Sunday, September 30, 2007

Preseason Ends Strong Despite Loss

It's hard to really count tonight's loss as a loss - in fact it's hard to say that about any of the four games the Caps have dropped. There were very few times in this game where the Caps looked outmatched, outplayed, or even as though they were trailing. There were little issues, obviously, and every time a mistake was made the Senators seemed to capitalize.

But there's no shame in falling 2-1 when you were the better team on the ice for the majority of the game. (I say that now when the games don't matter...check back with me if they drop one like this during the season.) The Caps not only had more shots than the Senators but they had more chances, more flurries and more time in the offensive zone with the puck. If this is what a puck possession team looks like, sign me up.

There were good things and bad things about this game as there always are, but tonight really is about the end of preseason rather than the result of one game. The final meaningless match is in the books and the Caps have finished with a very respectable 3-4-1, a record which doesn't even show the remarkable improvements this team has made heading into the regular season.

- Every game was won or lost by one goal, so even when the Caps lost or gave up a lead they managed to hang in there with teams that many people are picking to finish above them this year. And yes, I'm counting Friday's 7-5 comeback win as a one-goal game - an empty netter with 2 seconds left, as nice as it was, doesn't count in my mind (sorry, Stecks).

- The Caps have cut way down on the number of shots allowed, shaving an average of almost 10 shots per game off their numbers and limiting their opponents to less than 20 shots in four of their last five games.

- Opponents have been limited to 2 goals or less in four of the seven games, including two of the losses. Toss in a healthy bit of firepower from the top two lines when things start clicking and more of those losses should start to turn to wins.

So now some things to think about as we head into a few days off with the roster deadlines looming:

- Dave Steckel, although not as strong in his final game as he has been his last two or three outings, continues to be in the mix. He seems ready to make the transition to the NHL and has proven, if belatedly, that he deserves to be up here in some capacity. If he does stay it will likely mean a trade or a demotion to the AHL for either Laich, Sutherby, Bradley or Clymer.

Say what you will about these guys but I personally love what each of them brings to the team and the way they play. Throw in the fact that each one has had a pretty good camp and this gets downright tricky, so I'm not even going to try to decide who should stay. GMGM will make the best decision for the team, I'm sure.

- Our goaltending tandem has put together some good performances this year, but at times Brent Johnson has seemed to be a little stronger in net. Just something to worry think about...although I'd expect Olie to get back into his old routine any day now. At 37 he just has a little more rust to shake off than he used to. I hope.

- Some of our young prospects are no longer prospects and we're starting to see the development of guys like Mike Green, Tomas Fleischmann, Chris Bourque, Kyle Wilson, and numerous others. Should injuries or illness strip this team down at any point this season I'm feeling much more confident in the ability of depth players and callups to fill the void and carry the team through. And that's really all you can ask for.

- According to Tarik, Jeff Schultz has secured a roster spot and was told by the organization to get a place to live and a car. So not only does that surprise the hell out of me, but it makes things even more interesting going down the stretch for guys like Erskine, Green and Eminger. Yeah, because we needed more excitement...

Check back tomorrow night for news and pictures from the Caps Care Classic golf tournament. And naturally if Ovechkin picks up a golf club I'll try to get video. it Friday yet?


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Between the Pipes

Next up on the wheel o' newspaper profiles...Brent Johnson and Olie Kolzig, our beloved goaltending tandem.

You know, I kid but the coverage of the Caps so far by both major papers has been really good lately, at least in the last two weeks or so. As much as I love to pick on the mainstream media it's nice to see them getting a few more column inches for our boys - hopefully as the season progresses they'll merit even more coverage.


Steckel Saturday

The roster that was once littered with unfamiliar faces and new names has been whittled down as we sit four days out from the deadline for the final roster. With pretty much everyone else either assigned to Hershey or having secured a roster spot, only one youngster has the opportunity to unseat a veteran from his spot - and so all eyes now turn to Dave Steckel. Literally.

