The wait is over.
What have we done to earn the ire of the hockey fates?
Here’s a sobering thought: I’ve never seen the Caps win in person. Not against the Flyers in 1996. Not against the Kings at the home opener in ’00. Not when they lost in round 1 of the playoffs to the Penguins in ’01. Never.
It’s a fact: Russian Machine Never Breaks is bad luck for the Washington Capitals. We’ve tortured ourselves over whether to disclose these sad facts to you, but in light of our attending tonight’s game with the Ottawa Senators, we feel we must let you know: We are cursed.
The Capitals, who are 24-3-3 at home this year, currently have a club-record 12 straight wins and look for (unlucky?) number 13 tonight against the New York Rangers at 7:05pm. Unfortunately for the Capitals, against them tonight is the dreaded reverse-lock. For those who don’t know what that is, that’s when a scenario presents itself where conditions seem so perfect for a win – that it’s fair to assume the other team will do so because of unforeseen happenings. Why do we feel that way? Well, John Tortoralla has decided to rest Henrik Lundqvist tonight (Matt Bradley’s Best Friend), and is instead giving the keys to backup goaltender Alex Auld. Auld’s numbers on the year are: W/L: 9-6, GA: 3.00, SV%: .894 and his career numbers against the Capitals are W/L: 3-4, GA: 2.73, SV%: .896. Um, weak. Bruce Boudreau will counter with our time-traveling buddy Jose Theodore.
Anyways, since the reverse lock may be in effect – look for a 5 goal game from a gentlemanly Sean Avery who’ll concentrate more on forechecking than being a complete prick, and zero points from Marian Gaborik, who’ll be in the lineup for the first time since February 12th. And oh yeah, a 45 save shutout from Alex Auld.
Back in reality land, Tarik El Bashir has the Capitals Forward Lines for Tonight’s Game:
1st Line: Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
2nd Line: Laich-Belanger-Semin (Belanger promoted)
3rd Line: Chimera-Fleischmann-Fehr (Flash back to center)
4th Line: Bradley-Steckel-Walker (Bradley returns!!)
Also, our partner Michael Hoffman, who will be supplying us quotes for the rest of the year, asked Bruce Boudreau about Alex Ovechkin’s slump since returning from the Olympics. Here’s what he had to say:
“Every year I’ve been here, Alex has had a little bit of a stretch where he just can’t find the net and then the next thing you know once he gets one in, he gets ten in four games. That’s the way’s he’s been and this is his little funk. I expect him to come out of it very soon.” – An Ovechkin goal scoring slump? Coach Boudreau isn’t concerned
Will Ovi come out of the slump tonight? Will Sean Avery be an a-hole? Make sure to watch the game on CSN and follow the Russian Machine on Twitter for all your updates.
Also, below the jump are your must reads before tonight’s game. We will be referring to them as Puck Drops for now on!
By 10 years ago
There’s a lot riding on tonight’s appointment with the Bruins, and it all merits serious discussion. Unfortunately, the Russian Machine is staffed by morons, so we’re going to swap genuine gravitas with overblown stupidity.
If the Caps win tonight, they will break the team’s record for consecutive games won (10, by the 83-84 Caps). They will also break the Bruins’ record for consecutive games lost (8, by the 56 Bruins). The Caps team is playing at their acme right now, whereas the Bruins are hoping they’ve already hit rock bottom. What does this portend for tonight’s game?
Well, if you flip a coin, your chances of getting heads are the same from one toss to another. Ideally, all binary competitions (one winner and one loser) would be like this. If the principle could be extended to sports, the Caps would likely win tonight just because they are the better team objectively. But first we much deal with a few others factors, and also, we must maul intelligent statistical theory until the results please us. Please join us behind the jump.
The period after Christmas and before the break is typically when teams struggle the most. It’s odd then that Washington Capitals have made January their most winning month. The last thing any team wants to do is peak too soon, especially before the end of the regular season. After winning seven thunderous games in a row, it’s about time the Caps come back down to Earth and mount another surge for the post-season. To ensure that, here are some injury updates:
Tonight’s game against the Anaheim Ducks (24-22-7) begins at 7 PM. Russian Machine has a correspondent on location to document. Will the goalie problems discussed above end the Caps winning streak? Will Braden Holtby submarine some dude at center ice? Will Matt Bradley (whose jersey, it seems, I must now buy) secure a hat trick? Tune in and find out.
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.
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.
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!
The late start (10pm) of tonight’s west-coast game may preclude any recap before today becomes tomorrow, so the boys and I decided to lower your expectations in advance.
The Caps got smacked pretty good by the Hurricanes on Monday night. The boys looked lazy and disjointed. It’s been a tumultuous week on and off the ice, so we’re going to rattle off a bunch of excuses in case the team somehow manages to lose to the best team in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks.
Goalie drama. Tarik El-Bashir, Washington’s only remaining hockey-beat reporter, assures us that Little Mikey Neuvirth will start in goal this evening. His backup, Jose Theodore, is 10 years his senior. Theodore racked up a career-best 41 saves just two months ago, but has since been uneven in goal. Bruce Boudreau may now lack confidence in the netminder. I’d be dubious, too, as the guy was once hooking up with Paris Hilton. It doesn’t help that Semyon Varlamov has recovered from some early season miscues and revealed himself as an Olympic-level keeper. Once Varly returns from Hershey and his bout with crotch rot, we may have one of those classic sitcom scenarios on our hands.
