[Ed. note: Jason Rogers offers his final pregamer of the year. Follow @PuckBuddys if you dare.]
As Boston’s Samuel Adams proclaimed to the city as he read the first draft of the Declaration of Independence from Independence Hall: “King George is a fah-kin’ bastahd, Go Sawx.” And thus from these auspicious beginnings bloomed the blue-collarest, working-classiest, chowdah-guzzlingest town in the country. Boston is a city that spurns academia in favor of arm wrestling, subtlety in favor of soup, and charisma in favor of crème pies. On Saturday, the Goon Squad known as the Bruins lurches into DC like a particularly undeveloped ape.
Last game of the season, folks; let’s go for one more ride.
The Caps have already locked up the Southeast Division tighter than the door to Bruce Boudreau’s home gym, so why should you care? Well, because there are two ways a team can enter the playoffs. The Caps can ease gingerly into the postseason like an old man into a warm bath, nursing their injured groins like an overzealous teen. Or, they can roar hell-bent into the playoffs like a lion with a sinful streak. As we’ve seen time and time again, it’s not how you start the season (thank God), it’s how you finish. Witness the eight-seeded LA Kings last year, who made mince meat out of the western conference like so much veggie burger. If the Caps take their foot off the pedal now, they may never put it back down, and the city of DC will be stuck in the mire like so much sequestered legislation.
Further, the Bruins are a team that the Caps may have to go through to get to the Stanley Cup finals. They are a conglomeration of goons, a congress of cronies, a gathering of doofii. That said, they have hockey talent. Their forwards are quick and their defensemen are large, and despite having a face like an Easter Island head, Milan Lucic is an intimidating force on the ice. As the adage goes, “to be the best, you have to beat the best,” and there’s a good chance that to charm Lord Stanley out of his Cup, the Caps may have to sing Sweet Caroline to distract the club from Boston.
That gives us as good a chance as any to transition to the segment Mahatma Gandhi called “the only true peace I have found in the world,”
Milan Lucic takes a special potion that keeps him from turning into a werewolf under the full moon, but as you can tell, it has stopped working.
Erat-a-tat-tat – I said it at the time and I’ll say it again: The Forsberg-Erat trade was a good one for the Caps. First of all, Filly Forsberg is utterly unproven in any meaningful sense. Sure, he was dominating – in the second-tier Swedish league, which I only assume is called the Sekondtieeresleaga. Secondly, how long have we been crying in Washington for some talent in our top two lines? BOOM. Marty Erat, Mr. Bashful Nashville, is proven like good calculus. He’s more consistent than a thick stew and does the quiet, crucial things than just flat out win games. Keep your eye on Erat. He wins battles in the corner, makes smart entries into the zone, and almost never gives up the puck going the other way. And don’t look now, but even with Brooks Laich giving more attention to his groin than a prepubescent chimp, the Capitals can still field two top lines of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Johansson, Erat-Ribeiro-Brouwer. That, as we say in the business, is not too bad.
Gotta Have Hart – Alex Ovechkin is secretly a trained Russian bear in a costume, taught to play hockey in a bunker in Siberia. That’s the only explanation for the way this guy is skating. Ovi is leading the league in goals with 32 markers, is a mere four points behind the Littlest St. Louis for the lead in points, and has emerged as the frontrunner to win both the “Rocket” Richard Trophy for most goals and the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. When making diplomatic concessions to my Crosby-gumming friends earlier this year, I would propose that who wins the Hart should come down to whether the trophy should go to the most outstanding player, or truly the player most valuable to his team. Now, those two criteria describe one man: Alex Ovechkin. He’s getting more good eats in the circle than a buffet in the round, and he is once again making opposing goalies tremble in their cups. Gird your loins, gentlemen. The Russian Machine is lubed up and ready to roll.
Two Minutes in the Rib Cage: Mike Ribeiro’s Penalties – Look, Mikey, we get it. You’re tough. You’re scrappier than your 65-pound frame suggests, and you’re a damn fine hockey player. Nevermind that guys like John Erskine could hold you at one arms-length while you flailed wildly with your fists. Nevermind that your baffling insistence upon low-slung hats in intermission interviews makes you look like you dipped out of Verizon Center for a jif to “meet a guy about a thing.” I don’t care about any of that. I care that you won’t shut up when you need to. The Capitals lost their last game against the Ottawa Senators because Mike Ribeiro took nearly back-to-back minors, the latter of which was fatal and put them on the penalty kill on overtime because you were a little irked. Ribs is a dynamic playmaker who has made the Capitals a better team this season. But to put your need for Foghorn Leghorn-like satisfaction above the team is unacceptable. If you run around provoking referees and looking for duels, eventually you’re going to run into Aaron Burr.
That about wraps it up, family. I will be at Verizon on Saturday to watch the puck drop at 7pm from the nosebleeds with my buddy from college and his girlfriend from Boston. I hope she leaves in tears.
And one last time this regular season, Go Caps.
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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