For your Saturday morning reading pleasure, check out two stories about Stecks:

From the Washington Times...

...and the Washington Post.


Scoresheet Breakdown...Literally

Sometimes it's hard to remember that it's preseason for everyone, not just the players.

Case in point: three different people have told me about weird issues with the scoresheets tonight and I saw a few myself. Mike Vogel makes mention of it in his postgame notebook on the website. And it's not just little stuff - looking at the so-called "Super Stats" sheet you have to wonder what some of the game officials were smoking...and why they weren't sharing.

- We'll start at the top. I may have blacked out for a minute or two, but didn't Niitymaki play the whole game? I'm fairly certain he did, but the scoresheet shows Boucher coming in for 24 minutes. That's after Niitymaki put in 59:53 of work, of course.

- On the Flyers' roster alone they show two #3's, two #25's (including scratch Derian Hatcher), two #36's (including scratch Scottie Upshall), two #63's, and two #33's (Boucher and Biron, who was a scratch).

- Oh, but it gets freakier. Despite being scratched, Rory Fitzpatrick managed to pick up a goal and an assist, finishing +3, although he did lose the only faceoff he took...yeah, usually you need to be in the faceoff circle. It helps. Meanwhile Derian Hatcher wasn't on the ice and still ended the night -3. (Hmm...they must have filled this in before the scratches were announced.) Even goaltender Brian Boucher scored a goal and an assist, had two missed shots, a hit, a giveaway and a takeaway. Big night for Brian.

- In fact if you do the math the Flyers ended up with 12 goals. On 19 shots. Olie's save percentage isn't looking so good.

- Things are a little smoother on the Caps side, although players that weren't dressed continued to rack up the points. Oddly enough Jakub Klepis had a goal and an assist with 24:33 of ice time, which looks eerily similar to Tomas Fleischmann's numbers for the evening. Did I say similar? I meant identical. I know that they're both Czech, but come on.

- Incidentally those exact numbers were also attributed to Chris Bourque, who was sent down to Hershey today, as well as 6 of the Flyers.

So here's my question...does anyone proofread these at all?? I may not have the extensive hockey background and depth of knowledge that some of the brainiacs in the league office have, but I know that you can't have two players wearing the same number, nor can you have players who aren't playing registering goals or assists. Goalies don't get credited for missed shots or takeaways. And when the final score is 7-5 you can't have more than 12 players TOTAL scoring a goal.

This is kind of basic stuff - 1+1=2, red and blue make purple, and goals scored by one team cannot be greater than the total score of the game. Period. I just hope these numbers aren't used in any sort of record-keeping...


Friday, September 28, 2007

Little Briere No Match for Big Ovechkin

There was a point tonight where the game definitely felt like a preseason game. There was a point when it seemed the Caps had reverted back to old habits and the game would be over before the third period began.

But then Alex Ovechkin took matters into his own hands.

He decided that tonight was not going to end that way, in a disappointing loss with little struggle. He wasn't about to let Daniel Briere and the Flyers run over the Caps without a little bit of a fight. And he was going to take the rest of the team with him.

There was a good sized crowd on hand, complete with a smattering of orange and black, to witness one of the more amazing third period comebacks in recent days. The Caps limped into the final frame down 4-2 and looking like they were sleep walking. At even strength they controlled the play but not with the enthusiasm and spark you need. Throw in a pretty decent performance by Niitymaki, two power play goals allowed and a shorthanded heartbreaker and you might as well call it a night. No way could they win this thing.

Strangely enough it was a Flyers goal that seemed to spark the comeback, though. Simon Gagne made it 5-2 early in the third period and it was suddenly as though every player on the Caps bench, led by #8, decideed to wake up.

First came Pettinger's goal to close the gap to two again, a pretty play that saw him driving the net and just finessing the puck past the goalie. The crowd started buzzing.

Then it was all Alex and Viktor Kozlov, who had a very strong game in his own right even before the comeback. Less than 30 seconds after Pettinger's goal Ovie set up shop behind the net and dished the puck with one hand out to a waiting Kozlov, who buried it. 5-4.

