ilya

Early Morning Skate: So, the last time we were here, we were there. Filthy Philadelphia, needing a solid road win, and feeling optimistic to start. In fact, we were all, like, yay here we gowhattheflipwasthat?! and c’mon Holtbeast get it together and then yay Groooouuubsie and boooo Max Talbot grrr grrrr and ow that traffic-cone orange makes my soul weep and that was pretty much the best summary of that ugly mess of a game I can imagine.

Mmmm...tastes like Cheez Whiz

Mmmm…tastes like Cheez Whiz

What exactly was it that happened that terrible, cold February night at the F-U Center? Where, exactly, were manimal Troy Brouwer and Captain 8 (despite being probably the best in Red on the ice that night) and John “Towelie” Carlson and the Millionaire and his wife and the nameless rest? Certainly not there to play hard, or at least battle back through a tough start. And why was it, exactly, the Lord Supreme in His wisdom didst create that dung-heap of a burg to begin with?

Now this is our idea of a hot Fly team. Really.

Now this is our idea of a hot Fly team. Really.

You see, I’d like to chalk up that bumbling bungle of a game simply to our visiting the giant spirit suck that is Philly and its moronic fans. Like to, but cannot. Yeah, there were a couple fluky puck bounces and what-not, but those things give as much as they take. No, what we saw was a failure to launch by the Capitals after a dis-spiriting start. It was not, in any possible permutation of the concept, ‘good.’

The Puck Drop: But it’s Spring, and Easter (for some) or Maru (for others) or Passover or Nowruz or we’re just going to stop this now. Traditionally, it’s a time for rebirth and renewal and rejuvenation and reloading and all that. For the Capitals’ flock, it’s once more the race to the playoffs.

For several years now, the Capitals have demonstrated fine mettle in April, much like the pale gossamer jonquils besotting the landscape, if those jonquils were angry, snarling, forechecking, glass-smashing monsters made of steel and laser beams.

In short, there’s two ways this ends. One: we leave Filthydelphia redolent of Whiz, covered in soot and chagrin; or two, you can eat me Peter Laviolette. No wait, that’s a given. Oh yes; or two, we bounce outta Barftown and kick it into grinder gear for the coming match-ups against the Canes and ugly Islanders (revenge want now) and be the team that showed up to rub Winnipeg’s nose in its own dark, dark shame. I know which one I’m hoping for.

So let’s git ‘er done.

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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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charasmash

Doug Johnson is back to amuse and torment. You know him as one-half of the PuckBuddys. The first one to get them to 3K Twitter follows probably wins a car or something.

The Morning Skate: Gentle readers, before we [CENSORED] all over our Bruins friends,  let us pause a moment, as you scramble in blind panic preparing for snow that will never, ever come again, to consider the hazards of making predictions. Especially about the Caps.

For example, if I predict no snow Wednesday, it’s gonna get all crazy 20″ up in here. Conversely, I stone cold guarantee that if I dash to the store today to buy a terror shovel, we will be mopping our brows and sipping Mint Juleps on our verandas by Friday. The point is: predictions can go so wrong. Britain’s Lord Kelvin (he of Downton Abbey, we guess?) said heavier-than-air machines could never fly. Harry Warner said no-one would pay for talkies. The Skipper predicted a three-hour tour. Boom.

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sasha

[Ed. note:Today, the latest member of the PuckBuddys team hits the ice. Jason Rogers currently hangs his hat in Virginia, has studied in Paris and worked in China (always one step ahead of Interpol). But where ever he is in the world he’s a Caps fan through and through. He knows the game and we're not holding that against him. Jason currently sports #8 – and the “C” – playing center for the Manassas Sperm Whales. Srsly. Give him a follow on twitter.]

Morning Skate: Well, Saturday’s game against the Devils sure was fun to watch, no? Alex Ovechkin bowled a Magician, and the whole team clearly ate their morning Oates with breakfast. It was a real big-boy win against the defending Eastern Conference champions for this Caps team, and like a really nice yard with an unmarked septic field, hopefully something they can build on. Today, Southeast Division rival Carolina Hurricanes blow into town like a hot, smelly belch from the South. I hope they brought illegal fireworks.

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marty

[Ed note: After a year of doggedly researching and documenting the panoply of awfulness that are the Washington Capitals' rival cities and teams, the PuckBuddys'  physicians grew concerned, recommending they take a nice, quiet rest somewhere so they could forget temporarily about hockey and focus instead on finger paints and macaroni art. Helpfully, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr gave them just the right opportunity to lay down their burden.

Now, no longer able to keep them involuntarily committed, the Buddy's have returned to crash our net and empty the NHL's septic tanks that you, wisely, would rather not. Because that's just the sort of stand-up guys they are.

However, we caution they are still a bit on edge. So please, everyone...no sudden movements.]

The Scene: The pioneering urban anthropologist Ulf Hannerz once remarked “That which most repels us in other cultures is very often what lies buried and secret at the heart of our own.”  Well, no he didn’t; I just made that up. But then again, I doubt that Ulf ever visited New Jersey.

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Soooo Close: Devils Beat Caps 3-2 (OT)

Neuvy run over

Neuvy run over during the second period. (Photo credit: Mel Evans)

[Editor's Note: Peter Hassett wisely took the opportunity to leave DC this week. Ian Oland is in protective custody. Chris Gordon has joined the circus on the trapeze. The PuckBuddys are entirely responsible for this week's tragic events.]

