Every once in a while, we here at Japers' Rink briefly turn our gaze away from the Caps and towards those who cover the Caps. Usually, it's when some talking head says or writes something with which we, as sentient human beings disagree. Sometimes it's to praise the professionals for a job well done, and that's the case today, as we take a moment to give a hearty "atta boy" to The Washington Post's Alex Prewitt, who has been a revelation on the Caps beat since taking over during the summer.
Prolific and poignant, Prewitt provides quality coverage that blends in-depth reporting and analysis with vivid storytelling. Really vivid storytelling. Like, the dudes who wrote the copy for EPIX' "Road to the Winter Classic" would probably blush at some of it.
But that's cool. We dig it. In fact, it's inspired us to try our hand at it every now and again. Which brings us to today, and Japers' Rink's newest quiz show: Prew or False.
Below are several passages covering events from the first half of the Caps season. Some are Prewitt's. Others are ours. See if you can spot the genuine article, or whether our imitation is more than just a sincere form of flattery.
First off, nothing brings out the drama like a losing streak... even if it's only the first week in November:
With the dull thud of the puck being slammed into Jonas Hiller's right leg pad from close range followed immediately by the horn to end regulation, Caps fans felt that all-too-familiar sense of dread creep back into their respective minds, guts and other assorted internal organs.
The streak was going to five, wasn't it?[Source]
They steeled themselves through the gloom of four straight defeats, a crossroads reached far sooner than anyone predicted. They spent their day off resting, or thinking, or cleansing their minds with family trips to the park. They believed, deep down, everything would be fine, but they also believed in the power of urgency. "We need to have a sense of danger," Coach Barry Trotz said, though most of all his Washington Capitals needed relief. [Source]
The Washington Capitals boarded another plane Thursday afternoon, hoping what awaited upon arrival here might, finally, snap the unbroken circle. Twelve days have passed since they last won, five straight losses building to Friday’s Winter Classic appetizer against the Chicago Blackhawks. [Source]
Of course, they don't call 'em "dramatic wins" for nothing:
Already in this still young season, he had bounced around and out of the lineup, from the fourth line to the top line to the press box and back again on a trajectory that in many ways has mirrored that of his team. But late in overtime on Tuesday night, Eric Fehr found himself face-to-face with an opponent other than a coach's decision and then, for a moment that felt like much more than that, atop the hockey world. [Source]
Then there's goaltending... and the fact that there are only so many ways to say "Braden Holtby was really great in this one"...:
A goaltender’s symphony unfolded Monday night at Verizon Center, the sounds often playing in succession: First came the echo of a puck thudding into Braden Holtby’s pads, then a roar of the crowd, growing louder with each of the Washington Capitals netminder’s 38 saves.
The 25-year-old, rejuvenated under this new coaching regime, had already anchored the Capitals through a road-heavy December, transforming into one of the Eastern Conference’s most stalwart netminders. Now, in a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators that extended his team’s points streak to nine games, Holtby became the home rink’s conductor, the stick his baton and the crease his stage as he matched his season-high save total. [Source]
... or, on occasion, not so great:
Braden Holtby swung his stick back and slammed it into the open net, an uppercut that shook the top shelf, his frustration unleashed after his own brutal error. The Washington Capitals knew one gaffe would tilt a scoreless game. They understood the cruelty Friday night promised, to either them or the visiting New Jersey Devils. They could not, however, predict their goaltender blundering behind his post, the puck on his stick, in such wrenching fashion. [Source]
But anyone can take a pivotal moment and turn it into a movie trailer; it takes a skilled wordsmith to take the somewhat mundane and make it interesting:
What does a hockey player do when he’s not playing hockey? He grounds himself in routine. It’s the drive to the rink, the camaraderie with the boys, the stretching after practice that make him feel like a hockey player, even when that hockey player finds himself watching the game from the press box for a month straight now. For Jack Hillen, those routines and rituals are crucial. [Source]
They steamrolled toward the puck Tuesday night at Verizon Center, on a collision course along the boards, and before their bodies struck, Brooks Orpik recalled locking eyes with Alexander Wennberg. Both jumped and braced for impact, "50-50 into each other" as Orpik recalled later. Except Orpik positioned himself better, and his shoulder drove into Wennberg, so the official’s hand raised, Orpik stayed silent and skated toward the penalty box, an 11th minor penalty recorded this season. [Source]
For years they've frequently appeared next to each other on rosters and alphabetically-ordered stat sheets, separated primarily by an 'a' here and an 'e' there. But on Tuesday night, Nicklas Backstrom and Jay Beagle will stand next to each other on at Verizon Center, with just a few feet of ice - and little if any chemistry - between the two. [Source]
Finally, with millions upon millions of pixels spilled writing about the glorious spectacle that was the Winter Classic, would we reach Peak Prewitt? Here are two possibilities... you be the judge:
Barely three months ago, on a warm day in late September, a tiring pitcher reared back and fired what would be his last pitch of the afternoon. A batter did something he and his teammates had largely failed to do for eight-and-two-thirds innings off the powerful right-hander - he made solid contact and drove the ball deep to left field. And a little-used outfielder tracked that shot, dived, and used every inch of his 6-foot-4 frame to make a catch that could only be described as miraculous.
That catch - The Catch, now - preserved the first no-hitter in the history of Nationals Park.
On New Year's Day, with fake snow where Steven Souza, Jr. made sure his name will forever be remembered by Nationals fans and temperatures that weren't a whole lot higher than the "27" that Jordan Zimmermann wears on his back, the ballpark saw its first perfect game. [Source]
Once the celebration migrated into the home clubhouse at Nationals Park, while the whole building thundered like the giant New Year’s Day party it had become, the hero of the 2015 Winter Classic saw a text message from his father. Almost five years had passed since Don Brouwer suffered a stroke that left him comatose for six days and still severely limited, and he had never seen his 29-year-old son, Troy, play hockey as a member of the Washington Capitals. [Source]
So how'd you do?
0-3 right - Give us a job at The Post, Mr. Bezos
4-7 right - Ain't nothin' to it but to Prewitt
8-10 right - Prew Believer