Now we've got ourselves a game. We start thinking maybe they'll force overtime. Overtime after being down by three would be fantastic, even if they ended up falling in the extra frame. It looked like it was heading that way, as with less than three minutes left in the game Ovechkin scores...he certainly has a flair for the dramatic, doesn't he? Assists to Kozlov and Nylander, 5-5.
But no one wanted to go to overtime, or (god forbid) the dreaded shootout. This was going to end now, and a minute later as the in-house announcer was still announcing the tying goal, Fleischmann got the puck in the slot (from, yes, Ovie and Kozlov) and absolutely rifled it past Niitymaki. A crowd of just over 10,000 people has never sounded so loud.

Throw in an empty-netter by Steckel thanks to a clean faceoff win by Boyd Gordon and that was it. Game, set, match, 7-5.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves - there were certainly problems tonight. Falling behind 5-2 is never good. Sludging through two periods of work is never good. Giving up two power play goals on only four chances is never good.

Oh, and letting bitty Briere run around without a leash will not be tolerated come October. Two goals and an assist? I don't think so. Not okay.

But the fact that they fell behind in such a way and then not only clawed their way back into the game but finished it off in regulation is a sign that things are starting to change. Before the Caps would fall behind and make a valiant effort through plain scrappy, feisty work to stay in until the final buzzer but would usually fall just short. You add skill, though, and it's amazing what happens. I think my jaw was on the floor from about the halfway mark of the third period on.

Great performances by Ovechkin and Kozlov, and pretty decent showings from Gordon, Pettinger and Steckel who is making it harder and harder for us to send him back to Hershey. I also thought Olie had a really good game and shouldn't be blamed for much, although there was maybe one goal he would want back when all is said and done. He kept them in the game when it was 5-2 and gave them a chance, making a series of great saves and showing off that Zilla form that frankly has been missing from this preseason.

Defense...was bad. On both sides. Green looked good, Pothier continues to surprise me, but overall when you allow 12 goals total there's no one on the blue line that doesn't share the blame.

Oddly enough what I found most heartening about this game wasn't the come from behind victory or Ovechkin reminding us that he is Ovechkin, superstar, superman, etc. It was the fans that showed up.

It wasn't a sellout or anywhere near it, but there were a lot of people in the seats (eventually) cheering their hearts out. Flyers fans didn't outnumber the Caps fans; there was significantly more red white and blue than the hated orange and black, and when Philly scored the roof didn't feel like it was going to burst off. A small change, subtle really, but to this veteran of many a Flyers game it was nice to see.

Caps now improve to 0-0-0 on the season. One more preseason game to go Sunday and then we're off!


Mark Your Calendars, Set Your Watches

There's a lot of good stuff about today.

First of all it's Friday, so that instantly makes the day better.

Secondly, there's hockey tonight. That instantly makes the day a lot better.

But the best part about today is this: sometime around the end of the first period we will be exactly one week away from the start of the Capitals 2007-08 campaign. Things are starting to take shape and even if you can't see the results on the preseason "standings" (and what exactly are preseason standings, anyways? Top 16 teams get to go to the regular season?) the evidence is out there on the ice.

We're all counting down the minutes until hockey is blissfully returned to us in its normal state once more. But don't rush ahead too quickly - there's plenty of activity going on over the next week to keep our idle minds at least somewhat occupied.

- We start tonight with the Caps-Flyers rematch. Wednesday's game was a pretty chippy affair, owing partially to the fact that the Caps had Brash, Clymer, Sutherby, Bradley and Erskine in the lineup but also to the fact that apparently the Flyers are back to emphasizing brain over brawn. Don't forget, they did pick up bitty Briere...I think we're dealing with a classic case of overcompensation (although I'd prefer it if they just shoved a sock down there). The Caps lost by just one goal and by all accounts were in this until the end - and that's with our "B" team.

