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Remembering comic genius Don Rickles, who turned 'hockey puck' into an insult

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Remembering comic genius Don Rickles, who turned 'hockey puck' into an insult

Iconic comedian Don Rickles passed away on Thursday afternoon due to kidney failure at age 90.

The longtime standup comic and actor was famous for his appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carons and The Late Show with David Letterman, as well as a longtime actor in television and movies. Rickles was one of the first prominent "insult comics,"  a brand of comedy that now floods comedy clubs and stadium venues around the world.

While the list of Rickles' accomplishments and accolades warrant lengthy discussion, we are here to talk about Rickles' contribution to the game of hockey.

Rickles himself was not a hockey player, but early on in his career, he coined a phrase that has remained in the cultural lexicon for more than half a century.

When Rickles began appearing on stage in the 1950's, he would rile up temperamental audience members by calling them "hockey pucks." The term became a key catchphrase of his and was part of the title of his 1975 stand-up special "Buy This Tape, You Hockey Puck."

Rickles even lent his voice to the "Mr. Potato Head" character in the hit Pixar movie series "Toy Story."

Hockey and insults have long gone hand-in-hand, and it's hard to imagine the phrase "You hockey puck" having much meaning at all if not for Rickles.

 

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Capitals top prospect Connor McMichael an option to play in postseason, according to Todd Reirden

Capitals top prospect Connor McMichael an option to play in postseason, according to Todd Reirden

When it comes to the playoffs, rarely do black aces generate much excitement. Black aces are players a team recalls from the minors to serve as depth/practice players during the postseason. Most of them are brought in with the expectation that they won't play and, even if they do, it is only out of necessity. And then there are players like Connor McMichael.

The Caps' first-round draft pick from 2019, McMichael is coming off a brilliant season in the OHL with the London Knights where be recorded 102 points in 52 games. Teams will often bring up players they see as future NHLers to serve as black aces even if they are not going to play, just for the experience of being with the team during the postseason. After a productive training camp in September, it is no surprise to see McMichael back with the Caps as the team prepares for the playoffs.

"It was really cool, just coming in and seeing all the pros like [Alex Ovechkin], [Nicklas Backstrom] and those guys, guys I grew up watching," McMichael said. "It was really cool to be around them and to see how they approach the game every single day. So, I took a lot of that back to London. Just here, black acing it, it's a cool experience watching them play in the playoffs and how they treat their bodies every day to be ready to go. So, I'm really excited."

In a typical season, there were be essentially no chance the 19-year-old, 181-pound McMichael would get into the lineup. But this is not a typical season.

RELATED: CONNOR MCMICHAEL A BLACK ACE CANDIDATE FOR PLAYOFFS

The first three games for Washington will be round robin games and, though they matter in terms of seeding, they don't matter in terms of being do-or-die. The Caps could lose all three games and still be in the playoffs. Because of that, it leaves head coach Todd Reirden the opportunity to experiment with his lineup if he chooses. Could that leave an opening for McMichael to possibly crack the lineup for a game?

It's not a subject the coaches have breached with the young forward just yet.

"No, they haven't talked to me about that too much," McMichael said. "The coaches were just telling everyone to be ready. You never know what can happen in the playoffs. You need depth in the playoffs, especially. I'm just ready to go whenever I get my name called."

When asked if McMichael could possibly play in the postseason, however, Reirden made clear that he wouldn't be with the team if he wasn't seen as at least an option.

I AM THE PROSPECT: CONNOR MCMICHAEL'S PATH TO THE NHL

"I think that's something that we're going to continue to evaluate," Reirden said. "If we didn't think that he was an option to be able to be played then that would be a player we wouldn't probably bring to the hub city with us. He's going to be there and he's going to be in Toronto, then to me, he's an option because so many things can change so quickly with what's going to happen inside this bubble."

Lars Eller has already expressed his intention to leave the bubble for the birth of his second child which will force the team to replace him in the lineup. Also, the longer the Caps go in the playoffs, the more likely it is that there will be an injury somewhere forcing in someone else. If that opportunity comes along for McMichael, he said he will be ready.

"I'm just really happy to be here," McMichael said. "I'm going to do everything to prove to the coaches that I can play in the lineup and, if not, I'll always be ready in case someone gets hurt or other things happen. So, I'm just really excited to be here and it should be really fun."

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Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov left out of Calder Trophy finalists

Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov left out of Calder Trophy finalists

When the NHL announced the 2019-20 Calder Memorial Trophy finalists on Wednesday, Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov did not make the list, despite an incredible rookie season.

The honor bestowed to the NHL’s rookie of the year will either go to Vancouver Canucks’ Quinn Hughes, Colorado Avalanche’s Cale Makar or Chicago Blackhawks' Dominik Kubalik. And while those three are all incredibly deserving of the award, Samsonov’s rookie performance couldn’t have left him far out of the running.

Samsonov posted a 16-6-2 record in his rookie season, starting 22 of the 26 games he played. He recorded 689 saves on the year, allowed 2.55 goals per game and charted a .913 save percentage overall.

However, Samsonov’s most impressive feat was his 11-game win streak that lasted from Nov. 30 to Jan. 31. After starting with a 5-2-1 record, he went on to win his next 11 games, posting a .936 save percentage across those matchups. He is just the third rookie ever to do so and one of four goalies to ever win 16 of their first 20 career games.

Despite his impressive run, Samsonov was not selected as a finalist over the other three star rookies. Hughes led all rookie with 53 points (as a defenseman) and became just the third rookie to ever do so. He recorded 21:53 of ice time on average –– the second most of any Canucks player.

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Makar missed some time this season, playing just 57 games, but still managed to finish second in points for rookies behind Hughes. He averaged .88 points per game as a defenseman –– a rare achievement for a rookie only accomplished twice before.

Finally, Kubalik led all rookies with 30 goals in 68 games. While he isn’t favored to win the award, he certainly posted an impressive stat line this season.

Each of the finalists’ teams will take part in the 24-team Stanley Cup Qualifiers starting at the end of the month, allowing their star rookies to showcase their talent once more. A winner will be announced during the Conference Finals.

Samsonov’s rough patch toward the end of the regular season where he was winless in his final six games didn’t help his case. But his impressive accomplishments early this year are noteworthy.

Additionally, a goaltender has not won the Calder Trophy since Steve Mason in 2008-09.

Alex Ovechkin was the only Capital to ever win the award in 2005-06. Nicklas Backstrom, Jim Carey, Scott Stevens and Ryan Walter were all runners-up.

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