carey

[Ed. note: Oh my. Here we are, once more, teetering on the precipice. Wisenheimers will tell you stat this and odds that. But the PuckBuddys roll different. Yes, PuckBuddy Jason Rogers is back again – you think you could scare him away? – with searing insights into the coming game. Which is, we all agree, big. As in… big. Like nobody frackin’ breathe until we wrap this one up. It’s a messy job, but someone has to do it. Even former Premier William MacKenzie King is watching. Here’s Sperm Whale Jason.]

BradenHolbeastThe Morning Skate: I don’t mean to rain, sleet, or snert on anyone’s victory parade, but the Capitals play in a garbage division. It’s a division so abysmal that next year it will be forever struck from the NHL pantheon, and utterance of its name will be forbade as heresy. But, I believe the Capitals are far and away the best team in the Southeast, the veritable creme d’ la crap, if you will. This game against a very good Habs team will provide a measuring stick for how far the Caps might go in the playoffs. So let’s hope that distance is measured in good ol’ American miles, and not kilometres (freakin’ socizlists.)

The Puck Drop: Secondly, this game matters because we mere mortals get to watch Alexander Ovechkin play hockey again. Now tied for the lead league in goals, OBESTkin is scoring all over the place like Maria ain’t watchin’ (BOOM.) Dale Hunter was content to use him like a tarp, lazily casting him across the penalty kill and hoping he made something happen… somehow. Adam Oates is using Ovi’s precision and power like a shotgun that shoots micro-scalpels.

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Collapse: Habs Hammer Caps 4-1

Canadiens destroy Caps 4-1

Oy. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)

[Editor’s note: With RMNB’s Peter Hassett out in California for the week, the PuckBuddys recap the latest Caps loss.]

Sometimes, platitudes are the only comfort we have. Like “Third time’s a charm!”  Or “All in to win!” Or “Shomer f—-n shabbos!” Yeah, like that.

Be real. We went into this game feeling queasy; like Taco Bell Doritos Volcano Nachos queasy. Walking into Verizon we were already outscored two-to-one in the first two games; an unappealing start. Some pointed fingers at Coach Adam Oates‘ inability to instill discipline. (Those worries may have been answered by Oates’ curious decision to bench Marcus Johansson and Matthieu Perreault, and then re-start Matty.) Some demurred that the team is still learning a new coach and new style, and we’re willing to go some distance here. A few fickle fingers pointed at under-production by Ovi, Holtby, Greenie, Carlson

Enough. Tonight brought one hard answer: the Capitals aren’t firing.

The first frame saw some testing on both sides of the other’s defense. Good efforts by Green, Backstrom and Ribeiro, and a surprising amount of icing from Montreal. Michal Neuvirth made several great saves (a few too close,) and we were hopeful with Nicky’s late flick to Wojtek Wolski until Ovi spoiled that. The PPs yielded nada, leaving both teams relatively balanced both offensively and defensively (though the Habs lead with hits.)

Rly?Second period: oh crap, 5 on 3? Ovi and Brouwer leave the Caps naked, yet Beags and Carlson, while never clearing it out, keep the Caps alive. Then with only :04 in the first PP, Plekanec cracks one in (with Markov on the assist) bumping the Habs up 1-0. Moments later, Andrei Markov (with Pacioretty) snaps one over Neuvy’s shoulder bringing the Canadiens up 2-o. Oxygen slowly leaving Verizon. Can it get worse? Yes. Rene Bourque sails it down the side and snaps it to Brian Gionta, who knocks it past Neuvy, tippling the score at 3-o. You want more? Francis Bouillon, on assist from Josh Gorges, blows one past a clueless Neuvy; Habs go up 4-0, Caps fans register their displeasure.

Third quarter squishes out with pretty much everyone in the wrong spot at the right time. Shots still favoring the Caps, although you’d never know that. Time dribbles by, our RMNB editors suggest a game recap isn’t even worthwhile. We soldier on, as does Matt Hendricks. At least someone’s trying. So is Beags to Chimera to Joey Crabb! Well at least John Carlson’s hair won’t get shutout, even though he’ll get one last penalty.

SCORE: Canadiens 4, Capitals 1

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Matt Hendricks: The Not So Secret Weapon

Photo credit: Greg Fiume

The surprise is that there was no surprise.

With the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens locked at two as the clock hit zero in overtime, Matt Hendricks got ready to take the ice for the shootout. The fourth liner, not one of the highly skilled Russians or Nicklas Backstrom in his grand return, was set to shoot first in the most important gimmick of season — that is, if you don’t count the one 48 hours ago. And once again Hendricks made the moves you know by heart: fake, leg lift, deke, deke, wrist shot, score. Eight goals, 12 opportunities, one move.

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Neuvy smirks after taking a Rene Bourque slapshot off the mask. (Via @WashCapsRock)

The Washington Capitals’ season is still on shaky ground. Buffalo’s loss to Pittsburgh on Friday kept their hopes alive, but Saturday’s game versus the Montreal Canadiens held huge determinative power. Perfect time for a Comebackstrom.