Anyways, preseason or no we may have a fiery game on our hands tonight, a far cry from the passionless exhibitions we're usually treated to this time of year. On top of that you've got a few guys still fighting for jobs on both teams, although from the lineup it doesn't look like most of the Caps' cusp boys will be there save for Laich and Steckel. Take that as you will.

Suiting up for the good guys will be as follows, although lines and pairings are subject to change:

Ovechkin - Kozlov - Fleischmann
Semin - Nylander - Backstrom
Pettinger - Gordon - Clark
Brashear - Steckel - Laich

Morrisonn - Jurcina
Poti - Green
Pothier - Schultz
Kolzig - Johnson

Bourque was sent down today and it appears that Boumedienne, Pollock and Motzko are also on the cut list, although nothing has been confirmed. If you read between the lines that leaves us with the 12 forwards dressed, Clymer, Sutherby and Bradley (and Fehr, but...yeesh) up front. Steckel continues to make a somewhat late case for a roster spot, so it'll be interesting to see who ends up on the outside should that happen.

Conventional wisdom would say Sutherby is the odd man out in that case, but Sutsy's put together a great camp in his own right and the organization still really loves him, so...yeah. Did I mention I wouldn't want GMGM's job right now?

On the blue line we have the 6 D plus Eminger and Erskine, and I'd expect Schultzie to head back to Hershey as soon as the final horn blows on Sunday if not sooner. Tarik is saying that Eminger has pretty much locked up one of the final slots, which I'm thrilled about but I'm sure others will have a little whiny time over the news. Have at it, folks - he's on a one year deal, if he doesn't make it happen by December I say he's on the block.

Moving on...

- Sunday the Caps host the Ottawa Senators to finish out their preseason schedule, at which point the roster should be pretty much set. Don't forget if you have a ticket from a DC United game, past or future, bring it to Verizon Center on Sunday and get a free ticket to the game.

- The Caps Care Classic will be held Monday, October 1 out at Springfield Golf and Country Club in Springfield, VA. That same day at noon is the deadline for players to be placed on waivers if they are to be reassigned...nothing like a golf tournament with an air of tension and anticipation about it, right?

- Monday night Comcast Sportsnet kicks off their groundbreaking hockey coverage with three straight hours dedicated to the Caps. Have the DVRs and the smelling salts ready, it should at least be entertaining.

- The following day, 3:00 p.m., the final 23-man opening night roster must be finalized and submitted to the league office. Cue scary

- Check out night two of CSN hockeylove on Tuesday with another rousing edition of Caps Classics (which have all the potential of being highly disappointing but there's no way I'm missing them).

- You get a few days of breathing room for the rest of the week as the rosters are finalized, training camp is over and no one is talking about hockey. All that leading up to the main event when the Caps travel to Atlanta to take on the dreaded Thrashers in the season opener Friday night, 7:30 on Comcast.

- And then it arrives!! Opening day, October 6th - Caps host the Hurricanes (which ended pretty well for the Caps last year if you recall). Be sure to get there early for all the home opener events...which...I'm not sure about other than the fact that a new opening video will premiere. It never hurts to be downtown early on a Saturday, though, does it? Take in the sights, laugh at the tourists, dodge the crazy screaming man on the corner...ah, I love this city.

Don't forget if you're heading out to Verizon tonight to grab that camera and snap some pictures - I'll post as many as I get, so keep 'em coming. Oh, and extra brownie points if someone catches one of the following on film:
  • Ovechkin or Semin scoring a goal
  • Jurcina putting Briere into the boards (cleanly, of course) with a thundering check
  • Brashear punching...anybody
  • Brashear scoring a goal


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hockey Action Captured on Film

The interwebs have been busy today, buzzing with all kinds of good stuff about the Caps. As for me, I got nothing - so check out what other people are saying...

