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Into the Boards: Talking Washington Capitals with Misha Mansoor of Periphery

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Into the Boards

Eastern Conference

Humble Ho-Sang

Just after the trade deadline, the Islanders called up Joshua Ho-Sang from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to finally give one of their most storied prospects a look at the NHL level. While Ho-Sang’s tremendous talent and potential should have been the story, the NHL media and some not-so-intelligent fans decided to shift the focus to something completely brainless and petty: Josh’s jersey number, 66.

Yes, number 66 was worn by Penguins legend Mario Lemieux, and yet, somehow, certain fans have decided that this has fucking anything to do with Joshua Ho-Sang. When asked about why he chose the number, Josh gave a respectful, selfless answer in true hockey player fashion about how Mario was one of his idols growing up and how he wears it to honor him. Kid wears number, media asks why, kid respectfully answers why, done deal, right? Wrong. Reporters in multiple cities on the Isles road trip repeatedly tossed the same question at Ho-Sang night in and night out, to which he responded respectfully with the same answer each and every time.

Let’s get one thing cleared up here. The number 66 was retired by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not the NHL, and certainly not the Islanders. This story has “old time hockey culture” written all over it and for some reason Ho-Sang’s number choice is being taken as a swipe against Mario instead of a tribute to him, which is what it is. Joshua Ho-Sang needs to abide only by the jersey rules of his own organization and the NHL, not the Pittsburgh Penguins or any other organization. Bottom line? Josh is an electrifying hockey player. Let the stories be about his hockey ability, not completely arbitrary crap like numbers on the back of a jersey.

The Battle of Florida

Somewhat strangely, the Tampa Bay Lightning fell from grace this year after making the conference finals last year before ultimately falling to Pittsburgh. It started with the injury to their superstar center, Steven Stamkos, and has been all downhill from there. The Lightning have proven in years past that they are capable of carrying on without Stamkos as he’s been out for an extended period of time twice before in his career, and both times they’ve made the playoffs anyway (2013-14 broken leg, 2015-16 blood clots). Regardless, Tampa has gone 9-3-3 in their last 15 games and all of a sudden they’re back in the mix of things when it looked like they were dead in the water. The Lightning find themselves just four points out of a playoff spot with the return of Stamkos on the horizon. Tampa sure as hell is still a good team and the last thing I’d ever do is count them out.

Across the swampy state are the Florida Panthers, who sit just two points back of the rival Lightning with a game in hand. The Panthers looked to be deadly and aiming for the postseason after having won six of their first seven games in the month of February. Since then though, Florida fans have had a lot to worry about as they’ve dropped six of their next seven directly after their hot streak, gaining only one point in a shootout loss over that span of games. That being said, the Panthers are still in the hunt, but now they have their resurgent cross-state rivals back in the mix, making it all the more difficult for them to sneak in. The race for the last wild card spot is truly unpredictable with the Islanders, Leafs, Lightning, Flyers, and Panthers all in the hunt.

Western Conference

Flame On!

The Calgary Flames are the silent killers out west. With everyone’s focus on the trade deadline, news coverage of Kevin Shattenkirk leaving the Blues, and the Kings acquiring Ben Bishop, everyone has taken their eyes off of the Flames. And while attention was elsewhere, the Flames have been stacking victories and are currently on a seven game win streak. Calgary is 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, and currently occupies the first Western Conference wild card spot with 76 points. The Flames are closing the gap and hope to find themselves in the top three of the Pacific Division with a few more wins, seeing as they’re only two points behind the third place Ducks and second place Oilers. However, this will be no easy feat with games against the Habs, Jets, and Penguins coming up on their schedule.

This season, the team seems to being living (or dying) by the sword that is goaltender Brian Elliott. Since January 26th, Elliott has stepped up his game tremendously with 10 wins in his last 12 starts, sporting a GAA of 2.16 and a save percentage of .927. Calgary’s performance on their current trip out east will determine their fate and will show us what they are truly capable of. These games are must wins and we should get a taste of how the team performs in high pressure games on the road. If the Flames continue to roar, I can definitely see them making it past the first round of the playoffs depending on who their opponent is. Only time will tell if Calgary can keep the flame on or if they’ll fizzle out in the last week’s of the season. To be continued…

Battle for the Throne!

