Alex Ovechkin takes a shot against the Panthers

Just another ho-hum night for Ovechkin: 1 goal, 2 assists. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Semyon Varlamov: Your game's number one star. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Semyon Varlamov: Your game's number one star. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

In a matchup between the Eastern Conference’s best and worst teams, Bruce Boudreau opted to scratch three of his regulars — Jason Arnott, Scott Hannan and Alexander Semin — in the Capitals final home game of the regular season. After seeing his team play a tough 65 minutes in Toronto, Boudreau saw no compelling reason to field his best roster, especially considering the Capitals had already clinched their fourth straight Southeast division title.

Despite there being some signs pointing to Mike Green returning to the line-up tonight, Boudreau opted to sit the two-time Norris Trophy finalist as well. Boudreau told the Washington Post’s Greg Schimmel after today’s morning skate that, “No [Green won’t play tonight], but you know what, he’s ready to play and, I mean, he’s been symptom-free for three weeks plus. It’s just we’re trying to be as cautious as we can with things, just as other people are with guys that they have as concussions and could probably play, but they want to make 100 percent sure. We feel he’ll be good to go on Saturday.”

The Capitals “B” team, however, didn’t miss a beat. Before the game was a minute old, Marcus Johansson — he of the ever-burgeoning confidence — inside outted Mike Weaver with an extra-crispy move. Helpless and out of position, Weaver took a tripping penalty, sending the Capitals power play immediately onto the ice. Mike Knuble, the beneficiary of a Brooks Laich power move to the net, scored 23 seconds into the man-advantage. Jason Chimera, brilliantly set-up by Nicklas Backstrom, then scored via a tap-in on Washington’s second powerplay of the night to close the opening stanza.

The Capitals would never look back. Sean Collins would score his second career NHL goal on a rarely-seen four-on-two odd man break during the second period, Matt Hendricks would pot a goal in front of the net after some hard forechecking in the corners and Alex Ovechkin would add an empty-net goal, his 32nd of the season. Caps maul Panthers, 5-2.

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William Make-A-Wish (33 of 34)

Alexander Semin picks up William after giving him his game jersey. (Photo credit: Shannon family)

Editor’s Note: By now, you’ve probably heard of William Shannon. He is five years old, has acute lymphoblastic leukemia and is everyone’s favorite little Capital. Thanks to the make a Wish-A-Wish foundation and the Caps, William had his dream realized and took the ice with Mike Green, Jason Chimera, D.J. King and Semyon Varlamov on Friday.

“This weekend was an incredible event!,” William’s father Devin Shannon said in an email. “William’s wish was to practice with the Capitals and he did! I can’t tell you how much everyone has done for us and what this weekend has meant for us.”

After practicing with the Caps, William’s journey continued on Saturday when he and his family took in Washington’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres before riding the on the Zamboni and receiving the jersey off the back of Alexander Semin after the game. I’ll let Devin take it from here:

Day two was just as amazing as day one! Allyson Butler from Make-A-Wish met us in the hotel lobby and took us out to wait for our “ride” to the game! Within minutes a very long black stretch limo appeared before us! Bill, our driver, was very nice. William and Emily quickly climbed in and all we heard for a few minutes was: “Cool!” “This is so sweet!” Then we had chatty little ones for the short ride over to the Verizon Center! It is amazing how just the little things make such a huge impression! How neat it was for the kids to get out of the limo right in front of the Verizon Center with so many fans around wondering who the V.I.P. was!

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William - Make-A-Wish (19 of 35)

William scores on an out of position Semyon Varlamov. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

It was an ordinary day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Caps players took part in an optional practice, one of the countless and rather mundane skates they will participate in this season. That was, of course, until William Shannon joined in.

William is five years old and suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. His dream is to play for the Washington Capitals. For a few hours at least that dream was realized thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Mid-Atlantic chapter.

With the players wrapping up their on-ice workout, William took the ice, clad in the sweater of his favorite player, Alex Ovechkin, and Ovi’s signature yellow laces. He has been playing hockey since 2009, but had to stop late that year because of side-effects from his treatment. That didn’t keep him out of the rink for long, however, and in February of last year he was back, feeling so weak he had to use a walker, but nonetheless on the ice.

