Welcome the St. John’s Brimleys….err…Growlers

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While it wasn’t much of a secret, the St. John’s ECHL team made it official on Tuesday, as they will be named the Growlers as they enter into the 2018-19 season. Hockey will be back at The Rock with presumably the Toronto Maple Leafs as the primary affiliate– though nothing official on that has been brought forward.

The logo, as you can see, is an angry Newfoundland dog. That seems a bit oxymoronic given the loving nature of these creatures. However, there is a tie-in to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, as the logo was inspired by the mascot for the RNR in World War I, Sable Chief. Given the historically nature behind it, I feel bad for saying it looks a little like Wilford Brimley, but not bad enough to stop making that comparison.

As the second Canadian team in the league and third all-time, the Growlers are going to have a lot to manage, especially with being the furthest team east by over 1,200 miles. When Scott Wheeler did his piece about the Brampton Beast’s travels (PAYWALL BLOCK), you can only imagine how hellish the Growlers’ road trips are going to be. Also, after years of being in the AHL– how will the fan base receive the team. Will they be happy enough just to have a hockey team there to support it or will they feel like they could have gotten a QMJHL team and resent the team?? Time will tell, but I believe the former will be a lot more of a result than the latter.

Puck drops October 12th for the Growlers, as they play the Eastern Conference champions (and waiting for the Kelly Cup to start) Florida Everblades at Mile One Centre.

Caps By The Number: Holtby Comes Up Big in Game 6 Win

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In what needed to be their best game of the season in order to survive, the Caps did just that in shutting out the Lightning to force a Game 7 Wednesday. Braden Holtby stopped all 24 shots thrown at him, while TJ Oshie had two goals with Devante Smith-Pelly having the third to give the Caps a 3-0 win.

With win #11, the time has come to talk about a former #11 in Caps history.

When it comes to the Capitals, there’s very few players who grew up in the area that have been able to play on the team. In fact, this #11 is the only one to do so thus far, the Potomac native, Jeff Halpern. He is also the last Capital to wear #11 before it was retired for Mike Gartner.

Halpern grew up in the DC area, but learned his hockey in the Northeast due to not many elite schools in the area during his time. His father would drive him to Connecticut and back for practices and games. While he didn’t get noticed in prep school– Halpern played Junior B in Ontario, which got him noticed for him to go to Princeton.

Though he was undersized, Halpern impressed the Capitals enough during their prospects camp for them to give him a contract after his four seasons at Princeton. Halpern only played six games for the Portland Pirates after his senior season before becoming part of the Caps everyday line-up in 1999-2000. Halpern was a heart-and-soul player, which is to say he didn’t put up the superstar point totals, but had those intangibles that people seem to crave these days. With only one 20-goal season in 2000-01, Halpern was more of the ilk to block shots and get into the dirty areas to score goals.

He was a favorite amongst his teammates, too, which allowed him to be named captain in 2005-06, which was also the last season for him in his first stint with the Capitals. After some time in the south, west, and Montreal; Halpern landed back with the Capitals in 2011-12, playing 69 more games and putting up 16 points before moving onward to different things before his retirement following the 2013-14 season.

It’s a dream of players to play with their hometown team, but not something you often hear about when it comes to the teams in the non-traditional market. For someone like Halpern to come in and be able to achieve that dream created a solid connect and showed that players from that area can make it in the big time.

Butthurt Fans Fuel My Golden Knights Love

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It’s funny to see the reaction of people who hate the idea of the Vegas Golden Knights being this close to a Stanley Cup Final appearance. The claims of unbalanced Expansion Draft rules, unfair trades so some guys wouldn’t get picked in the Draft, and other wild, butthurt claims that makes me want them to win the Cup more than ever.

And look– as a Caps fans, I know what it’s like to have a team that struggles and has the talent, but never tastes anything close to the Cup. It’s a bit annoying to see the success of the Golden Knights out of pure jealousy– but when I step back from the fan-view; it’s a great story. Not just in the NHL, but in sports overall. It’s a movie script to be honest– unprotected by their team, picked by this new, put together team, and have this amazing season that still isn’t done yet.

However, to say that they did it by nefarious means is downright outrageous. William Karlsson has talent, but he wasn’t going to get a chance in Columbus with John Tortorella at the helm. You can’t tell me that you thought Karlsson was going to have a 40-goal season in Columbus when he only hit 14 goals in his previous two seasons combined. Oh, and he also was picked AT THE REQUEST of Columbus, while also giving them the salary of David Clarkson. Alex Tuch was a throw-in from the Wild for the Knights taking Erik Haula, Fleury was who the Pens wanted the Knights to take, Reilly Smith was traded to make sure that Jonathan Marchessault was picked by the Knights.

