Photo credit: Francois Lacasse
Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews, and Alex Ovechkin. Those are the names most seen in the deluge of chatter about this season’s Hart Trophy, the award given each year to the player deemed most valuable to his team. Washington’s own goal-scoring leader Alex Ovechkin seems to be the underdog in those conversations for a variety of reasons, namely that he plays in a bad division and wasn’t exceptional until the middle of March. I think those reasons are suspect, but the Hart conversation is already marred by a whole lot of questionable conventional wisdom.
The Hart Trophy is supposed to be awarded to the player that the Professional Hockey Writers Association deems most valuable to his team. While the actual inscription on the Hart Trophy leaves out the whole “to his team” part, I find that little prepositional phrase to be crucial. The NHL is unlike the MLB, whose MVP award has a simpler definition (“most outstanding player“), the same one used for the Ted Lindsay Award.
The Lindsay is the NHL’s real MVP award: voted on by the players and without consideration for team quality or any of the other logical convolutions that make the Hart the cause of ulcers for everyone silly enough to care about it.
I saw this on eBay and I just had to have it. Capitals Sport & Decor, a memorabilia shop at Dulles Town Center, sometimes hosts signings with Washington Capitals players. They put up some of their extra signed merchandise up on eBay, and that’s where I unearthed this gem. It’s a signed 16 x 20 photo of Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz checking Sidney Crosby down to the ice. Schultz’s signature is at bottom. To the left is an inscription that reads, “Hows the Wood Sid!”
I repeat: “Hows the Wood Sid!”
Photo credit: Justin K. Aller
After having one of their best periods of play all season, the Washington Capitals completely collapsed in the second, allowing the Pittsburgh Penguins to score five unanswered goals. Five. That’s painful to type. It was more painful to watch. Michal Neuvirth, who started the game in net, was pulled mid-way through for Braden Holtby after looking shaky on two goals. Holtby fared no better, giving up three goals on his first twelve shots.
There was one good moment however — a spectacular, amazing, did-that-just-really-happen one. On one of the Penguins bajillion (maybe more) power plays in the second period, Evgeny Malkin found Sidney Crosby streaking wide open in the slot. As Crosby took the pass, he attempted to tap the puck into the wide open net on his forehand.
Holtby, however, had other ideas.
As the puck starts careening towards the yawning net, Holtby throws his paddle down in a move of desperation.
Photo credit: Nick Wass
Almost four years ago to the day, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby — at the height of their rivalry — nearly fought at the Capitals bench. After Ovechkin bumped Crosby on his way to a shift change, Sid shoved him in the back. The two exchanged pleasantries until Ovi ended the conversation by ripping Crosby’s helmet off. Between their heated races for the Calder and Maurice Richard trophies, it was the first time the two showed anger towards each other on the ice. It was glorious.
The rivalry has cooled since then. Ovechkin’s goal scoring has slowed with age. Crosby has dealt with injury.
But on Sunday, while the Penguins blew out the Capitals 6-3 and Crosby edged Ovechkin 3-1 in points, the Russian machine established dominance in his own way: checking Crosby into the net.
Photo credit: khl.ru
On Tuesday morning, far-flung Caps players reunited at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for an informal practice session. Present but not skating was the team’s star center, Nick Backstrom. Backstrom has not played since late December, when he took a hit from behind in a Dynamo Moscow game. According to SportsBox.ru, a doctor in Moscow said the injury was just a bruise, but Backstrom’s agent has since said his player’s status may be week-to-week.
On Tuesday night, we learned that Backstrom is visiting a specialist in Michigan.
This t-shirt can be bought here. (Illustration by Rachel Cohen)
Wednesday night was supposed to be the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first visit to Verizon Center this season. Because of the NHL lockout, we won’t get to see Matt Cooke trolling or Sidney Crosby caterwauling plaintively at the refs. We’ll just have to settle for candy instead.
Hating Pittsburgh sports is coded into my DNA. I’m physically sick over this. Gary Bettman is depriving me of my regular Sidney Crosby hate, and now I am indescribably sad.
To cheer myself up, I have compiled these GIFs from the Alex Ovechkin “Sorry, Penguin” commercial. And now I share them with you. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll wave $15 goodbye.
Photo credit: Suzanne Kang
Our friend Suzanne went to the Hershey Bears game this weekend, and this happened. I’m not sure we have the vocabulary to describe it, but here goes: It’s a Sidney Crosby–Alex Ovechkin mash-up shirsey, the holy grail of what Greg Wyshysnki would call a “jersey foul.”
In one way, it makes sense. This is a fan at a Bears game in Pennsylvania. The Bears are the farm team for Ovechkin’s Capitals, and Hershey is only a few hours away from Crosby’s Penguins. These are the two stars of the two big teams that matter to this person. It’s almost defensible.
Special thanks to Gary Bettman for letting the guys out of the Quiet Room long enough for us to snap this pic. Enlarge. (Photo illustration by Ian Oland)
The stars of the All-Star Game were a little less bright this year. Some of the familiar faces that fans expect were absent for reasons that are becoming all too familiar in the modern NHL: head injury. Approximately 85 head injuries have been reported this year, meaning that nearly ten percent of all active players have been injured. 28 of 30 teams have reported at least one head injury, while some franchises have dealt with as many six or seven. With star center Nicklas Backstrom now sitting out due to concussion, the issue has hit close to home for Caps fans.
[Editors note: over the next month, we’ll be looking at the challenges the Capitals face, the trade deadline, and the playoff chase. It’s not gonna be fun, but we gotta do this.]
When Nick Backstrom took a blow to the head from Rene Bourque on January 3rd, the Capitals lost the service of their number-one center. Backstrom was on track for a better than 80-point season, which would have been a strong recovery from the slump of ’10-’11. Instead, the team lost the anchor for its top line and its most productive forward.
Without Backstrom, the Capitals have only three strong options for centers: Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, Jeff Halpern. Additionally, Mathieu Perreault, Cody Eakin, and Matt Hendricks have done center duty in a pinch. Meanwhile, the Capitals offense has been shut out twice in the last three games and have averaged only 23 shots on goal since mid-December. That’s just not good enough.
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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