The Minnesota Wild have been kicking ass this season. We’re seeing all that talent, young and old, come together and produce success and enough victories to take and hold first place in the Central. That first place slot was theirs to keep without anyone too close behind… and then the Chicago Blackhawks got hot again. And in typical Blackhawk fashion, right when they needed it, gaining enough momentum to push them right into the postseason. With a seven game win streak, the Hawks are only one point behind the Wild.

Minnesota was dominant a few weeks back but has cooled down due to a case of the mumps that took star Zach Parise and Jason Pominville out of the lineup. The Wild, who are 6-4-0 in their last ten, look to take down the Lightning and Panthers during their stay in Florida before heading up to Chicago to face their biggest rival of the season on Sunday. All eyes will be on that game because it will be a taste of what’s coming… that’s right, playoff mothafuckin’ hockey!! It would be nice to see some new faces lift the Cup this year, and the Wild certainly have the talent and depth to do it, but we all know how dominant and experienced Chicago is in the postseason. Come late Sunday night, we’ll all see who sits atop the bracket in the mighty throne that is the number one spot.

Top Star

Vin: Sergei Bobrovsky, hands down. The Columbus netminder has not one, not two, but three shutout victories this past week. Bob and company shut down the Wild and the Devils twice and Sergei hasn’t let up a goal in 179:29 minutes and counting.

Scott: Jack Eichel has been unbelievable since his return to the Sabres lineup. He’s put up four goals and five assists for nine points in his last five games and now has an astounding 45 points in 46 games. I can only imagine what his numbers would look like without the lengthy ankle injury that sidelined him for the beginning of the season.

Play of the Week

Vin: Check out this goal by Boston’s David Pastrnak. Dave gets the puck off a faceoff, does a spin-o-rama, and fires a wrister with some sauce on it. Pastrnak nets the puck past Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek and breaks his stick in the process, extending the Bruins lead.

Scott: Call me unoriginal, but Jack Eichel again. Watch here as Eichel recovers a rebound and turns his back on Filppula to protect the puck and buy himself time. He quickly pivots and then sends an absolute bullet of a wrister to the top corner without even putting his full body into the shot. Eichel’s shot is simply insane.

Talking Puck with Periphery’s Misha Mansoor!

Periphery’s Misha Mansoor was nice enough to take a few minutes out of his day to talk to ITB about the Washington Capitals, their rivalry with the Penguins, and millimeter offsides reviews. Catch Periphery on the Sonic Unrest Tour II with The Contortionist, Norma Jean, and Infinity Shred!

First off, congratulations on your Washington Capitals currently being the best team in hockey. They won the Presidents’ Trophy last year and are on track to do it again this year. What, in your mind, has made them such a dominant team this season yet again?

I’ve been watching them a lot more this season for a few reasons, mainly that I discovered NHL streams (laughs). I will say the one thing I’m seeing that’s actually different is that they’re playing with a lot more depth than last year, and that’s kind of general thing to say about a team, but I see the chemistry being a lot stronger across all the lines with each one genuinely having strengths that they can offer so you don’t have to sweat any of the lines being out. Like, our fourth line is sick and they’re also our PK line. We can count on them to absolutely destroy, so even though it looks like we’re in a similar spot to last year, I would actually argue that we’re a much better team and a much more consistent team. 

How long have you actually been a Caps fan and what got you into it?

So, I went to my first hockey game in, I want to say 2008. A friend of mine took me out to a preseason game, just literally ‘cause it was something to do. Lucky for us, the Caps weren’t a very good team back then, that was kind of the beginning of the Ovechkin era, but before anything had really started to happen and Ovechkin was hyped but you could get tickets on “College Night” for like $5 or $10 bucks, which was great. So it was something to do, and I went to the game, and keep in mind I didn’t know any better. I went to a preseason game so no one is trying to get injured, the game is played at half speed, and it went to a shootout so I got the whole experience. I was just instantly like “that was the best thing I’ve ever seen,” I absolutely loved it.

I throw this around, and I’m sure a lot of people agree, but I feel like in a lot ways, hockey is the metal of sports. It’s just fast, aggressive… you have some of the toughest athletes in the world playing this sport, it’s a pretty amazing thing, and then they’re doing it on ice. There’s so many skills- to be able to just be a hockey player you have to be able to skate well, you have to be able to handle a puck well, shoot [the puck]. There’s all these things which are such alien things to the average person. The average person probably can’t do any of those things that well and these guys are all just operating at that level. I also love how chaotic it is with the shifts being so short. One player, especially nowadays, can’t really carry a team. It has to be a group effort throughout all of the lines. It has to work or else it will just work until it doesn’t and then your team will be fucked, and we’ve seen that a lot.