After having his initial shot blocked, Alex Semin found a wide-open Mathieu Perreault in the slot, for a one-timer. 1-0 Caps. Unguarded in front of the net, Matt Hendricks hit Jay Beagle with a cross-crease pass to put the good guys up 2. Erik Cole then scored a momentum-killing goal with one minute left to go in the first.

In the second period, the Canadiens dominated. Tomas Plekanec tied it up when he went around a slow-skating Roman Hamrlik and scored on the backhand.

After multiple scoring chances for both teams in the third period, the game went to Overtime. Then the shootout. Thanks to goals by Matt Hendricks and Alex Semin, Caps win 3-2.

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Nicklas Backstrom is Back, Will Play Against Montreal

Photo credit: The Washington Post

On January 3rd, the Capitals beat the Calgary Flames 3-1, but suffered a huge loss, losing team MVP Nicklas Backstrom indefinitely due to a concussion. The head injury and subsequent symptoms forced Backstrom out for three months, but finally, after 40 games, the Capitals are about to get a huge boost.

Why? Because Backstrom’s back, baby! The 24-year-old Swede will return against Montreal tonight and retake his normal spot on the first line, centering Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson.

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Montreal Canadiens Pregame: The Comebackstrom?

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Somehow, inexplicably, the Caps won on Thursday. It was a manic mess of a game, like something the Flaming Lips would do if they played hockey. In case your blood pressure is returning to normal and bowels are solidifying, here comes another cataclysmic hockey game to freak you out all over again.

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It’s Good to Be Home: Caps beat Habs 4-1

Photo credit: Mitchel Layton

Friday night’s meeting between the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens was an exciting one. The only thing that muddled the joy is that funny feeling that this may be one of the last times we see this version of the team play..

Mathieu Perreault got on the board by redirecting a Jason Chimera pass along the crease that Tomas Kaberle deemed not worth his time. Jason Chimera took the puck for an 80-foot stroll, pushing Carey Price into the net along with the puck. 16 seconds later, Marcus Johansson dropped a pass to Dmitry Orlov, who set up Alex Ovechkin waiting in the circle for a one-timer. That shot found the back of the net, giving the Caps a solid 3-0 lead going into the third.

Rene Bourque ended the shut out (actually 260 minutes and 4 seconds long) with a shorthanded goal. Joel Ward got the empty netter, and that was that. Caps beat Habs 4-1.

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Montreal Canadiens Pregame: The Puckies!

The Red Carpet: Oh Lorda Mercy. Sunday = Oscars. Monday = Trade deadline. We don’t know which town is more nervous, Hollywood or Washington.

Larfs, what a silly question! Of course we do. Exactly because we’ve served our time in both, and we know which town is more bloodless:

Phone call in DC: “Hello. Yeah, but what can you do for me tomorrow?”

Phone call in Hollyood: “What? You again?” *click.*

Check it out. Starshines like Julia Roberts or Harrison Ford disappear from the screen. A little too… seasoned. Anonymous tradesmen like James Cromwell or Melissa McCarthy: can’t book you enough. Proven winners… and we hate this more than you do… like Brad Pitt or Meryl Someoneorother. Well, they win. Because they’re winners. Until they don’t.

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Backstrom after taking an elbow from Rene Bourque. (Photo credit: Clydeorama)

Did you think we were over this? We’re not.

Nick Backstrom has missed 22 games since absorbing Rene Bourque‘s elbow to his head on January 3rd. He has not skated in practice, and there is no timetable for his return. The Capitals have gone 8-11-3 without Nick Backstrom and are no longer among the east’s top 8. We’ve talked about Bourque endlessly and we even made a Punch-out style video about him, but hell no we’re not over this yet.

Neither is the team. Earlier this month, Brooks Laich told the Washington Post, “I don’t think our guys are ever going to forget what happened.”

The Capitals return home on Friday after a floundering road trip. There’s no reason to believe that any recent trends will magically reverse, so we’re encouraging this sideshow. And that’s why we’re debuting our new campaign for Rene Bourque: PUNCH THIS FACE.

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Trade: Hal Gill to Nashville

Photo credit: Michael Miller

[Ed. note: In the run-up to the trade deadline, RMNB will be publishing trade stories– including non-Caps news.]

According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Hal Gill has been traded from the Montreal Canadiens to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney, and a 2012 2nd round pick.

Hal Gill has a cap hit of $2,250,000 and will be expected to provide veteran defense for a Nashville team that may be in danger of losing either one or both of their star defensive pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter over the next few months. Blake Geoffrion has a cap hit of $1,062,500 and has yet to score in 22 games with the Predators this season, though he did contribute 6 goals in 20 games last season and will likely be expected to chip in some offense on a Montreal squad that often struggles with this. Slaney is a 23-year-old left wing with no pro experience thus far.

Hal Gill isn’t especially known for his speed or mobility — look for terms like “parking meter” and “pylon” on his bingo card — but he’s an excellent penalty killer and a very good defensive mentor. Nashville’s scary defense just got a little bit scarier.