Photo: Julio Cortez

Alex Ovechkin can score goals. Everybody knows that. His lamp-lighting ability is unmatched in this generation (sorry, Stamkos). And as Ovechkin takes aim for Peter Bondra’s Capitals franchise goal record (472, just 23 away), I asked myself how the Russian machine stacks up against the league’s all-time greats.

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Don Sweeney, Paul Fenton, and The Great One

The Capitals’ search for a new general manager continues, and while the process is pretty hush-hush, some details have gotten out.

Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts column names several candidates for new Caps GM, including Don Sweeney, Paul Fenton, and Ray Shero. He also mentions that Wayne Gretzky could be brought in to run the organization:

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Photo credit: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin probably won’t hit 50 goals in 50 games. Even with his four-goal night against the Tampa Bay Lightning the other night, his chances of hitting 50 goals in his last 50 regular season games seems unlikely. Going by the NHL standard (and arbitrary) definition of 50 goals in a team’s first 50 games of a season, it’s even more unlikely.

But that shouldn’t lessen what he’s is doing right now. Ovechkin’s 2013-14 season could be historic yet.

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Photo credit: Geoff Burke

The Washington Capitals lost to the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 at Verizon Center on Friday. Despite the loss, Caps fans in attendance got a real treat; they were in the presence of The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky was a guest of Ted Leonsis, watching the game in the owner’s box. CSN was the first outlet to point out that Gretzky was in attendance, cutting to a shot of him during the first period. As word spread among fans in Verizon Center, a throng of people started amassing aroud the box.

Gretzky, who is constantly harangued for autographs and photos, signed for fans during most of the intermission. He also took photos. And he looked thrilled doing so.

During the third period, Caps PA Announcer Wes Johnson officially announced that Gretzky was in the house. The Great One received a standing ovation, delaying the game for a minute.

RMNB readers have shared with us their photos and stories of meeting 99. (Make sure to read what James wrote. Apparently Gretzky signed a beer can. I would pay unlimited monies to have this.)

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Photo credit: Greg Fiume

Towards the end of the first period and with the Washington Capitals down 3-0 to the Montreal Canadiens, Comcast SportsNet panned to the owner’s box. Ted Leonsis was was sitting there with the greatest player of all-time, Wayne Gretzky. The Great One was chatting non-stop.

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Despite a painfully slow start, Alex Ovechkin has had one of the greatest seasons of his career. He scored more goals than any other player, earning his third Rocket Richard trophy in six seasons. He finished third in the league in points. He led his team to a division title after being mired in dead last a month into the season. Ovechkin’s play is the reason the Capitals are in the playoffs — without his success, this would have been a lost season for Washington.

Since he has been so crucial to the accomplishments of his team, he deserves consideration for the Hart Trophy, which is awarded to the guy “judged to be the most valuable to his team.” However, many of the writers who vote for the award are casting their ballots for somebody else — namely Sidney Crosby or John Tavares.

The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, disagrees with that.

Monday afternoon, Gretzky called in to Hockey Night in Canada’s afternoon radio show hosted by Rob Pizzo and Elliotte Friedman. Wayne talked about what teams he thinks will succeed in the playoffs and gave Ovechkin the ultimate endorsement, naming him and Jonathan Toews as the two people he’d like to see win the Hart trophy. He also praised the skills of first year head coach Adam Oates.

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Alex Ovechkin Wax Figure Debuts at Madame Tussauds

Alex Ovechkin wax figure

Photo credit: Kris Connor

Alex Ovechkin, sporting 10 stitches on his forehead after taking an errant puck to the face during Caps practice, traveled into DC this afternoon to celebrate his new wax immortality.

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Old Man Knuble

Mike Knuble

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

A 24-year-old Mike Knuble, then a promising forward prospect, played nine games for the Detroit Red Wings during the 1996-97 season.

Players who were still playing during Knuble’s first season in the NHL include Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Mark Messier, Dino Ciccarelli, Brian Leetch, Grant Fuhr, and Ron Hextall.

Just days after Knuble’s first game, Phil Collins announced that he was leaving Genesis to focus on his solo career, M.C. Hammer wasn’t yet bankrupt, and it would be months before The Daily Show debuts on Comedy Central.

I guess what I am trying to say is Knuble is old getting up there in years, but don’t tell him that.

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Alex Ovechkin: 50 in 50?


Could Ovi join Maurice Richard as one of five players to score 50 in 50?

Could Ovi join Maurice Richard as one of five players to score 50 in 50?

Alex Ovechkin kept his pace for an 82-goal season intact against the Islanders which got me thinking: is 50 in 50 even close to a reality?