Of course, and some people say that’s even a problem with hockey for someone looking to get into the sport. The best players in the game are off the ice for two-thirds of the game, but for you that was something that got you into it because it was more of a team effort as opposed to a Lebron James-type player in basketball.

Right! Like, we’ve got possibly the greatest goal scorer of our generation and we don’t have a cup. And as much as that sucks, being a Caps fan, something that’s really attractive is that you can’t just trade this guy and this team’s going to win. It’s much more complex. It’s a very, very complex equation and the chaos of it all is also something that throws everything aside because for all the talent and skill there is, you get a bouncing puck and all hell breaks loose and it doesn’t matter how skilled you are.

Were your a fan of other sports beforehand or was hockey the first?

Ya know, I was never a big sports guy growing up at all. I wasn’t athletic at all, I’m still not athletic (laughs) and there was just not a big sports presence in my household at all, like maybe the most I would watch was soccer which I always thought was just really slow and boring. In a lot of ways, hockey takes the cool aspects of soccer and then just ramps them up. It’s like soccer at quadruple speed… with fighting. Nothing really grabbed my attention. I’m still not into football, but I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve sort of… maybe I was a bit biased when I was growing up, sort of over-simplifying what made sports awesome.

What I’m realizing now is as much as nerds and sports jocks are put at odds, a lot of them like what they like for the exact same reasons. Sports jocks are just big sports nerds, they just know everything. Mark [Holcomb, of Periphery] loves baseball, and he loves sports in general, but he’s just a fact machine when it comes to baseball stats. He’s a total nerd about it, and I realized that. Once you understand what the strategy is to each game, and once I started to get a better sense of how all of that worked, it definitely made it more interesting. I never cared about baseball, but I went to a bunch of baseball games with Mark and as he taught me how to watch the game and what to look for, I was like “oh wow, this is actually pretty cool.” So, I think I would actually have an appreciation for most sports if they were explained properly, but hockey is the one that got me right off the bat. 

So you mention Mark and how he’s a baseball fan and being that you’re a traveling musician in Periphery, you definitely see a lot of major cities, some of which are tremendous hockey markets. Have you and the guys actually gone to an NHL game on the road?

We haven’t yet, but as luck would have it, we have a day off in Toronto the day that the Caps play the Maple Leafs which is one of the last games of the regular season. Our tour manager, Matt Rosenblum, is a huge, huge Devils fan, [so he’s] not the happiest of campers right now (laughs) and I don’t care if we have to spend stupid money, it’s going to be totally worth it. I can’t wait to go see that, so it’s gonna happen for sure.

Much has been made of the Penguins/Capitals rivalry since the inception of the Sid/Ovi era. What is your favorite memory of these two teams clashing?

I’m a Caps fan, so I don’t have a lot of happy memories (laughs), but I’m gonna go with earlier this season when we thrashed them, I think 7-1. I forget which goalie they started with, whoever it was didn’t finish for them, but we beat out the Murray/Fleury combo. So I was pretty stoked with that. That was also a birthday present from my girlfriend. She bought me, as a birthday present, tickets to the Penguins game and I jokingly was like “Oh, man, you better not have bought me tickets to a losing game!” Of course I’m happy to see any game, especially with them because we have a very special hatred for the Pens, as do a lot of teams I feel, especially in the Metro, right? But that was ultra satisfying. The Caps were going all Oprah with goals. “You get a goal! You get a goal! You get a goal!”

I love, from many years ago, it was Caps and Penguins in the second round, the game where Sid and Ovi traded hat tricks. That’s probably one of the best moments I can remember between them.

Oh yeah, okay yeah.

The Caps ended up losing that series under Bruce Boudreau, which brings me to my next question. They have gained this reputation as “choke artists” because of some playoff shortcomings under Bruce Boudreau, Dale Hunter, and Adam Oates. What do you think Barry Trotz has done differently to trend the Caps in the right direction again?

Yeah, Trotz seems to be doing some good for them. I know that they get the reputation of “choke artists” and part of me can justify exactly how and why they lost last. In very simple terms, we’d cooled down from our red hot streak and the Pens were red, red hot and continued that to win the whole damn thing. So we just happened to face them second. If we had faced them later, we probably would’ve gotten wiped out later unless we heated up by then.

