Tuesday, September 30, 2008
But while the players round into regular season form in the usual ways, there are other role players who look like they're just about there. Donald Brashear and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (PL3, for short) introduced themselves to one another last night. Brashear is, of course, well known among Caps fans. PL3 is a newcomer, but his coach, Brent Sutter says of him, "He's a battler. He's certainly willing. When he stays within the dimensions of his game, he's a pretty effective player. But I've said that since Day One – the first day – that we were happy with him. We're happy with what he brings here." We're guessing that the "dimensions of his game" are rather limited. PL3 might be a battler, but he appears to have gotten the worse of this matchup...
The thing is, though, after this fight, the Devils scored two goals to cut the Caps' lead from 3-0 to 3-2 (the second goal featured an assist by Fedor Fedorov, Sergei's younger brother). It was almost a case of losing the battle and winning the war, from the Devils' point of view.
(images: Bill Kostroun/AP, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
- Chris Bourque is light years better – if this night was any indication – than he was in previous stints here. In visits past, he’d skate around like a water bug, full of energy, but with no discernible purpose. Tonight, he was a lot more in control of his game, finding the open spaces to get shots off. And for someone of such short stature, he took a hit well with his low center of gravity. Only Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green had more power play time.
- Tim Conboy…three minor penalties for roughing. If it wasn’t for his being utterly obnoxious, you’d never have known he dressed.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
These lines have been getting a fair amount of work together. That leaves Donald Brashear, Boyd Gordon, David Steckel, Eric Fehr, and Matt Bradley to fight for fourth line spots (assuming the Caps carry 14 forwards and there are no displacements by youngsters like Chris Bourque, Quintin Laing, Francois Bouchard, or Mathieu Perreault).
It happens in sports, but it doesn't make it any easier to reconcile for many Caps fans, any more than these...
On the frozen tundra of Kettler Capitals Iceplex, two squads with dogged determination take the ice in an epic stuggle to become the first winner of the Gaetan Duchesne Challenge Cup. Like the man for whom the trophy is named, every player taking the ice today will leave his all on the ice-covered field of battle.
The names resonate with character…
Alex Ovechkin, what some refer to as the “whole package,” who is re-writing the dictionary entry under “all-everything forward.”
Sergei Fedorov, equal parts artist and assassin, with Stanley Cups and individual awards, and for whom the Duchesne Cup will be the last step, perhaps, before winning the ultimate prize for his new team.
Alexander Semin, the enigmatic one…economical with his words off the ice, he is Mozart on it. The deft deke, followed by his signature quick release, and all that is left is for the beleaguered goaltender to turn and scrape the puck from the back of his net.
Nicklas Backstrom – The “Professor” – he might have the baby-faced look of a youngster, but to watch him processing the play as it unfolds on the ice, it is as if he has been doing this for Cheliosian decades.
Milan Jurcina…the name glides over the lips, but the man punishes opponents relentlessly.
Tom Poti, whose well-traveled career has left him with a sense of stability, of being a player who plays within himself, a man whose contributions on this day will be indispensible to his teammates of “Group A.”
Hockey honors its goal scorers that bring people out of their seats. It bequeaths accolades on those who can make the no-look pass through defenders for the tap-in goal. But it also reveres what it calls its “grinders” – those men who wear hard hats and carry lunch pails, who do the difficult work in the corners and in the trenches, who suffer the abuse of sticks and body checks to emerge with the puck and make it possible for the passers and the scorers to thrill their fans. Gaetan Duchesne was such a player. Those who know the game speak his name with a certain reverence, for he was the epitome of what it meant to play “Capitals Hockey.” Those who would triumph today and carry the trophy named for him will have to exhibit the quiet, relentless skills Duchesne exhibited over the more than 1,100 regular season and playoff games for which he dressed. Those who would triumph today will have to play the sort of game that would make him proud.
The centerpiece of the Clarks' fundraising efforts is a raffle in which the winner will enjoy a one-of-a-kind Capitals experience at a 2008-09 home game. The package includes a two-night stay at the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel and two tickets to the winner's choice of three games: Nov. 8 against the N.Y. Rangers, Jan. 3 against the N.Y. Rangers or Jan. 17 against Boston. After the game the winner and their guest will be escorted to Verizon Center's event level to meet Chris and get autographs from the Capitals' captain and his teammates.
Raffle tickets are just $20 and entry forms can be found online at http://www.aplacetoplayhenderson.com/. Entries are due Oct. 15, with the winning ticket drawn Oct. 19.
See the team's web site for more details.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Three fighting majors and a game misconduct, his evening ended 4:12 into the third. He had a total of 6:54 in actual on-ice playing time. David Koci did his part, too, with a couple of fighting majors, a slash, and a game misconduct. Less than five minutes of playing time, 22 minutes in penalties.
And their counterpart on the Penguins, Paul Bissonnette, ended his evening with two fighting majors and a game misconduct...all in 6:21 of on-ice playing time.
Dancing with the Stars will be calling on these guys soon.
...no, wait...let me start over...
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Things of note:
Nicklas Backstrom skated the entire session (he left early yesterday), although it looked from here as if there was just the trace of favoring an ankle at the end of the skate.