Today we learned that Mike Green was not selected for Canada’s Olympic hockey team. This is only the latest in a long line of poor decisions for Canada (giving Alanis Morissette a microphone, slicing bacon too thick, letting Michael J. Fox leave the country), and one they will likely regret. The guy is the number-one scoring defenseman in the league right now. I mean– what else could Team Canada possibly want in a defender other than goal-scoring? Russian Machine worries for Greenie’s bruised ego, and has begun a Twitter campaign to make him feel better and also invade Canada.
Boyd Gordon isn’t playing tonight. Stop the f$#&ing presses.
Jason Chimera will be joining the Caps lineup this evening. The left winger from Columbus is expected to join the second line, perhaps taking (Olympian) Tomas Fleischman’s spot as he moves to center. Will the lineup and personnel shake-ups bring chaos to the team tonight? Will Chimera be welcomed into the team with open arms? Will Al Koken pronounce his name wrong? We can guarantee only that one of the questions will be answered, “yes.”
Alexander Semin left the ice mid-shift on Monday complaining of an injury. He later returned to the ice, but not before raising some questions about his wellbeing. Russian Machine has a vested interest in the Siberian kicking ass. We were willing to let it slide that he refuses to learn the language, but only so long as he plays games and handles the puck he’s freaking Legolas out there. If Alexander has re-injured his wrist, Russian Machine will demand he refund a portion his 6-million dollar contract extension — paid to us. We will accept payment in Green Turtle pub fries.
Lastly, the Caps are playing a team with a five-game winning streak. For contrast, the boys are on a zero-game winning streak. We lost — badly I might add — to the Carolina Hurricanes. That’s not quite as bad as the Harlem Globetrotters losing to the Atlantic City Seagulls, but it’s still pretty bad. If the Sharks manage to outscore the Caps tonight, blame it on momentum.
We’re now three hours out from tonight’s first puck drop. You have the option of bucking up, quixotically rooting for a win; or you can be like me and dispense with that pollyanna nonse: drink yourself into the last, glorious stupor of 2009 whilst the Caps get the Caps beat out of ’em.
I hope you’re sitting down, because I’ve got some bad news: The Caps have injuries!
Unibrowed wonder Semyon Varlamov is out with a groin injury, which could keep him out for a week or longer (WP). Groin injuries are particularly troublesome to goalies, and this one could be even worse for an acrobat like Varly. Russian Machine has sent Varlamov detailed illustrated instructions on how to appropriately ice a groin. In the meantime, Jose Theodore will start in net and should be backed up by Mike Neuvirth. Jose Theodore has shown renewed gusto this season, manifested in a lightning-fast glove hand and multiple 30+ save games. We love Neuvirth like we love all of our Calder Cup-winning Bears, but the sooner he’s back above the Mason-Dixon line the better.
Brian Pothier (+11 plus/minus rating so far this year) left halfway through the Sabres game on Wednesday with an injury to his ribs. Tarik El-Bashir quoted coach Boudreau: “It’s one of those injuries that I don’t know how long he’s going to be out for. It could be one week [or] it could be six weeks. Rib injuries are so difficult to figure out. But he’s a tough kid and I know he’ll battle through it, and as quick as he can, he’ll be back.” Brian’s injury may force the Caps to depend even more on an already over-leveraged Mike Green.
If you were honestly expecting an update on Boyd Gordon today, I don’t even know how to talk to you.
Mike Knuble is expected to return tonight after nearly a month out of commission with a broken finger. If you recall, Kanoobie tripped over Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding, narrowly avoiding a faceplant at the cost of his shooting hand. Before that, Mike had done a terrific job assimilating into the team and filling the void left by Sergei Federov last Spring. When Sasha (Ovechkin) & Sasha (Semin) were having trouble producing goals earlier this season, Knuble stepped up and brought some offensive oomph! to the Caps. It will be interesting to see if Bruce Boudreau will keep the current top line (Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin) in tact in light of the veteran’s return. There may also be increased scrutiny on Alexander Semin to convert his flashy moves into actual points lest he be brought down to the dreaded second line, usually populated by Brooks Laich and assorted upstarts from Hershey.
Speaking of the Bears, Mathieu Perrault (6 points in 16 games) will be back tonight after missing a couple of games due to food poisoning. In context of Knuble’s broken pinky finger and Varlamov’s chafed loins, the Capitals officially have the lamest injuries in the NHL right now.
And that’s where we stand. Expect an invigorated and motivated Caps team tonight. Knuble and Perrault’s return could be a shot of energy to a team that can sometimes look sleepy. Plus, the boys now have competition at the top of the NHL: the San Jose Sharks (44 points). And the Caps should be sufficiently rested tonight since they haven’t really played pro hockey since Monday. Zing!
Faceoff is at 7:00 PM. If you want Nachos from Applebees after the first period, try to sync your carryout order for 7:40.
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