“Nothing ever really goes away – it just changes into something else.” – Sarah Ockler.

There’s a last bit to that quote that we’ll share at the end. (Spoiler!) Still, we can’t help but watch the Capitals 2013 and wonder: what are they changing into? And where is this metamorphosis leading? Answers – now.

First period: Some early testing by the Caps heartens us. We like what we’re seeing on defense from Ward; once again, the Caps look dominant in the first. Can’t hear the name “Travis Zajac” without thinking about buying a vowel. Yes, that’s what we’re down to. Sadly, Jacob Josefson to Stephen Gionta (brother of Habs’ Brian) with a snapper past Neuvy puts them 1-up.

We feel you, Meryl.

We feel you, Meryl.

Second begins with a dash to the Caps net, gobbled up by Neuvy. Mike Ribeiro and Jason Chimera denied what shoudda coudda been. Troy Brouwer passes to no one, which is somehow emblematic of the team this year. Phew! on a Neuvy save during a Devs attempt at a shortie, leading to both teams feeling a little better about themselves, while Martin Brodeur notches another lump on his coconut. Phew! again as Neuvy (again) saves the Caps on a Devils PP. Tonight is a good night for Neuvirth, so heck, let’s give him a 5-on-3 because why not? Of course,  Patrik Elias scores (nothing you can do, Neuvy) bringing Devs up 2-o. Please let this end.

Last period starts with us wondering if the mullets (*ahem Carlson*) are slowing the Caps down. Adam Oates looks sour like the Dad in “That’ 70’s Show,” which we’re coming to understand. Caps PP yields zip, and we get another shot. MoJo sends it off to nowhere, and Phew! (3x) Neuvy saves the day. Finally, Ward knocks to Ribeiro and the Caps are on the board, 2-1. And then HURRAH! Greenie sends a sizzler into the net, Caps tied 2-2 with less than three minutes remaining. An almost heart-stopper brings us to:

OT: Pushups everyone! Hero becomes the goat as Greenie gets sent to the penalty box and Caps go on PK. Neuvy is on his best game tonight: how many times can we “Phew!”? Caps kill effectively kill the penalty, while Ovechkin is sleep-skating. Twenty seconds to go and Ilya Kovalchuk takes advantage of Ovi’s slop, firing it past Neuvy and ending the game.

SCORE: Devils  3, Capitals 2.

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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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New York and the Rangers: Rotten Apple


Photo credit: Movie Vault

Editor’s note: The playoff series gives Caps fans a chance to learn all about our stupid rivals and the exotic (i.e., terrible) places they come from. For the second of their Stanley Cup travelogue series, the PuckBuddys offer “How To Spot A Rangers Fan” and helpfully explain why a trip to Manhattan is only slightly worse than a colonoscopy. Follow @PuckBuddys.

Sometimes literary fiction can teach us something great and truthy. I’m thinking here about timeless classics like “Escape from New York,” “The Stand”, or “I Am Legend” (Will Smith version, duh). In these worlds, Manhattan’s streets are littered with drooling ghouls, shuffling corpses and brainless zombies, with a few rapists tossed in for good measure. The entire island is alternately either a prison or a graveyard, both equally wretched, and always there’s one or two smart people trying desperately to flee, usually to Washington.

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Boston and the Bruins: Wicked Awful

This is what Swedish revenge looks like. (Photo credit: Mark Baer, US Presswire)

The playoff series gives Caps fans a chance to learn all about our rivals and the exotic places they come from. For the first of their Stanley Cup travelogue series, the PuckBuddys offer “How To Spot A Bruins Fan” and helpfully explain why living in Boston is worse than gargling with cat litter.  

The Geography of Bad: Let’s just put a few things on the table. Some cities are horrible because of where they are. Tampa comes to mind. Not quite poor enough to be swamp trash, not quite rich enough to be coastal, it’s the worst of Florida compressed into one atomically fetid spot. Or take Winnipeg. God help anyone who has to go to Winnipeg.

Other places aren’t so much insufferable because of where they are, but because of who lives there. Philadelphia, for example, where entire generations have refined the art of being over-privileged and grating. Dallas, which is just about all we need to say about that hole. Or pretty much the entire state of Arizona.

That said, there’s a whole special category of wretched for cities that, were the Lord truly merciful, He would just dump into the ocean and pretend it never happened. Can you guess which blighted dung pile is featured in this week’s list of awful?

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Doubting Thomas

Craig Brownstein of the Puck Buddys gets you primed for Holtby vs Thomas. Follow @PuckBuddys …unless you hate smiles. You don’t hate smiles, do you?

So. Here we are. The Caps’ long, strange trip to the playoffs wasn’t easy, not by any stretch, and their first round opponent doesn’t look so easy either. We know what’s behind us – a roller coaster season of consistent inconsistency, and we know what’s ahead of us – the defending Stanley Cup Champions are big, physical, and chock full of talent. So this probably explains why hockey’s literati almost to the person predicts a Boston win for the series. We don’t put much stock in that, of course. We don’t because we’re homers. Homo homers to be precise.

We look at the Boston match up as a series of If – Then statements: If Ovi, Sasha, and Nicky fire, then we’ll be OK. If we can match them physically, then we don’t get pushed around. If our special teams perform, then we’ll have a real shot. If we put rubber on that creep, Timmy Thomas, get in his head and face, then we’ll score moar goals. If we crash the net, you know the rest. And it’s Timmy and his counterpart at the opposite end of the rink that we think this series revolves around.

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