Alex Ovechkin, who apparently doesn’t like to lose at anything, finished first in his group in each phase of the Herbies at the end of the morning.
Michal Neuvirth took a puck high near his mask, and it seemed to faze him. He took a few seconds on all fours in the crease and spent the next few minutes shaking it off, but he recovered to look pretty sharp by the end of the morning.
In the afternoon, it was time for the first scrimmage – Group B against Group C in Game One of the Duchesne Cup round robin. The top goalies started for their respective groups – Jose Theodore for Group B (in blue) and Brent Johnson for Group C (in white). Braden Holtby and Daren Machesney relieved for the last two “periods” of the scrimmage (which looked to follow a 30-20-10 minute running time format).
Things of note:
We were paying special attention to Chris Clark, and he came through the scrimmage looking as if the injury suffered last year was giving him no trouble.
Gotta give Mathieu Perreault credit – he was sticking his nose in where the big trees live on a few occasions.
Michael Dubuc had a couple of fine chances, one on a nice set up from Dmitri Kugryshev, but was unable to convert.
Alexandre Giroux and Tomas Fleischmann scored on similar plays, not giving up on the puck moving across the crease, finally potting the puck when the goalie was down and out.
Machesney... "Please don't tell me it went in."
These guys are getting younger every year.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Let it be known that Matt Bradley was the first Capital to take the ice on Day One of Training Camp 2008...
It was two sheets and all hockey, all the time today, as the Caps cracked open the 2008-2009 season with three groups taking the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
Today, for lack of a better term, was Skating Day, as the coaching staff put the groups through a high-tempo workout that emphasized skating…a lot of end-to-end work that got the legs used to what’s coming over the next couple of weeks.
Perhaps the best single thing to come out of today’s work was this…
Chris Clark and Michael Nylander taking the ice in Group III in the afternoon (matched with Tomas Fleischmann as the “red” forward line). Both looked rather smooth in drills.
There were a couple of dicey moments, both of which occurred in the Group III session, as Tom Maxwell took a puck to the leg that left him in a heap, crawling on all fours to the bench, where he was worked on. We didn’t see him return. There was also the matter of Quintin Laing dinging a shot off the side of Brent Johnson’s noggin, hitting him flush in the side of the mask. Johnson didn’t look the worse for wear, though, as he and Laing stood together at the next rinkside huddle smiling about it.
No one looked to be laboring, even with the tempo of the drills – hopefully a reflection of an attitude of taking this year seriously from the get-go. No one was taking shortcuts…ok, there was that cutting short the lap Mike Green pulled off when he was late getting back to the huddle at rink-side.
From development camp, rookie camp, and now the first day of training camp, there is certainly an impression that Coach Boudreau and the Caps’ brain trust have it in their minds that they’re going to try to skate teams into dust. Guys who can’t skate are going to have a lot of trouble keeping up with the top-shelf players on this team.
Given that it is a gorgeous day here in the DC area, it was a well-attended session on both rinks. The stands on the Capitals rink looked about 90 percent full and the floor filled behind the glass for the morning Group I session (the one featuring Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who was dressed in the orange sweater today). The Group II session on the Arlington rink (the one featuring Alexander Semin, Sergei Fedorov, Jose Theodore, and Donald Brashear) was ringed a couple deep with the upstairs filled. The Group III session on the Capitals rink at 12:30 (with Clark, Nylander, and Mike Green) looked to be about as filled as the morning session.
As journeyman catcher Jake Taylor put it in the movie, “Major League,” they don’t cut anybody the first day. It was just a day to soak in four hours of hockey (even if it was drills). Here are some images of the first day…
Although it is tempting to look at the team one follows closely and see only the positives – to engage in Pollyanna-like thoughts of what might be – the group brought to rookie camp this week included a host of players who could be contributing NHL'ers, and in more than a few cases could include some who will make quite an impression in the decade to come.
If one looks only at the defense, the hopefuls at camp included such as: Josh Godfrey, Karl Alzner, and Viktor Dovgan who could crack an NHL roster down the road (or sooner). One could add that to the 25-and-under crowd of defensemen that is already on the Caps roster or who could be on it in the near future. That group, for sake of argument, might look like this:
Five years from now, that group would still be 30 or younger to start the season. You'd have to think all of them are NHL-roster capable, and some of them major contributors. And Joe Finley hasn't shown up yet.
Then you have the forwards. Mathieu Perreault, Francois Bouchard, Oscar Osala, Dmitri Kugryshev, and Anton Gustafsson are among those who skated this week who might log time in the NHL (you might add a few to this list). Add that to the 25-and-under forward list (to which you might care to add a few names), and you might have something like…
Again, five years from now this group would still be 30 or younger. The goalies being counted on – Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth – are each only 20 years old.
The kids skating this past week are going to push some other guys hard and some of those right off the club in a few years. Although there are no guarantees of success in the future, for the first time, perhaps, in the history of this franchise there is depth of talent as far as the eye can see into the future. What was on display this week was the embodiment of the club’s strategy – to build a perennial contender using the draft and home-grown prospects as its core element. So, as the big club takes the ice this morning to ring in the 2008-2009 season, with all the promise that suggests, remember that the years to come look rather bright for the Caps and their fans, too.