Yup– really unfair when the guys who turned out to be the best players on their team are basically having their old teams BEG VEGAS TO TAKE THEM AWAY!!

You want motivation?? How about when you have teams giving you away because they wanted to make sure someone else got taken. You want to prove value?? You shove it up their ass. That’s motivation. And to have someone like Gerard Gallant– who was last seen in the NHL having to get his own cab– at the helm of this rag-tag team of players; you have 30+ guys with their hearts and minds dead set on proving everyone wrong.

This was a team that most people thought were going to finished dead-last in the league. This was a team that people had not getting to 70 points. This was a team that people believed would have visiting fans outnumber the home fans by a country mile.

So much for that.

No one would have guessed this season would happen. I’m sure some of the guys on the team– despite saying they believed in themselves– would have thought they’d go this far. Five guys with 20+ goals, using five goalies in the first two weeks due to injuries and STILL WINNING, and believing enough in their roster to make very limited moves and sticking with the horses they have. Now, as of the time of this writing, they are one win away from getting to the Stanley Cup Final.

What’s the point of my ramblings?? Well, it’s because fans ruin everything thinking they know what the story is supposed to be for any franchise. Just because your team had to have hardships doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for every team. Just because your team had the top-priced talent doesn’t mean value picks can’t get it done. Just because your team waited X-number of years to win a Cup doesn’t mean this team can’t do it in a single season.

If you can’t enjoy this for the story because it’s a first year team and you’re a jealous fan– fine. But don’t say these players don’t deserve it because everyone– including myself– didn’t think this team would do shit for shinola.

Good on them for shoving it up everyone’s ass.

Black Bears Create Pipeline to NAHL and Beyond

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On Wednesday, the Maryland Black Bears further their push to keep the best players from Maryland in Maryland, as well as bringing in an outside source  to help keep their pipeline strong. The Black Bears announced they have formed a partnership with Team Maryland in their Eastern Hockey League and AAA programs, as well was a partnership with the Mercer (NJ) Chiefs.

It’s almost a no-brainer that Team Maryland and the Black Bears would have a partnership, as the brass of Team Maryland was a big pusher when it came to talk to Black Bear Sports Group about bringing in a high-level junior league to the Maryland area. This working partnership will allow the Black Bears to display Maryland-grown talent, while also give incentive for kids to play on the Team Maryland squads– as if there wasn’t one prior.

Despite being in New Jersey, the Mercer Chiefs are also connected, as the Ice Land Skating Center in Hamilton Township, NJ is one of the arenas that Black Bear Sports Group has under their umbrella. The Chiefs program runs from the Squirt Minor level to the U18 AAA level, which having this not only gives another region to pick from in the Mid-Atlantic, but also gives the younger players something to strive for as they advance in hockey.

The one thing that the Black Bears and this ownership group is doing is creating a bit of a family atmosphere to this team. While some might think it’s a little too much of staying inside the bubble, the fact they’re trying to make the most of their investments not only in Maryland– but with all their holdings.

If their alumni is anything, the pipeline is strong with Team Maryland. Sam Anas (Iowa Wild), Mikie Chen (Knoxville Ice Bears), William Nylander (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Nick Sorkin (Wheeling Nailers) all came up through the Team Maryland system at one point or another, but had to move elsewhere to get bigger exposure than they had. With the NAHL now putting stakes in the ground– odds are a lot of the next class of players will not need to go far in order to get the exposure others had to leave home to get.

Caps By The Numbers: Five Unanswered Give Caps 2-0 Series Lead

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After a quick start thanks to a Tom Wilson tipped-goal 28 seconds in, the Caps fought through some adversity after the Lightning netted two power play goals from Brayden Point and Steve Stamkos. However, this Caps team didn’t give up and scored the last five goals of the game to notch a 6-2 victory and leave Tampa with a 2-0 series lead. The win was the seventh win on the road for the Caps this playoffs, tying a team record set in 1998. Along with Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, and Brett Connolly had goals. Eller, Kuznetsov, Ovechkin, Wilson, and John Carlson had multi-point games.

The Caps are in double-digits for wins this players, so it’s time to look at a former #10 in Caps history.

This entrant was a two-time member with the Capitals, but made his name more known when wearing #10. Bobby Carpenter garnered a lot of attention with his selection in the 1981 NHL Draft, being the first player to go into the NHL right out of high school when he took the ice for the Capitals. While he did have some clashes with his head coach Bryan Murray, the short time in his first stint was something the Caps needed from a young player in their line-up.

