Photo credit: @CapsBN92
This morning, I woke up, checked the NHL standings, and looked thirstily at a bottle of rubbing alcohol. The Washington Capitals are in last place. That’s 30th out of 30. They have fewer points than the Carolina Hurricanes, whose general manager recently said Alex Semin’s “been a very good player for us.” [gutpunch] They have fewer points than the Calgary Flames, despite playing three more games. [sigh] They even have fewer points than the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were the worst team in the league last year by nine points and they don’t have Rick Nash anymore. [tears]
This might explain why #OatesFace returned last night.
Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
The Caps have gone through a ton of defenseman this season — Jack Hillen got hurt, John Erskine was suspended, and head coach Adam Oates has looked for any possible combination to get the Caps out of their slump.
Since January 22nd, that has meant going with Tomas Kundratek, a 23-year-old Czech acquired in a minor league trade a little over a year ago, sometimes at the cost of guys like Roman Hamrlik. Kundratek was called up from Hershey after putting up 26 points with the Bears and being in the top five in goals among AHL defensemen.
“I coached him a little in Hershey and liked him and liked what I saw,” said Oates. “I think he’s done a great job when he’s been here so far.”
Photo credit: RMNB’s Chris Gordon
At Monday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Washington Capitals held their most bizarre giveaway yet: the Nicklas Backstrom Garden Gnome. The plaster figurine measures eight inches tall, sporting a striped cone hat and long, flowing blonde locks. Caps players were unimpressed.
“It looks like Phil Kessel,” Troy Brouwer told the DC Sports Bog’s Sarah Kogod. “It’s funny though. That’s gonna freak my dogs out.”
“What’s a garden gnome?” a confused Brooks Laich asked The Washington Examiner’s Brian McNally. “Are there a lot of Caps fans that are gardeners?”
“What a beautiful gift,” Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates sarcastically remarked to Sky Kerstein. “What a compliment. A gnome.”
Regardless, the gnome was a hit with the 18,000 fans who were lucky enough to get their hands on one. “F@$* yeah got my Backstrom gnome,” Twitter user @MRubin35 said on twitter. “So pumped to be back at Verizon.”
“Got my Nicklas Backstrom gnome,” exclaimed ESPN hockey writer Craig Custance on assignment in the nation’s capital. “Think I can leave DC now, nothing left to accomplish here.”
Caps fans were so excited about their new item, they posted a bunch of creepy photos (and one David Lynch-y video) of the gnome. Below, in honor of Nick Backstrom, I share the 19 best.
Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
I wrote on our mission statement that hockey should be as fun to read about as it is to watch. So what happens when hockey– Caps hockey at least– becomes a chore? Tuesday’s game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals was another messy loss, and gnome amount of puns will cheer us up right now.
The Leafs scored first, JVR seizing upon a communication breakdown between Neuvirth and Poti behind the Caps net. JVR struck again after Washington’s defense temporarily lost motor function. Marcus Johansson got his first of the year late in the first after Tomas Kundratek gave him a nice feed at the back door. Korbinan Holzer got his first NHL goal with a tricky long bomb. Mike Ribeiro executed a nice zone entry and passing sequence by sinking a powerplay goal, but the Leafs emerged victorious.
Leafs beat Caps 3-2.
Photo credit: Chris Gordon
For the Capitals, there’s a lot to keep track of right now. We’ve noticed Alex Ovechkin’s scoring slump, a whole lotta penalties, and some bad breaks for the goalies. One thing we haven’t noticed is Marcus Johansson, and that’s a big problem too.
In 2011-2012, Johansson scored 14 goals and 32 assists, shooting a pretty boss 15.6%. That was enough to make him the team’s third best scorer behind the Alexes, a crucial piece of a lean team.
Not so much this year. Through seven games, Johansson’s stat line looks like this: 0, 0, 0%.
The Caps stink right now, so we’re gonna find our joy wherever we can. Today we find it in ex-Cap Mike Knuble, who scored his first goal as a Philadelphia Flyer over the weekend. You’ll never guess how he did it.
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: Greg Fiume
In the far corner of the room, Braden Holtby sat at his locker and stared at the ground. As the rest of the team spoke to the media, Holtby remained there, stoic and still in full gear. He didn’t look up. Finally, fellow goaltender Michal Neuvirth came over and gave him a tap on the pads. After a few minutes, Holtby got up and walked out of the room.
The Caps had just been smacked by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Holtby gave up six goals on 26 shots. At one point in the game, it was five goals on 14 shots. After coming into the season as the team’s tentative starting netminder, he has a save percentage of just .862. His goals against average is 4.52. Nothing, it seems, is going right for the 23-year-old from Saskatchewan.
“There’s been better days,” Holtby told reporters after he reentered the locker room. “The puck seemed to go in again tonight. I feel like I’m doing some right things and obviously a couple things I’d like to change but just one of those nights.”
Photo credit: Greg Fiume
The Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins have a storied history– especially on Superb Owl Sunday. Snowmageddon, anyone? This Sunday’s game belongs in history as well. But, like, next to the bombing of Guernica or childbirth before Ignaz Semmelweis.
Right after a faceoff, Chris Kunitz (may have) deflected a shot by Paul Martin into the Washington net. Mike Green responded by finishing off a great sequence and scoring a pretty one-timer goal– more on that one later. Deryk Engelland re-established the Penguins’ lead with a thoroughly screened blueline slapper, redirected by Matt Cooke. John Carlson tied it up with the Weirdest Goal of the Year: a center-ice dump-in off the boards that tricked Vokoun into leaving the net before the puck bounced in.
Then it got weird. Kris Letang took the lead back with a golden opportunity up close on Holtby. Chris Kunitz made it 4-2 shortly after that. A phantom trip call on Wojtek Wolski and Karl Alzner’s broken stick afforded Chris Kunitz either his second or third goal.
Mike Ribeiro gave life to the Caps with a powerplay goal made possible by some great hustle by Ovechkin, but despite some late-game heroics, that’s all they could muster. Chris Kunitz got either his hat-trick goal or his FOURTH of the day on a last minute power play goal. Yikes.
Penguins beat Caps 6-3.
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