thing going here,” said Mike Ribeiro. “We know how good we can be.”

“I have complete confidence in the guys in this room,” said Troy Brouwer. “We have the ability in here to make a splash in the playoffs.”

“I want to play for the Stanley Cup,” said Martin Erat. “Washington is one of the places where you have a chance.”

On Thursday, the Caps moved into playoff spot for the first time this season.

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Photo credit: Scott Levy

Mike Ribeiro is a hot topic surrounding the Washington Capitals lately — not just because he’s been the team’s best player. Instead, Ribs is looking for a five-year deal in a market where free-agent forwards get big money, even with the salary cap decreasing by $6 million next year (from $70.2 million to $64.4 million).

Ribeiro is 33-years-old and is on the last year of a five-year, $25 million dollar deal. His next contract will certainly be the last big one of his career, and he wants his family to have a good, stable home. We shouldn’t expect his production (11 goals, 35 points in 33 games this season) to stay this way as his enters the latter part of career. On the other hand, however, the Caps haven’t a quality second-line center in years.

Within the next few games, the Caps may figure out if they want to– or even are able to– re-sign Ribeiro for a price that’s reasonable. Ribeiro told me he would have discussions with the team about a new contract before the trade deadline on April 3. Presumably, if his demands are too high for Washington, they may trade him.

“If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen,” Ribeiro said of a possible extension in Washington. “We’ll talk, obviously, before trade deadline and see where they’re at, where I’m at. We’ll go from there.”

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Patrick McDermott

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

As the Washington Capitals returned home to face the New York Islanders, they were likely pondering the 6 points out of a total 8 they earned on their recent road trip. That pondering may have led to some absent-minded play in the first period, but the Caps recovered in the second to put forward one of their strongest possession games of the season. But possession was exactly what Mike Green didn’t have when his goof-up allowed the GWG for John Tavares.

Islanders beat Caps 3-2.

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[Ed note: Hockey Hemingway Jason Rogers is back for you to love and adore. Talk to him via the Tweetaz at @HeyJayJRogers. Any and all credit goes to the PuckBuddys.]

15 minutes of ice time

15 minutes of ice time

Andy Warhol Says*: Everywhere you look, you see Pittsburgh fans. In Andy’s view, “…it’s all so beautiful.” Of course, he was hopped up on horse tranqs.

But this is Pittsburgh. And at the first insinuation of bandwagon chasing, they all claim family ties to the city. First of all, you cannot all be from there. It is just not a big enough city for every Yuengling-guzzling bar rat to crawl back to. And even if they did all somehow come from Pittsburgh, you know why they’re here now? Because they got the hell out of Pittsburgh as soon as they could. There’s even a website devoted to the phenomenon. And so with the sacred camaraderie of refugees from a land not worth returning to, the Penguins wander about the NHL landscape. On Tuesday the Capitals take the fight to them, and you can bet they’ve had their road Whites mustard-proofed.

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Har har. Bruins fan taunts Ribs. (Photo credit: Emily C.)

The Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins have developed an intense rivalry since their back-and-forth seven-game series in the first round of the playoffs last year. From the Olympic-quality dives from Brad Marchand to Nicky Backstrom’s cross-check to the face, it’s apparent these teams hate each other.

That’s why on Saturday, as they played each other for the second time in 16 days, all hell broke loose. First, Mike Ribeiro fought Brad Marchand, and Matt Hendricks laid down the law with Nathan Horton. Then, in the third period, as Shawn Thornton tried to get Hendricks to drop the gloves, Hendy bloodied his fists in a fight with Adam McQuaid.

Let’s recap all the crazy.

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The Bold and the Bloody: Bruins beat Caps 4-1

Brian Babineau

Photo credit: Brian Babineau

The Boston Bruins are the best team in the East. I think they’re the East’s best chance at winning the Cup this year, but that doesn’t mean I’m rooting for them or that I didn’t want the Washington Capitals to crush them on Saturday afternoon. That didn’t happen though. The Caps struggled on defense, and their offense needed help to get the puck behind Anton Khudobin. The game got a little wild in the second and third periods, which is just how the Bruins like it.

Bruins beat Caps 4-1.

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Ovi’s smiles are getting progressively weirder as the night goes on. (Photo credit: @ovi8)

With Alex Ovechkin scoring his 700th point and the Capitals escaping Raleigh with a win over division-leading Carolina, the players were in a festive mood. That might explain why half the team started tweeting after the game, shooting congratulations to Ovi (#respect), describing the victory with a three-letter word, and posting… well… other weird things.

Take a look for yourself.

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The Washington Capitals at the Halfway Mark


I have no idea who the Washington Capitals are. We are exactly halfway into the 2013 season, and the team seems to change identities on pace with the weather. After one of the slowest starts in memory, the Caps put forth some pretty stirring wins in late February. But now in March, the team seems poised to miss the postseason for the first time since 2007– unless they can turn things around.

This article takes stock of the Capitals’ first half and asks what the back half could look like. Plus like 7 megs of Game of Thrones GIFs.

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Kevin Dineen needed more than a timeout tonight. (GIF by welshhockeyfan)

The Florida Panthers opened tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals with four straight shots on Braden Holtby in the first 1:44 of game action. They looked sharp. They looked ready to get out of the Southeast division cellar. The wheels fell off 24 seconds later.

As John Erskine wound up from the Panthers’ blue line — in what he would later admit was just a dump-and-change — Florida’s starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom mis-judged Erskine’s blast and allowed the puck to squeak through his seven-hole. 1-0 Caps.

2:36 later, the Capitals would score on their very next shot, as Markstrom was caught off guard by Wojtek Wolski‘s strong net crash. Enter Scott Clemmensen.

Clemmensen gave up two more goals — one to John Carlson and another to Mike Ribeiro — in the next six shots. The Capitals received a standing ovation and headed into intermission with a 4-0 lead, their biggest goal explosion this season.

“I don’t know what to say,” Markstrom told reporters after the game. “It was terrible. I feel like I let the team down. I am there to stop pucks, and I didn’t do that tonight.”

The Capitals beat the Panthers 7-1.

Now enjoy fun facts from the first period –plus video of all  four goals.

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Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

A few weeks ago I published a piece explaining why I wasn’t freaking out the Capitals. My point was that bad luck had been quashing good possession numbers, a trend that I predicted would soon reverse. That did not happen.

The Caps have just two wins through eleven games, making them the worst team in the league. During media time on Friday, General Manager George McPhee primarily blamed that record on bad goaltending and undisciplined, “selfish” penalties. CSN’s Alan May agrees.

I admitted on Thursday night that I was baffled by why the Caps were losing, so I thought we could use this time to figure out what exactly isn’t working. Because I’m pretty sure it’s not the penalties.

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