So that’s that, but I think Trotz has played around with the lines and the chemistry a lot and made some interesting experiments, but he’s got it to a place where I feel like we’re pretty damn air tight. Now, I’m going to say this with one little side note, which is that bye week seems to really have screwed with the Caps ‘cause we were on the tear of all tears and especially after last night’s game man [against the Dallas Stars], I just feel like I’m not watching the same team. This is the part where the worry sets in. The playoffs are different and there’s a different vibe, so with the team that we were before bye week, I was like, “that team could at least make it to the finals, if not take the whole thing.” I don’t know what the hell happened on bye week, but it wasn’t good.

It’s not just the Caps! I looked recently at some post-bye week statistics and teams exiting it struggle pretty badly. It’s tough. It’s a very rhythmic sport, it’s not like football where they’re playing once a week.

Yeah, yeah, it’s a very rhythmic sport! The Caps sweet spot is game every other day, every three days, that’s what I’ve noticed. Back to backs are hard, especially if you’re traveling, like that’s where you’ll see a tired Caps team. That’s where you’ll see a tired ANY team. Then [there’s] also too much time off. When there’s four or five days between the games, I think, “man, these guys look like they need to learn how to play hockey again.” So, I’d say that’s one of our biggest weaknesses. I see these moments, especially in last night’s game. I can’t remember the last time that a team looked like they were going to shut us out by the end of the first. It was a bad start to that game and [the Caps] started to catch up and they kept the pressure on, but it was too little, too late in some ways. There was a lot of miscommunication, the chemistry was just not there, and that’s what the Caps looked like in the beginning of the year. They did not start out red hot at all. 

The good thing you can look at is that the Capitals were battling back at the end of that game. A bounce here or there and that game is 4-3 Capitals in regulation with the way they were putting pressure on. Can’t win ‘em all.

Right, you can’t win ‘em all, absolutely. And you know what? Maybe we were spoiled because we were winning them all before bye week. I see a different team. It’s less about the scores and more about the team. A guy like Jay Beagle, who’s probably not the first guy you’d think of when you think of the Caps, is actually one of my favorite players to watch, especially in the last few months. That dude was stepping up. He’s more of a playmaker, all around relentless guy.

Yeah, heart and soul guy and a big penalty killer.

He was starting to score goals, I think he got a couple of shorties. He is just ferocious on the PK, but I’m not seeing him as much. Kuzy seems to be back to where he was at the beginning of the season as opposed to like 20 goals in no time [during a mid-season stretch]. He was really cold at the beginning of the season to the point where people were like, “What the fuck? What’s this guy’s deal? Why are we paying him so much money?” Then we saw him come back, you’re seeing flashes of it. He’s a Russian, so his puck handling is stupid, but he can’t turn it into a goal [right now] and it looks like he’s afraid to shoot. I don’t know what happened to the Caps! They used to not be afraid to take shots, they’d take every shot and it was just mathematics where eventually a shot would go in. Now, they’re getting too cute, no one’s in front of the net, no one’s going for deflections, it’s like everyone’s trying to get their goddamn highlight reel goal. That’s not what wins playoffs. Let’s get those dirty goals, let’s get those guys in front of the net.

Kuzy came within an inch of a highlight reel goal last night [against Dallas] when he hit the inside of the post there!

Yeah, oh my god! I was watching that and I was like “if he scores, this is going to be what they show when they talk about [this game]!” Right at the end he should’ve gone glove side, man. I’m sure he probably knows that better than I do (laughs).

Of course, the game is played so fast.

It’s super fast. Of course, I’m saying this while watching the slow-mo replay, like “yeah man why didn’t you go glove side?” That in and of itself is stupid at the speed that he’s going and what’s happening, and the stress and whatever. I’m hating right now, but I love these guys.

Well, you’ve got a new guy! What do you feel that Kevin Shattenkirk has brought to the Capitals blue line?

It’s hard to say because I feel like I’m not seeing my Caps team. In a lot of ways, they were a better team before he joined, but it has nothing to do with him joining. Those are just two things that happened to happen at the same time. He’s a fantastic player, it’s just that the chemistry isn’t entirely there yet. You can see he’s trying to make the set plays, but it’s not always clicking. Whether that’s his fault, or the other guys being a bit off, or it’s just an off night, or if he’s just trying to get a feel for everything still, I think that’s all fair. I also know he’s also got stupid high expectations ‘cause everyone was wondering where the hell he would go, but I think by the time the playoffs start we’ll be really fucking glad that he’s on our side.

