willie-mitchell Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images North America

“We need a blueliner” is a typical Caps Fan’s lament this offseason (second only to DAMMIT!) and recently unrestricted free agent defenseman Willie Mitchell has been rumored to be in the Capital’s cross-hairs. Mitchell has been training and skating for 18 days and is finally symptom-free after his latest concussion – all fueling speculation that his signing is imminent.

But would Wilie Mitchell a good fit on the Capitals’ blueline?

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Me Laich-y! Caps Beat Bruins 3-2 OT.

Me Laich-y. Brooks Laich Scores The Game Winner in Overtime. Caps Beat Bruins 3-2.

Weird bounces, Long goal reviews & Floating Pucks. What a fun night. (Photos by Nick Wass)

Weird bounces, Long goal reviews & Floating Pucks. What a fun night. (Photos by Nick Wass)

Funny isn’t it that the Capitals and Bruins will meet twice in the last week of the regular season before playing one another in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If tonight’s game sets a precedence for next week, we’re due for some entertaining hockey.

Tonight’s victory over Boston saw goals from fan favorites Nicky Backstrom, Mike Knuble and Books Laich, who secured the overtime gamewinner. Despite the everpresent physicality of Zdeno Chara’s bleeding nose and the dynamism of Patrice Bergeron, the Caps emerged victorious. Three games or bust.

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Captain America Scores! Canes Beat Caps 3-2 (SO).

John Carlson Scores His First Career NHL Goal against the Carolina Hurricanes

Legace's Oscar Worthy Performance Sends Ovechkin to the Box For Goalie Interference. (Photos by Gerry Broome)

Legace's Oscar Worthy Performance Sends Ovechkin to the Box For Goalie Interference. (Photos by Gerry Broome)

Sorry, we thought the photo should be extra big tonight. The Washington Capitals took too long to suit up for tonight’s appointment with the Carolina Hurricanes. A sleepy first period left the boys from Chinatown with a two-point deficit. The Caps woke up and delivered captivating hockey for the rest of regulation and overtime, but it wasn’t enough to best their division rivals.

For the second time in as many nights, the Capitals could not seal the deal in an hour of regulation hockey or the five bonus minutes. But unlike last night, the Russian Alexes did not go 2 for 2, and Bruce Boudreau’s hunch did not pay off. When Mike Green‘s shot sailed high over the Carolina net, it was game over. Despite their best efforts the Caps fall to the Canes 3-2 in the shootout.

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Alex Ovechkin celebrates after he nets his 35th Goal of the year in a 3-2 Victory over Tampa Bay

Mike Smith looks like a dog on linoleum floor, Sasha shoots, Laich scores! (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez) (Photo above: Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mike Smith looks like a dog on linoleum floor, Alex Semin shoots, Brooks Laich scores! (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez) (Photo above: Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)

January has been a spectacular month for the Washington Capitals. With newly crowned Captain Alexander Ovechkin at the helm, the team has lost only one game. Entering tonight’s appointment with the Tampa Bay Lightning, their nine-game winning streak was imperiled. After all, it was the Bolts that handed Washington their most recent defeat, the only under the Russian Machines’s reign, and nearly demoralized the team (if not for some histrionics from Matt Bradley). Compounded by the teams’ history is the Caps’ tendency to play down against lesser opponents and give lackluster performances at matinee games. In spite of all these factors and the lack of my wearing the undefeated RMNB t-shirt, the Caps snuck past the Bolts with a 3-2 victory and finished the month of Janaury with an incredible 13 wins.

Let’s get these bullet points out so you can fall asleep watching the Grammys:

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Laich lifts Caps Over Flyers! 5-3

Brooks Laich has a monster day as the Caps win 5-3 over the Flyers. (AP Photo)

Brooks Laich has a monster day as the Caps win 5-3 over the Flyers. (AP Photo)

When the Caps last met the Flyers, the blood had to be squeegeed off the ice. The December 5th 8-2 smackdown might have been the nadir of the Flyers’ season, and we sorta knew they’d bring everything they had to today’s faceoff. Unfortunately for the Flyers, that “everything” included goalie Ray Emery. By the end of the first period, the Caps had figured out the Philly netminder and began a steady treacle of goals for all sixty minutes. Notably, Brooks Laich emerged from a long goalless streak (in regulation at least) to drive two pucks behind Emery. Caps win, 5 to 3.

Let’s break it down:

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The Washington Capitals suit up to play the Philadelpha Flyers today at Verizon Center.  And wouldn’t you just know it?  We’ve got some injuries.
  • John Erskine is still out with an upper-body injury. Erskine (pictured below) hasn’t played since the Thrashers game on the 9th. Johnny hasn’t been a bit off since around Christmas, so we’re hoping this rest will give him a chance to recharge his batteries.
    John Erskine and his flesh-colored hair are out tonight.

    John Erskine and his flesh-colored hair are out tonight.

  • Brian Pothier didn’t skate at yesterday’s practice at Kettler, so we suspect he’ll be out again tonight.  Pothier sustained a rib injury during the Panthers game earlier this week. That leaves us with two D-men missing in the line-up.
  • So here comes Captain America himself: John Carlson. The star of the WJC had a pretty good game (2 shots) against the Leafs on Friday, and he’ll probably play tonight. Does anyone else get the feeling we’re looking at the future of the franchise?
  • Hershey Bear Karl Alzner will probably rejoin the Caps next week, but until then we’ll probably have to make do with Tyler Sloan on a D-pairing. After that, Tyler can get back to earning a massive paycheck for doing pretty much nothing.
  • Russian machine Alexander Semin was a gametime decision on Friday night. While his wrist continues to bug him, he got the clean bill of health and snatched up two points. He’ll probably be on the ice tonight, and he’ll certainly get a hat trick.  He’s due.
  • Wednesday’s pugilists, Shaone Morrisonn and Jason Chimera, sustained no injuries from their (totally awesome) fights. Chimera came to the defense of a battered John Carlson at the end of the Leafs game and could have faced suspension for an instigator penalty in the last five minutes. The white wizards of the north in Toronto decided that this wasn’t a case of thuggery and message-sending, and will not be enforcing that suspension. Chimera will be playing tonight.
  • Finally, Semyon Varlamov remains on the mend, nursing an MCL sprain. We’d love to see him by Thursday’s Pens game, but we’ll probably have to wait until next weekend. At least he won’t have to hang himself.