Right off the bat, Carpenter was able to get the offense going for the Capitals with two straight 30-goal seasons in 1981-82 and 1982-83. While he had a drop-off in his stats in his third season, the 1984-85 season was the real big break-out for Carpenter, as he led the team in goals with 53 and was only behind Mike Gartner in points (95). It was Carpenter’s highest output in goals and points. Carpenter was the first US-born player to put up 50 goals in a season.

However, the clash between him and coach Murray reached a boiling point during the 1986-87 season. Murray and the Capitals had communication issues, chief among them was Carpenter– who said that Murray panicked too much behind the bench and held him back from being a bigger part of Washington’s offense. Carpenter sat out waiting to be traded as the Caps struggled without him before getting dealt to the Rangers for Mike Ridley and Kelly Miller.

Carpenter re-sign with the Caps ahead of the 1992-93 season, but donned #11 after Miller took over the #10 role. On his second stint, Carpenter was only able to register 11 goals and 28 points over 68 games.

Caps By The Numbers: Quick Start Helps Caps Take Game One

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Though they were heavily put as the underdog in this series, the Caps got out to a quick start in Game One– scoring two goals in the first thanks to Michal Kempny and Alex Ovechkin, then two in the second from Jay Beagle and Lars Ellers. While they had four goals, they had to hang-on, as Tampa Bay had two goals in the third and were pressing late, but Braden Holtby was equal to the task for the Caps 4-2 win in Game One of the Eastern Conference Final. The Caps won again without Nicklas Backstrom and hope to keep a good pace going for Sunday’s game.

With a ninth win, we get to number nine of the Caps history chart.

While he didn’t pan out as a Flyers’ first round pick, Dainius Zubrus started to live up to expectation when he got to Washington…but not just on the ice. Formerly one of the poster boys for Easton Hockey, Zubrus couldn’t transition his game to the North American style when he first game over. Zubrus was brought to Washington in 2001 and took off as a bit of an offensive threat– at least to the Capitals side of things, as they were going through their rough times.

In his six seasons with the Capitals, he hit season-highs in points and goals, netting three straight 20-plus goal seasons towards the end of his run with the Caps, before his trade to Buffalo. As I mentioned, Zubrus was part of the teams that were going through the rough phase of contenders to tanking and having a difficult rebuild ahead of them. However, Zubrus was traded away before he could see the full bloom of the rebuild.

Yet, the most important part of Zubrus’ tenure with the Capitals was what he was able to help a new young star for the Capitals, doing something that may not have been done for him when he came into the league. When Alex Ovechkin came over to North America, Zubrus was not only a mentor to the young winger, but he played the role as translator, roommate, and someone to get Ovechkin comfortable with the game. Once Zubrus was traded, Ovechkin’s production in his sophomore season slowed down a bit. As we know, he’s gotten back on track– but Zubrus made a big impact for Ovechkin coming over and maybe allowed the Caps to have their franchise face develop quicker because of Zubrus’ off-ice help.

South-Beast Division Representing in Conference Finals

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Photo Source: Link

Of the four teams still left in the NHL Playoffs– three of them at some point played in the Southeast Division.

Let that sink in. Let the worst division in all of hockey; a division that angered so many because they got a top-seed when many times they were undeserving, a division you could say set off these new divisions because of how inferior it was to the others. That division accounts for 75% of the Final Four.

Of course, the Winnipeg Jets only played two seasons after moving from Atlanta because the NHL powers that be didn’t own a map that could have given a better option from the Central Division at the time to move to the Southeast– but whatever. The representation of this often horrid division is finally coming to light.

For the Capitals, they were seven-time Southeast Division champions, while the Lightning had only two division titles to their name– one of which led to a Stanley Cup in 2004. In the 14 seasons that the Southeast Division was in existence, eight times did more than one team get into the playoffs. The biggest margin of victory for a year in the Southeast was that 2003-04 season, where Tampa Bay had 106 points, which was 28 points better than the 2nd place Atlanta Thrashers.

Granted, with all the turnover in the league since the last time there were six divisions only four years ago, it’s hard to compare what would happen now since they’re all spread out in different divisions; but I’d like to believe that the cornerstones to these teams had major ties to the Southeast Era (or Error depending on who you ask). Alex Ovechkin, Dustin Byfuglien, Steven Stamkos– all of those guys were in the midst of the Southeastern heyday. The fact all three came out of their division is pretty fantastic, not only that– but we could see an all former-Southeast Division Stanley Cup Final if Winnipeg beats out Vegas to face one of their former foes.

For my money, however, I see it as a media member’s dream of Vegas beating Winnipeg in six games, while Tampa takes out Washington in seven to make it a very sunny, very warm Stanley Cup Final.