Absolutely. Kevin Shattenkirk made his living feeding a Russian sniper on the powerplay in Vladimir Tarasenko, so he won’t have any trouble fitting in in Washington. I think that’s just a matter of time and adjusting to the system.

Yeah, it’s a different team. I don’t know that [the Blues] play the Caps that much compared to if they were a Metro team, and he also wasn’t playing a lot of the teams that we play, so it’s a new world in that sense. There’s a couple teams that aren’t doing all that great that we just have trouble with, and not that they’re not doing that great, but I can’t believe that we don’t win against the Dallas Stars, but there’s just something about the way they play that just makes it hard for us. I don’t know what the deal is there. There’s obviously something else going on, maybe it’s a mental thing, you know?

While we’re on other teams, are there any other teams that you follow or enjoy watching (a “second team” you may be a fan of)?

I’ve always been more focused on the Caps, but I know a little bit about other teams. Mark is a Blackhawks fan. So, I know about stuff going on there by proxy and we’ll watch Blackhawks games, especially if there’s not a Caps game going on, I’ll be watching that with him. And I’ve been learning a bit more about the Devils as well because of our tour manager, Matt. I’d say the one team I’ve kind of had my eye on that I’ve enjoyed watching is the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Yeah, they’re becoming that team for everybody this year! They’re fun.

Yeah, it’s hard to look away isn’t it? There’s so much fucking talent and it’s also kind of this really immature talent. I honest to God believe that, especially with Babcock at the helm, that team, in like 2 or 3 years will be the team to beat.

For sure. They did a rapid rebuild, real quick. Cleaned house and their guys are panning out quicker than they expected.

And there are problems to being a “new” team. These guys don’t have the playoff experience and you see it’s almost predictable at this point. They start [games] real strong and they don’t know how to finish them, but I think that’s not the worst problem to have ‘cause that’s just a matter of time and experience in my mind. So I think in a few years they are going to be a scary team because the amount of raw talent on that team is just stupid. These kids are eager to perform and it’s a new generation of players. I mean, fuck man, Auston Matthews’ first NHL game! Holy shit, right? And that guy might be the next “guy.” It’s kind of cool to see these guys start out and be like, “I remember when that guy was just a rookie.”

If you could change one thing about the game of hockey, what would it be?

They need to get rid of that fuckin’ offsides review. I mean, I get it. I get why they did it, but I see goals getting called back because some dude had their fuckin’ left leg [barely] over the line. Like dude, that’s not what the point of that was. The point was if someone saw something and was like “hey, I’m pretty sure that dude was offside,” which I would say is like a body’s worth. At that speed it’s pretty hard to tell even if they are a body’s worth across the line. It just sucks when like ten minutes later a goal gets taken back for some trivial bullshit when at the same time, if there’s a dirty hit on someone and there’s no call, then it’s “tough shit, deal with it.” That seems backwards as fuck to me. One is for a game, and [the other] has injured players really seriously and people have not gotten called on it. The priorities are all wrong there. I’m not even saying that they should review the dirty hits, like if you sneak it in past the ref, whatever, shit happens I guess. Even though it’s worked out in our favor, I’m not a fan of this…

This inch game that we’re playing now?

Yeah! There was one the other day which actually worked in our favor, but even I was like “God, who fucking cares. Just let the fucking goal be a goal and let’s play some goddamn hockey.” We’re just waiting around for them to determine how much of his skate was over the line. It just slows down a game that does not need to be slowed down. As long as it’s not like a full body’s worth across the line, then it’s like, whatever man, it sucks, we got scored on. Let’s fucking man up and score back on them. Let’s not make it about taking away a goal over a game of millimeters. That’s my one gripe with hockey right now. On the plus side, I’m a huge fan of 3 on 3 overtime. Shootouts can suck my dick though. They’re fun to watch, but it’s such a dumb way to determine who wins.

I’ve always described the shootout as “a lot of fun when my team is not involved.”

Right, right! Shootouts are the best thing when you have no skin in the game. Then you’re like “wow, the fate of our team is depending on what is basically rock, paper, scissors with a goalie.” Fuck that.

That’s about all I got for you dude! I’ll see you around at the Long Island date of the Periphery, The Contortionist, Norma Jean tour.

Great, you’ll catch me in my Backstrom jersey! I’m gonna get my ass kicked for that (laughs). I should watch out for Rangers fans!

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