“This is phenomenal. This is every kid’s wish,” William’s mom Sandy told me. “For William, it’s even bigger. Hockey is what has gotten him through. Our hard days, our tough days, we are watching hockey. On our better days he’s playing hockey … To actually be strong enough, to be confidant enough, to be good enough of a skater to hold his own in a way with these players out here, you know, it’s joyful. It’s hope. It’s saying, ‘you’ve got a lifetime’.”

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Update: RMNB’s Chris Gordon, who was at Kettler today, will have a full story on this later.

During a lightly attended optional practice today, the Washington Capitals allowed William, a young boy from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, take the ice with some of his favorite childhood heroes. Above, watch as the talented youngster is given a chance to score on a breakaway against Semyon Varlamov. This may very well be the most precious thing I’ve ever seen.

S/T to @itallfallsdwn for the video and @rinkrebel for tweeting it out.

Caps Get Ruutu’d By Hurricanes, 3-2 (SO)

Dennis Wideman lays on the ice after being laid out by Tuomo Ruutu.

Wideman grimaces in pain after being laid out by Tuomo Ruutu. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon!)

Cam Ward celebrates the victory. Click to enlarge. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

Cam Ward celebrates the victory. Click to enlarge. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

After an extended 10 day break to rest an undisclosed injury, the Capitals welcomed their kapitan back to the lineup Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. During the three game stretch in which Ovechkin sat out, the Caps went 2-1-0, their most dominant win coming Saturday night in Montreal when Braden Holtby shutout the Canadiens.

Alex Semin’s Canadian Ice Dad, Jason Arnott, also returned from injury, forcing Jason Chimera to the press box. Pre-game, head coach Bruce Boudreau told CSN that while it was great that two of his top six forwards were returning, he also had a fear that there would be a letdown. “You know, the guys have been working so hard while [Ovechkin and Arnott] have been out. I’m scared they’ll look at them returning and go ‘they should carry the load now.'”

In the first period, however, Boudreau would have nothing to worry about. Led by a determined Russian Machine, the Capitals as a team hit everything that moved and rifled 16 shots at Cam Ward, feeding off the energy of a Verizon Center crowd they hadn’t played in front of for sixteen long days. The Caps would not see their hard work be rewarded, and the game would remain scoreless until early on in the second period. After Nick Backstrom took a tripping penalty at 1:06, Joe Corvo brilliantly found Jussi Jokinen wide-open in the slot for a one-timer. Jokinen converted and the Hurricanes would take a 1-0 lead.

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Brooks Laich congratulates Braden Holtby on his shutout

Brooks Laich gives Braden Holtby the ol’ congratulatory helmet tap. (Photo credit: Francois Lacasse)

Marco Sturm seems, let's just say, pleased with his goal. (Photo credit: Graham Hughes)

Marco Sturm seems, let's just say, pleased with his goal. (Photo credit: Graham Hughes)

Less than 24 hours after being shutout at the hands of the Ottawa Senators, the Washington Capitals turned the tables against the Montreal Canadiens on Holtby — err — Hockey Night in Canada. The 21 year-old stonewalled the Habs on the way to his tenth victory this season.

The Capitals dominated the play during the first period of play, outshooting the Canadiens 12 to three and scoring the only tally of the frame. The goal came just 84 seconds into the contest when Marco Sturm knocked in a rebound off a Nicklas Backstrom wrist shot.

Washington continued their strong play in the second stanza, outshooting the Habs once again while Braden Holtby held the fort in net.

In the third both teams managed good opportunities, but it would be the Caps who would convert. After, guess who, Marco Sturm poke-checked the puck away at center-ice, Backstrom started a three-on-one break before Alexander Semin finished the play off by flicking the Swede’s pass past Montreal goalie Carey Price. SHUTOUT FOR BRADEN! Caps stonewall Habs, 2-0.