This afternoon’s matinee begins at 3 PM. The Philadelpha Flyers continue to be a team in crisis, but I wouldn’t count them out. There’s something honorable in their struggle. Of all the Caps’ rivalries, the Flyers are the only team I WOULD pee on if they were on fire.

Russian Machine Sometimes Breaks: “Groin is Good”

Semyon Varlamov's junk is no longer the problem.

Semyon Varlamov's junk is no longer the problem.

As the east coast prepares for another storm, the Washington Capitals suit up to face off against the Ottawa Senators.  And guess what?  We’ve got some injuries.  Stifle yourself.

  • Brian Pothier is expected to return to play tonight after recovering from a broken rib.  I’ve never had a broken rib, but I hear those things hurt like the dickens.  Imagine if you have to sneeze.  Yowza.
  • Quentin “Crazy Eyes” Laing is out tonight.  Apparently, he’s got some bad bruises he acquired from blocked shots recently.  I’m searching my memory right now, and I can’t recall anything remarkable from Quentin that doesn’t involve diving in front of flying pucks.
  • Semyon Varlamov continues his period of convalescence and unibrow-gardening.  Varly injured his jock over a month ago, but has since played a game with the Hershey Bears to test his progress.  After the game it was reported that he had another “lower-body injury”.  The hockey tradition of using these vague euphemisms led us to believe that Semyon had re-injured his junk, but we were wrong.  Tarik reports that Varlamov sprained his MCL, but — and we quote — “Groin is good.” While we dispute that there is anything inherently good about  the word groin, we are ecstatic that Varly may soon be back in the Caps line-up!
  • Tyler Sloan, whose financial projections are looking rosy of late, will not be playing tonight.  Is he injured?  Not as far as we can tell.  With Laing out and Alzner back in Hershey, isn’t this exactly the kind of situation where Tyler could be used?  Or are we gonna let that $1.4m marinate for a little bit before we put him to work?

That’s it for now.  If there are any more updates on tonight’s players, we’ll be sure to mock them mercilessly right here.

In other news, Blogfather Ian Oland will be at the game tonight.  My guess is he’ll be wearing one of our totally bitchin’ t-shirts.  If you see him, run up to him and kick him in the groin for me.  Cheers!

Off-Day News Update

Verizon Center is quiet tonight, spared from hockey games and gun fights alike. Despite that, this is in no way a quiet day for the Washington Capitals.

  • As we reported regurgitated last night, David Steckel has signed a three-year extension with the Caps.  We like to see Steck happy, but we are curious of this deal’s provenance.  The left winger is a serious grinder, tallying only 5 points all season, and he’s the only regular player in rotation on the wrong side of the plus/minus ratio (-1).   As always, we defer to the infinite wisdom of GMGM, who will forget more about hockey than we’ll ever learn.
  • Everything I said nice about George McPhee just now?  Forget it.  Tyler Sloan has also signed a contract extension.  Sloan is a swingman, which we think means he is good at neither offense nor defense.  When the Caps had a blueliner meltdown last week (Jurcina traded, Pothier injured, Erskine erskined), Sloan still didn’t play.  Sloan is -2 this season, but that number means very little from such a small sample size.  You gotta think Bruce Boudreau and the Caps management know something about these guys we don’t know.
  • Karl Alzner has been sent back to Hershey.  Does this mean that Sloan will be on a D-pairing on Thursday?
  • Caps prospect John Carlson is the talk of the town today after his OT win against Team America’s Hat in the World Junior Championship.  He showed impressive composure and patience in that breakaway goal, opting to shoot instead of risking a pass (a lesson his future teammates might want to learn!).  Carlson’s play deserves to be on every sports show’s highlight reel this week.
  • Not-captain Brooks Laich was on the Elliot in the Morning radio show on Wednesday morning.  He assures us that everyone still loves Theodore.  We are assured of this.
  • Tarik El-Bashir reports that Jose Theodore will start in goal against the Ottowa Senators tomorrow night (WaPo).   After having warmed the bench for what seems like weeks, Bruce Boudreau says, “We’re going to need Theo to play and we’re going to need Theo to play good. We’re going to need Theo to get his confidence.”  I love BB and his garden-salad-y wisdom, but this is crazy talk.  Sitting the guy in favor of Neuvy the newbie does nothing but rob Jose of confidence.  Although I’m alone on this among the RMNB staff, I think Theodore is a terrific netminder, and he possesses one of the best glove hands in the NHL.  If he’s having a crisis of confidence, the team should show him support.  That means giving him ice time, and — once he’s out there– not feed him to the wolves.  Bottom line: if Tom Poti learns how to clear the puck in the next 20-odd hours, all should be fine.

That’s all the news that fits for tonight.  We’ll be back tomorrow night to chronicle the Caps’ thunderous 6-1 defeat of the Senators, and what we predict will be the team’s first hat trick of the season (by Matt Bradley).  Stay tuned to see if we’re right!