Saturday, July 14, 2007


In the world of the culinary arts, the term “amuse-bouche” refers to those little bite-size savory morsels that precede the hors-d’oeuvres course. Literally, “an amusement for the mouth.” And what morsels we’ve been treated to this week to tease the hockey palate.

This evening was the climax of the week’s events, a scrimmage that at the last minute became a full three-period, 60 minute game. The Blue Team, with Simeon Varlamov and Daren Machesney in goal, and Nicklas Backstrom among the forwards, appeared to have the advantage as far as the lineups went. Although the White Team did fight Blue to more or less a stalemate in the first half of the game (the teams were tied 2-2 early in the second period, the Blue Team pulled away with a 7-3 win.

The outcome perhaps was not as important as some of the subplots within the game…

-- Simeon Varlamov looked a great deal sharper than he did in the morning session, not to mention a good deal more relaxed. He seemed to get into the flow of a game situation much better than he was able to do in the drills in the morning.

-- Nicklas Backstrom might have saved the best for last. He had a cagey way about him, able not just to anticipate teammates breaking open, but opponents looking to impede his progress or take advantage of him in the corners. He had a couple of especially sweet passes to set up scoring chances.

-- A game, as opposed to drills or scrimmages, brought out the ornery among the participants (or maybe it was just a week’s worth of familiarity wearing thin). Josh Godfrey and Jamie Hunt had a brief scuffle, and Viktor Dovgan threw his weight around more as the game wore on, inspiring a member of the White Team to throw several punches at him. Dovgan's expression looked like, “ . . . what?”

-- Machesney is a real chatterbox out there…he was very vocal in directing players in front of him as they were coming back to play the puck, much more so than any of the other netminders at The Peerless’ end of the ice.

-- Joe Finley saw ice time in the first period, but looked to have been on the shelf for the last 40 minutes.

-- It was another large crowd at KCI, standing room only in the back of the stands.

But in the end, it was a week of tasty morsels, courtesy of the youngsters who hope to be skating at Verizon Center before too long. Thanks, guys…

A Glove and a Bucket...

Practice has its choreography, no matter what the sport. Pickoff moves and sliding drills in baseball, the blocking sled and footfire drills in football. This morning offered a look at what passes for the art in hockey as the kids took the ice in two groups. The first session had a distinctly different look and feel than did the second session. In that first session there appeared to be more plays involving more players, whereas the second session seemed to focus more on shooting (including tip drills and shooting rounds ) and more focus on the goalies (Daren Machesney and Simeon Varlamov; Michal Neuvirth, Dan Dunn, and Justin Mrazek having handled the first morning session).

You start to notice little things as time goes by…

-- Phil DiSimone with a dozen or so pucks in the slot…picking one up and then stickhandling through the rest before wristing a shot at the net…over and over until he’s out of pucks

-- Mathieu Perrault looking absolutely tiny out there

-- Nicklas Backstrom on one timers looking absolutely effortless

-- Oskar Osala looking like he has a future in the NHL

-- Viktor Dovgan looking like he was engaged in a little trash talking with Varlamov

-- Some guys looking comfortable out there, as if they’d been through this before (in some cases, they had) and others looking like they were feeling their way

-- Karl Alzner directing traffic on the ice

-- Machesney looking like he took another puck a little awkwardly, stinging him a little

-- Oscar Hedman getting a fair amount of attention and a pat on the back from Coach Evason a couple of times, maybe just as a pick-me-up

-- A long, long conversation at the bench after the session ended between Simeon Varlamov and coach Dave Prior. The Peerless is guessing they weren’t comparing notes on lunch spots in Ballston.

But what we were struck by most was something that seems to reflect the summer camp aspect of this week and the quirky nature that is hockey . . . there were a half dozen or so players at the far end of the rink, running a three-shot drill at the goalie. And there, as pylons for the skater to weave through as he took passes for the shots in the drill, was a glove laying in the face off dot and a bucket of pucks sitting in the slot. It reminded The Peerless of playing baseball as a youngster, when first base was a rock, second base was a slip of cardboard, and it was just fooling around. This isn’t fooling around by any means, but it seemed just the informal touch that makes this fun before all the seriousness starts in September…

…a glove and bucket.