Photo credit: Marianne Helm
FREDERICK, MD – On the eve of a pivotal game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, fans of the eliminated Washington Capitals finally chose their allegiance. “If Bylsma doesn’t play Marc-Andre Fleury, he’ll be squandering the Pens’ chance at the Cup,” said 24-year-old die-hard Caps fan Steve Neuschwander of Monrovia, MD. “I mean, I know his playoff save percentage has been under 90% for the last few years, but that just means he’s due.”
Neuschwander, wearing a custom-embroidered KOLZILLA Caps jersey and smelling vaguely of stale Keystone, continued, “You put your trust in Flower; he won’t let you down.” Holding one hand to his chest and the other to the sky, Neuschwander proclaimed, “I want the Penguins to win this as much as anyone, and they’re not gonna do it without MAF.”
Hockey is brutal. Mike Green has missed 83 games due to injury over the past two seasons. He’s missed time because of groin, ankle, and concussion issues. Caps fans have called him soft over the years, but Sunday against the Penguins, Green showed how tough he really is.
After taking a big check from Kris Letang and crashing shoulder-first into the boards, Green picked himself up off the ice. He skated towards the bench to get looked over by the trainer, but then Green saw his teammates gain possession of the puck in the corner and instead stopped at the slot. Wojtek Wolski hit him with a beautiful cross-ice pass and Green scored on his former teammate Tomas Vokoun.
Video below the jump.
Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth spoke to the Czech website iSport.Cz on Monday, and boy oh boy did he have some fascinating opinions to share. Talking with František Suchan, Neuvirth departed from the meek personality he’s cultivated since joining the Capitals in ’08-’09 and spoke with remarkable candor about a wide range of topics. We’d like to direct your attention to his quotes on the goalie situation in D.C.— both last season and in the future. Neuvy says he considers Braden Holtby his “weakest competition” since he’s been in D.C., expresses his frustration over always being the “bridesmaid” in net, and admits that he urged Tomas Vokoun to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Get ready to have your mind blown.
Tomas Vokoun got all dressed up for 2011 summer free agency, put on his glittering career numbers and his solid veteran history and waited for a dancing partner. It didn’t go as planned.
He watched his old team hook up with a new French Canadian flame, watched the Philadelphia Flyers fall all over themselves for Ilya Bryzgalov and the Phoenix Coyotes chase a tall dark unknown. Somehow, at the end of all the frenzy, Vokoun was left without an offer.
Left with few options, Vokoun agreed to a mercenary marriage of convenience with the Caps, an embarrassingly cheap, $1.5 M one-year deal. The Czech veteran got to play on what should have been a contending team and get his name back out there; the Caps got an apparent upgrade in goal. Everyone wins, right?
Wrong. The loveless arranged marriage quickly went sour, and abruptly came to an end today as the Caps traded Vokoun’s rights to bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he promptly signed a two-year deal. How could things have gone so wrong with a goaltender who could been the MVP? Let’s take a look.
There were a few common themes to the Capitals’ last postseason interviews, before they went their separate ways for summer. The first question posed was always about Dale Hunter, who has made the decision to return to the London Knights franchise in Ontario rather than stay on to coach the Caps. The team expressed universal admiration and gratitude for what he brought to the Capitals in his short tenure, often focusing less on his system than on the character and sense of accountability he was able to instill.
There was clear disappointment at the early ending to the season, but a different tone to the team’s assessment of their year than the year before — many of the Caps mentioned that they thought they were able to go out in a way that they feel better about this year, though of course they’d all still rather be playing hockey.
Read on for the details of Jay Beagle‘s injury, Brooks Laich standing outside Hunter’s window holding a boombox, and Hunter’s odd career model for Alexander Ovechkin.
Photo credit: Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times
Tomas Vokoun, who was sidelined with an injury during the playoffs, announced at Kettler Monday that he will not be back next season. The Veteran Czech netminder, who signed with the Capitals last July to a one-year deal at the surprisingly low rate of $1.5 million, is rumored to join the new Lokomotiv squad.
As per the Czech website iSport.cz:
Behind the hockey scenes, there are talks that he [Vokoun] will be a goaltender for the Yaroslavl [Lokomotiv] in Russia!
Sport talked to a few scouts and players in Russia, and all of them confirmed: “We heard about it”. Some even added: “That’s a sure thing”.
Photo credit: Paul Bereswill
Hey you: thanks for reading RMNB. Crazy season, right?
We started the year with our Winter is Coming promotional series. We documented a crazy winning streak, and then its astonishing decline. We said goodbye to one coach and hello to another. We saw gruesome injuries. We analyzed the Caps’ struggles at and before the trade deadline in our Capitals During Wartime series. We made posters and signs to pump up the fans and the team both. And we tracked the Caps as they made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth.
Yeah, we had exhaustive coverage this season, but there are so many questions left unanswered. Here are few we’d like to address this summer.
Photos by Chris Gordon. Click to enlarge.
A day after their thrilling 3-2 victory over the Rangers to even the series, Washington took to the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex Sunday morning. As they prepared to head to New York for a pivotal Game 5 Monday, the team’s sprits were high and the beards long. Below, check out some of my photos from the skate.
Photo credit: Mitchell Layton
Remember that possible goalie controversy? Well now there’s a new problem in the crease — and it isn’t pretty. After Tomas Vokoun re-injured his groin last week in Boston, the Caps have been forced to rely on Michal Neuvirth and call-up Braden Holtby. That’s not so bad considering Vokoun’s play before the setback. It’s Neuvy who’s hurt now, suffering a possibly devastating leg injury a quarter of the way into the second period Thursday night.
Photo credit: Mitchell Layton
In March of 2011, a 22-year-old Saskatchewan native got called up to the Capitals after one of their netminders suffered an injury. Unproven and raw, he seemed at ease as he created a three-way goalie controversy on one of the league’s top teams. In March of 2012, a 23-year-old Saskatchewan native may be doing the same thing.
In his three games up with Washington after Tomas Vokoun went out with a groin injury, Braden Holtby has been stellar and ever improving as he turned a .889 save percentage in the first two months of the year in the AHL into a sparkling shutout performance in front of 18,506 fans (but who’s counting?) in one of his team’s biggest games of the year. With the Capitals fighting for every point as they try to squeak into the playoffs, head coach Dale Hunter may have no choice but to play the hot hand — even if the question was supposed to be settled when the Capitals traded away Michal Neuvirth’s competition before making the surprise signing of Vokoun in the summer.
“From my short stint in pro hockey you realize things change really quickly,” Holtby told reporters after the game. “I was ready, that’s what I’ve been working towards in Hershey all year. I’m trying to make good call-ups count.”
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