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On the day that Semyon Varlamov’s bobblehead was given away to blood donors at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Braden Holtby would not be outdone on the awesome meter. After Benoit Pouliot dumped the puck in after the referees’ whistled the Habs for being off-side, the sassy 21 year-old ‘keeper kicked the puck into the air, caught it with the blade of his stick before flipping it into his glove. Another great Holtbyism? You bet!

Colin Greening scores on Semyon Varlamov

Colin Greening celebrates his goal; Varly is not pleased. (Photo credit: Phillip MacCallum)

Well, where do even begin? Poor effort, non-existent offense, a goalie playing in his first game since the 20th of February and some, let’s just say, interesting officiating. Those four things combined make the blueprint for how you find a way to lose to the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

Nothing of interest happened in the first period, but there was another meaningless D.J. King fight just under three minutes into the game.

The Senators’ Colin Greening opening the scoring at 13:25 in the second frame. After a scramble in front of the net, Greening appeared to kick not only the puck, but Capitals ‘keeper Semyon Varlamov’s whole pad past the goal-line. The big wigs in Toronto took a look at it, but the play stood. 1-0 Sens.

Both teams registered eight shots on goal in the second period — with the Capitals having the best chance on an Alexander Semin breakaway — yet no one would tally.

Just over two minutes into the third stanza, Erik Condra pushed the Senators’ lead to two. After a Karl Alzner giveaway, Condra picked up Milan Michalek’s backhand no-look feed and wristed it pass Varlamov.

The real action, however, would happen just under 13 minutes into the period when Matt Bradley laid-out Patrick Wiercioch at the goal-line. Though the hit appeared to be a legal shoulder to chest hit, the Sens and referees took exception. First Ottawa’s Zach Smith jumped Bradley, forcing him to duel. Smith got the win in the ’bout, but correctly received an instigator penalty for his instigating. However, the refs called Bradley boarding, one thing the hit almost certainly was not as Bradley and Wiercioch were 12 feet from the dashers when the hit occurred. That would be it. Ho-hum. Sens blank Caps, 2-0.

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Capitals Players Coach a Hockey Clinic: One Mother’s Experience

Brooks Laich with Josh

Joshua poses with Brooks Laich (Photo credit: Cheryl Nichols of Caps News Network)

Editor’s note: After two friends won an auction at Caps Care Casino Night, RMNB reader Julie Roemele was presented with the opportunity of a life-time: to learn hockey from some of her favorite NHL pros. This past Sunday, Kettler Capitals Iceplex hosted a Capitals hockey clinic featuring workshops from Brooks Laich, Matt Hendricks, Semyon Varlamov, Mike Green and Assistant Coach Bob Woods. Below, Julie describes her and her son Joshua’s experience.

Julie's all smiles as she skates at on the fresh sheet of ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. (Photo credit: Cheryl Nichols)

Julie's all smiles as she skates at on the fresh sheet of ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. (Photo credit: Cheryl Nichols)

When someone gives you the chance to learn from the best, you don’t pass it up. So when my friends Mark and John called to invite me to a hockey clinic with the Capitals that they’d won at the Caps Care Casino Night, I couldn’t feign disinterest because I was a little afraid I’d be unsteady on the ice. Admittedly I’m more hockey mom than hockey player, even though I’ve been taking lessons for a year now.

Once at Kettler, the participants (there were about 20 of us) were split into five groups of four to work at five different drill stations. First up, defense with Caps Assistant Coach, Bob Woods. He’d pass each of us the puck and instruct us to circle as if trying to lose an opposing player. He would then dump a puck into the end boards while we skated after. To be honest, I suck at this and I was glad when the ten minutes were up, but it’s a skill I need to improve if I’m going to be a better player. I’ll definitely keep practicing it.

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Varlamonster

Photo credit: RMNB’s Chris Gordon

After the Capitals dramatic 5-4 (SO) victory against the Flyers Tuesday, Soviet Sport correspondent N. Bragilevskaya caught up with Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov. Varly, who is now healthy and awaiting word of his next start in net, spoke extensively to Bragilevskaya about his struggles with injury, what’s plaguing Alex Ovechkin — if anything — and what the coaches have told him about who will be the starting netminder in the playoffs.

Below the jump, RMNB’s Igor Kleyner has your translation.

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