Since entering the NHL in 2000, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been a laughingstock. Sure, Rick Nash’s goal scoring gave them some respectability, and they had that weird playoff appearance in 2009, but it wasn’t until last week that I finally found respect for the franchise and its fans.
Then something magical happened at the Columbus Zoo, which changed everything.
Photo: Gregory Shamus
It was right around this time last year the Washington Capitals kicked off a hot streak that lofted them to the postseason. Losing twice in as many days to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Caps don’t look like liable to do that again.
The Penguins aren’t a great team. They’re way top-heavy on offense and somewhat disadvantaged on defense, but they’re still way way better than the Caps– both in composition and execution.
Evgeni Malkin sort of owned an offensive-zone shift against Orlov and the top line, releasing an actual perimeter shot that Jussi Jokinen delected in. That was all the goal-scoring we got until Crosby beat Orlov, Carrick, and Halak to make it 2-0 with five minutes left. The Caps mounted a little comeback attempt, but forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.
Pens beat Caps 2-0.
One legged ant-eater (Photo: Nick Wass)
Caps-Pens! The biggest rivalry in DC sprots! With only 18 standings points between them–
Wait, really? The Pens are that far ahead? Oh golly. Lean times in the District.
Moving on… the Caps need to make up some ground in the eastern conference if they want to make the playoffs, but they’re gonna have to do better than what they did on Monday night. Giving up an early goal and Sidney Shot from the Sidney Spot gave Pittsburgh enough of a boost early on to fend off a Caps surge in the second.
Chris Kunitz scored all of 46 seconds in, taking a pass of Sidney Crosby and beating Mike Green on his way to the not-perimeter. Eric Fehr fought back with a nifty finish set up by Jason Chimera, but the Pens fired back with Crosby’s one timer on the power play.
The Caps tied it up in the second as Nicky Backstrom banked a pass of some poor Penguin in the paint. That was fun, but then Chris Kunitz restored the Penguins lead off a rebound off Halak’s pads a little after the halfway mark.
The Caps could not convert a late-game power play. Cram.
Pens beat Caps 3-2.
Photo: Chris Gordon
Sunday was Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s first full day as an official Washington Capital, and we were all over it. Our intrepid reporters were at Kettler Capitals Iceplex first thing in the morning, taking photos, and covering his first press conference. But we also got a couple minutes with the man himself to chat in his native tongue.
RMNB’s own Igor Kleyner and Kuznetsov chatted about his first few hours in Washington, expectations for the Penguins game, and comparisons to Evgeni Malkin. Igor’s got your translation below.
Photo: Gregory Shamus
I pity people who can’t get up for a Penguins-Capitals game. I know intellectually that these games last just as long as a normal game and they have all the same rules and stuff, but it always feels to me like more happens when the Pens and the Caps face off. Maybe I’m just saying that because I didn’t have to watch the last one live or recap it. And maybe that’s why I was so optimistic heading into Thursday’s faceoff in Pittsburgh. The Capitals seemed to have mended their game during five-on-five, and it’s not like Oates gives his fourth line and bottom D-pair enough ice time to ruin games.
Brooks Laich puts some hard work in to a hang a shorty on the Penguins in the first period. Kris Letang tied it up at the halfway point with a four-on-two rush that deflected off Carlson’s and Backstrom’s sticks. Jason Chimera took the lead back by finishing off a great tic-tac-toe from Orlov and Johansson. Taylor Pyatt snapped us back to a tie a minute and a half later.
Alex Ovechkin exploited some chaos during four-on-four to rip home his 34th, but this game was incapable of being easy so Jussi Jokinen got a tap-in from the back door. The Penguins confounded the Caps in their own zone to get the lead with under two minutes left courtesy of Olli Maata. Ovi broke all of the sticks and it was over.
Pens beat Caps 4-3.
Photo credit: @Whitemooseranch
The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins renew their rivalry at 8pm tonight. I’m very excited. Also, excited: former Caps defenseman Brendan Witt who just posted this selfie of himself on Twitter.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals used to be a big deal, but that was a long time ago. It’s over now– Caps vs Pens is just #anothergame. When the world’s best playmaker, Sidney Crosby, faces off against the world’s best scorer,
Jason Chimera Alex Ovechkin, all we can muster now is a yawn.
I can’t even remember the time Crosby and Ovechkin scored matching hat tricks in May of 2009. I have just the vaguest memory of comparing Alex’s three Hart Trophies to Sidney’s one, or comparing Sidney’s Stanley Cup and Olympic Gold to Alex’s really hot and altogether delightful fiancée. I couldn’t recall the Snowvechkin game if you dropped 75 inches of snow on me. And would someone please give me a quick refresher course on the time or seven the Penguins knocked the Capitals out of the playoffs over the last 25 years?
That’s my attempt at a counter-counter media narrative. I’m doing the sarcasm thing again, sorry.
Despite less-than-earnest protestations to the contrary, Penguins-Capitals is still the biggest thing going. And for the first time in eons, Crosby and Ovechkin will meet while the former is healthy and the latter is sick unbelievable))).
Rather than being cynical at the media hype, we should be grateful that we’re so lucky as to witness a good game between these teams again.
Before tonight’s home opener, the Washington Capitals will raise a new Southeast Division Champions banner for the last time. The Capitals won half of the Southeast’s 14 division titles since 1998, but as of this season they will have to compete in the tougher Metropolitan Division, a sort of super-sized Patrick Division.
Some think the change will be disastrous for the Caps. “They will actually have to play against some tough teams in arguably the league’s toughest division,” the Pensblog said in their division preview story.
That’s not entirely correct.
Our friends at the Pensblog wrote an interesting item last week about how the five-year post-championship grace period is already over for their Penguins. If that’s true, it’s gonna be an interesting season for Pittsburgh, as we find out exactly how traumatized that team has become following two epic flameouts in the postseason. It’ll be like a funhouse mirror for Caps fans.
Marc-Andre Fleury had an .883 save percentage in last season’s playoffs and has not peeked above .900 since 08-09. The team chose to bone up its roster at the trade deadline by getting older and slower. Dan Bylsma, all of a sudden on the hot seat, received from Ray Shero a vote of support slash kiss of death. The team fared very poorly when Crosby and Malkin were off the ice, and those marquee players– now 26 and 27– are nearing inevitable declines as they enter their late 20s.
This isn’t me saying the Pens are doomed– they’re not the Maple Leafs or anything. They’re just gonna be a fun team to watch as they work their way through the kind of issues that can derail a team. Then again, maybe Beau Bennett will put up 30 goals and everything will be hunky dory.
Photo credit: @JessieMartin
The Washington Capitals had a few pleasant surprises from their prospects last year. Tom Wilson showed the kind of offensive output everyone had hoped for. Connor Carrick displayed NHL potential. Garrett Mitchell proved he’s NHL-ready in Hershey. But the “Performance Way Over Expectations” award this year goes to Riley Barber, who had a tremendous rookie year at Miami University. Barber was named CCHA Freshman of the Year and played on the top line during the USA’s surprising gold medal win at World Juniors.
A player who wasn’t drafted until the sixth round has somehow turned into a dominant college hockey player.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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