50 goals in the first 50 games is a rare feat indeed. It has only been done by five players: Maurice Richard in 1945. Mike Bossy in 1982. Lemieux in 1989. Brett Hull did it twice, and in back-to-back seasons no less (1990-1 and 1991-2). The Great One accomplished the feat three times: 1982, 1984 and again in 1985. So why not Ovechkin?

To estimate his chances I will use something called a Monte Carlo simulation. It starts with me using the shots on goal and shooting percentage for Ovechkin since he made his debut in the league 5 years ago to the last game of the regular season in 2009-10. Only regular season games were counted. For instance, he has only been held to zero shots on goal 3 out of 396 games, or .76% of the time. He has shot 20% in 32 of his regular season games, or 8.08% of the time.

Using this data, and Excel’s random number generator, I simulated goal-scoring totals for 50 games. Then, I ran this 50-game season 10,000 times and calculated the results.

Before I reveal the chances, take a guess at what you think they are. I’ll wait….

Ok, now that you have your guess, let’s look at the numbers.

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Olympics Force Realignment of Hockey Fans

We are currently looking down the barrel of a big hockey day. At noon Pacific Time the re-sorted Team Russia will be facing off against Jaromir Jagr, Tomas Fleischmann, and the Czechs. This afternoon will see the battle of the ages: Canada versus USA. The staff at RMNB has found that the Olympic hockey tourney has Balkanized American hockey fans to such a degree that it merits discussion. Unfortunately, we are not mature enough for real discussion, so here’s a bunch of jokes about Sidney Crosby:

Let’s analyze the psychology of each type of fan.

Washington Capitals fan, neophyte

Possibly unaware that Jaromir Jagr ever donned the Caps red and white black and brown, the Caps bandwagon limits its gaze across the International Dateline to Russia. Russia sports no fewer than six former Washington Capitals, and their play is (supposed to be) as aggressive as the home team’s. Canada sacrificed any chance of garnering the Caps newbie’s support when Steve Yzerman passed over @GreenLife52. Team USA stirs up some base patriotic vitriol, but the unfamiliar roster and lack of hype surrounding the team undermines any appeal to the Johnny-come-lately Caps fan.

Washington Capitals fan, with an autographed Dale Hunter jersey

The Caps fan of the Bondra era still mourns the Cup-round blowout of 1998 and is filled to the brim with bile for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Because of this long-brewing rivalry, the ancient Caps fan, peering over his 401k report towards a standard-definition television, cannot bring himself to root for any team containing a Penguin. Canada and Russia lose any chance at garnering his favor because of Crosby and Malkin, respectively. Grandpa Caps fan somehow overrides his Penguinphobia when considering Brooks Orpik’s presence Team USA; perhaps it’s the dusty memory of Lake Placid 1980 or the manly gristle of Ryan Miller’s unkempt facial hair.

Pittsburgh Penguins fan, there but for the grace of God

The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the most talented teams in the NHL, but their geographical origins have rendered them far flung in the Olympiad. This puts the fans in an awkward position, as they must now reconcile the relative vitality of their favorite players in order to pick a team to root for. Should their allegiances drift above the border to Mike Richards and Sidney Crosby, he of the private jet? Or perhaps Evgeni “Geno” Malkin’s dynamism will excite the inner fan despite his Washingtonian linemates? And then there’s Brooks Orpik sporting the nation’s colors, piggybacking on nationalistic fervor. Frankly, no one’s got it tougher than the Pens fan for the next week.


Gretzky’s rooting for Ovechkin. After that torch-lighting SNAFU, 99 wants nothing to do with his countrymen.

Old-school Puckheads

The hockey faithful from days of yore consider Sidney Crosby to be the second coming of Mario Lemieux. When Jeremy Roenick, who always looks like he has just gotten out of the shower, speaks, the senior hockey fans must be restrained from throwing slippers at their TVs. To this fan, Team USA lacks a marquee name or a hockey pedigree worthy of his support. Nay, the Puckhead’s eyes invariably look to Canada, as surely a decent hockey player could hail from nowhere else. This fan, to the surprise of thinking people everywhere, discusses the gold medal as if has been bequeathed to Canada from on high, and the mountiess need merely show up and claim their prize. Even if this fan played for the Bruins and coached for the Islanders (and beat up a fan with his own shoe), this dude will become his ultimate obsequious self only when speaking in praise of Team Canada.

What strange bedfellows this tournament has wrought? In the past week I once caught myself cheering Evgeni Malkin. I’ve seen a hockey blog for a rival team that must not be named (but rhymes with “the dense fog”) herald the skill of Alexander Semin. I’ve seen hockey’s own John McEnroe, Jeremy Roenick, become the loudmouthed defender of the Washington Capitals against Mike Milbury’s attacks. Before the week is out, I may yet high-five a Penguins fan.  Ick.

When March finally arrives, we’ll all need showers.