Welcome the Black Bears

After weeks of waiting, the new Maryland NAHL has names and colors. As mentioned prior, the colors are the Maryland flag colors, but the name is a bit odd to the idea of Maryland.

The Black Bears will be the new identity, named after the main holding of the ownership, Black Bear Sports Group. The black bear population in Maryland is primarily in the Western part of the state, very rarely going into the suburbs. The logo and website for the Maryland Black Bears was revealed today.

The logo itself incorporates the Black Bear Sports Group logo with a wilderness scene, much akin to the Minnesota Wild motif. The colors are black, red, yellow, and white.

While it’s not the Crabs or anything of that sort, it’s a solid name and solid logo. This is the first of many things to come for this new team.

Caps By The Numbers: Caps Get Past the Penguins, Second Round

For the first time in 20 years, the Washington Capitals will go to the Conference Final with a 2-1 win in overtime from an Evgeny Kuznetsov winner to defeat the Penguins in six games. Kuznetsov got a semi-breakaway feed from Alex Ovechkin and went five-hole on Matt Murray for the game-winner. Alex Chiasson had the other goal on an assist from Aussie Nathan Walker. The Caps will now take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.

With that eighth win– a famous number eight from the Caps yesteryear.

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While Alex Ovechkin will always be synonymous with #8, there’s one other guy who is notable for that number, but not for the right reasons. Despite that, he’s a Hall of Famer, a four-time Cup winner, and had quite the resume, though it’s at time not enough for the Caps’ faithful. It’s Larry Murphy.

WHOOPWHOOPWHOOPWHOOPWHOOPWHOOPWHOOPWHOOPWHOOPWHOOPWHOOPWHOOPWHOOPWHOOPWHOOP

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Seriously, though….it’s a number so nice, he wore it twice and that was Dmitri Khristich. For a guy who had two tours of duty with the Capitals, he was able to go ahead and get the #8 twice in his career. While he did wear #29 when he came up to the NHL in 1990-91, #8 is the one that people remember him most for.

While he played 40 games in 1990-91, Khristich came to form in his first full season in 1991-92, where the Ukranian forward potted 36 goals and 73 points, which put him second and fourth respectively in team scoring, while also providing a little bit of defensive touch to his game and create a little (very little) Selke buzz for best defensive forward. Despite Khristich was a better than point-per-game player (66 points in 64 games) in his second season. While leading the team in goals in 1993-94 with 29 goals on the season. However, Khristich only had nine goals in 42 playoff games with the Caps in his first tenure in DC.

After some time in LA, Boston, and Toronto, Khristich came back to the Caps in the middle of the 2000-01 season, while contributing solidly in his 43 games with 10 goals and 29 points when coming back, while his last season with the Caps and in the NHL was a dud with nine goals in 61 games before going to the Russian Superleague.

Though he did have some declining numbers, Khristich was one of the more popular #8s in the Caps history and is very well remembered for his tenured. Not only that, but he was sort of a mentor to some of the young European players– most notably with a young Peter Bondra and his family when Bondra was coming over. Khristich and his family helped the transition to a new life in hockey and make Bondra comfortable and we know what Bondra did for the Caps after that.

Caps By The Numbers: Four Unanswered in Third Lift Caps

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In what could be one of the most sloppily played defensive game, the Caps used Jakub Vrana bumping up to the first line to help propel them to four unanswered goals (including two empty netters) in the third and gave the Caps a 3-2 series lead. Evgeny Kuznetsov had the game-tying goal and two assists, but the rest star was Braden Holtby. Holtby kept the Caps in the game after a barrage of Penguins chances and shut the door on them in key moments to keep the Caps alive and ahead.

That’s win seven in the playoffs, which means we look at the ONLY #7.

In the 43 seasons the Capitals have operated, there has only been one player to wear #7 and it’s the man who has ties to the organization and area– that’s Yvon Labre. While he only played 334 of his 371 games with the Capitals, he kept himself involved with the team after his retirement in 1981.

Labre was picked from Pittsburgh in the Expansion Draft of 1974, while being fourth in scoring in the inaugural season with the Caps and top amongst defensemen. Labre was the first player to score a goal at home for the Caps and was captain from 1975-76 until 1977-78 before starting to see some injuries mount up on him and forced him into retirement at only 31 years old.

However, Labre was dedicated to the DC area, taking part in a number of community projects, while also staying with the team as a coach, scout, and community ambassador. His number 7 was the first to be retired by the team, as he continues his time around the community with the Capitals and around area hockey. The Yvon Labre Award is given to the high school senior in the Maryland Student Hockey League based on dedication, work ethic, skill, and leadership.

Labre is always going to be remembered by Caps fans, though it was probably more for his contributions off the ice, as little is remembered from his on-ice days for more.