Sunday, September 17, 2006

My Morning with the Caps

Training Camp - Day 2!!

When I have the option, there are very few things I would choose to do on a
Sunday morning that would involve getting up early. One of those things is attending my very first Capitals training camp, so I dragged my ass out of bed at 8:00 this morning and ventured beyond the borders of DC to watch training camp out in Ashburn. I have to say, as much as I love to sleep in this was much better!

The morning session had the team divided into two groups to do skating, passing and shooting drills. Unfortunately we didn't know that both groups were skating at the same time, so we missed seeing Ovie, Clymer, and the other favorites...who knew that Ashburn Ice House had two sheets of ice?? Apparently every other Caps fan in the building - the stands on our side had some spectators, but nothing compared to the standing-room only crowd that filled the other session.

The session we watched contained a lot of the younger guys including Bourque, Schultz, Fehr, and Beech, with some veterans like Pettinger, Heward, and newcomers Brashear and Zednik sprinkled in. It was actually pretty fun to watch - I enjoyed
getting a look at some of the young guys that will likely be in a Caps uniform over the next few years. The only bad part was trying to figure out who they were by the numbers on their helmets - I was a bad Caps fan and forgot to bring a copy of the roster...I don't recommend it.

Luckily we figured out that there was another rink in time to watch the tail end of an intersquad game after the drill sessions were done, which gave us a brief look at the rest of the team. It was very exciting to watch despite the fact that the standing-room only crowd forced us to watch through a window above the ice. Hanlon kept the game moving very fast with lots of quick changes, and penalties were served by making all five players on the offenders' team do board-to-board sprints, which made everyone giggle. There was one scary moment when Sutherby and Muir collided behind the net - Sutherby was slow to get up and was limping a little on his way back to the bench, but he was back out later and appears to be fine. Final score - no clue, but apparently the black jerseys won. Yay!

Overall impressions:
- Kris Beech played really well, making some nice passes and either scoring or assisting on a goal for his team during the game (I was on the other end of the ice and unfortunately couldn't see). I think he may have a shot at cracking the lineup if he can maintain the energy he had going today.
- Chris Bourque is very fast, with a nice wrist shot...he's also tiny, and his practice jersey looked more like a teal nightgown on him. I think he may need another year or two in Hershey before he's ready, and he may need to add some more bulk, but I'd like to see him up with the Caps a little more this year. He's definitely hungry.
- Donald Brashear is huge. I mean, enormous. He is also, however, a pretty decent skater both forwards and backwards. He doesn't seem to be afraid to stand in front of the net and get the messy goals, which is good because once he's there no one is going to move him.
- Matt Pettinger was literally flying out there, both in drills and the game. I forgot how fast he is and it
really hits when you see it up close. He appears to be ready to go after the long summer - expect to see him surpass his career numbers from last season if he keeps going like this.
- Alexander Semin is here, ladies and gentlemen. I saw him with my own eyes, on the ice, skating and passing (not really talking, I'm not sure if he's worked at his English at all...maybe Ovie can teach him). He's funny in front of the net - he has tremendous patience with the puck and just waits for the goalie to make a mistake, then buries the puck. I don't know if he'll get to do that once there are actually people playing defense, but it was fun to watch nonetheless.
- Mike Green - I love this kid. He can shoot the puck really well and is quick, although I didn't really see him in any defensive situations. Judging by his performance in NHL games last year and his numbers from the AHL playoffs, I think he'll soon be a top four defenseman.
- Alex Ovechkin - the birthday boy looked a little rusty after a summer of minimal skating, but he was still making some decent passes and skating pretty well. I have no doubt that he'll be better than ever when the puck drops October 5. He was probably saving his energy for what will probably be an all-night bar crawl tonight in honor of his 21st birthday...the guys honored this momentous occasion with, you guessed it, a pie in the face. Which reminds me - Happy Birthday, Ovie!

The best part of the day, aside from just being there to see my first training camp, was how accessible the players were to the fans. Several players came out in between the drills and the game to sign autographs, then were nice enough to do it again after leaving the weight room in the afternoon. At one point I was sitting about 10 feet away from Joe Reekie and he later walked up the bleachers right next to me, and Jamie Heward passed me in the hallway on his way out of the weight room. Of course, being the brave soul that I am, I let both of them walk by without saying a word and just stared in awe (which probably freaked both of them out...) but it was thrilling nonetheless.

All in all it was a really interesting experience. You could definitely feel the intensity among the young guys - they rarely cracked a smile in between drills and played hard in the scrimmage, hitting guys along the boards and skating hard. It's easy to forget that they are fighting for jobs, whereas veteran guys that are definitely on the team can be a little more relaxed and just focus on their own game. I didn't get as good a look at all of them as I would have liked, but I'll be there Wednesday night for the preseason opener!


DC Sports Chick said...

No joke about Bourque. I kept asking Fred who the midget was. Seriously, he needs to bulk up or something, especially when he gets next to a dude like Schultz, who's what- 6'6"?

Rob said...

AWESOME blog!!! Great job!