First up, Mike Vogel talks about last night's game, which despite the loss held lots of things that should make any Caps fan optimistic. OnFrozenBlog looks at the amazing chemistry the Caps have developed since the lockout. A couple of defensemen find the spotlight today, with the Post looking at little Greenie all growed up and the Times investigates newcomer Tom Poti's role on the team.

The Hockey News thinks Ovechkin is one to watch this season (going out on a limb, eh?), you can go see the Caps take on the Sens for free this Sunday but only if you're a United fan too, and Vogel investigates the tough decisions lying ahead as roster deadline day fast approaches.

And of course, wrap it all up with JP's mother of all previews as he takes a look at the Capitals over at AOL's fanhouse - it's excellent, definitely check it out.So what do I bring you? Pictures - pictures stolen from other people, no less! Enjoy!

These first pictures come courtesy of loyal reader Victor, who got some great pictures from Tuesday's OT win over the Canes:

Quit giggling, you loons! This is war...
Kozlov makes it 2-0
And Backstrom is about to finish it off
The final score, on the beautiful new scoreboard
And now some pictures from last night's Flyers game courtesy of Teka, Hershey Bears fan and fellow HLOGger (and I think she likes some NHL team, too, but we ignore that part):

Evil has a face, a name...and now a new jersey. Take him down, Laich.
Little Backstrom

Flash I'm sure they're just chatting about the weather...
Steckel causing trouble for Biron...good boy.JOHNNY!!
The only safe place for a Briere. Quick, someone get the tranquilizer gun! There were a few scuffles...
Okay, more than a few scuffles...
(I love Jurcina just pushing little Briere out of the way with one hand.)

Okay, maybe there were some fights, too. Here Erskine takes on Jesse Boulerice.

Any coincidence that the Flyers are selling shirts that say "Back with a Vengeance"? Didn't think so. Welcome back, Broad Street Bullies - can't say I missed you.

Special thanks to Teka for sharing her pictures, of which these are just a tiny fraction - you can view the rest of the action here, and be sure to check out her recap of the game as well. For a non-Caps fan she's got a healthy dose of Briere-hate, which I think we can all sympathize with.

Got pictures? Send them along and see them posted here as we countdown to the regular season. It's tantalizingly close now...


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Caps @ Flyers

I'm not even going to attempt liveblogging tonight's game, but I'll check in with updates in between periods. First update? The Flyers' new jerseys are really ugly. More later.

Update: Nope. Too hard to even see what's going on (especially since I'm not listening to the audio) so...the jerseys are ugly. That's all I got.


Youngsters, Pictures and Brawls

- Around the local "papers" today: the Caps are focusing on puck possession, new faces making a difference and familiar ones stepping up (like Mike Green), and Eminger is still hanging in there.

- Check out my new very favorite picture, courtesy of the Washington Times:

It make me laugh for some reason, but I don't know why. Great picture.

- Speaking of which, send me your pictures! If you have any funny, interesting, or just stunningly good pics from any of the Caps home games (preseason or otherwise) send them along to capsfan82 [at] hotmail [dot] com - I'll pick one or two to post here after each game so everyone can see the excitement of a Caps game live...or at least what fabulous photographers we have among our loyal ranks!

- And finally the Caps travel up to Philly tonight but apparently won't be bringing the A team, although our Russian trio will make the drive up to watch the game. That is a road trip I would love to be on...can't you just picture Semin asking "are we there yet?" over and over?

Since we're going up to visit the evil ones, might as well talk about this crazy hit from last night's preseason tilt between Ottawa and Philly:

Dean McAmmond has been released from the hospital with a concussion and will meet with Ottawa medical staff today. Don't forget this is the same guy who was on the receiving end of Pronger's hit in Game 3 of the Finals. Downie received a match penalty for his efforts, which warrants an automatic indefinite suspension and a playdate with the league's disciplinary gurus.

Chris Neil says Downie doesn't back up his hits with his fists. Brian McGrattan has vowed revenge. Good...because these two teams need more bad blood between them (although we've got Brash now so the Flyers are decidedly less tough).

So - thoughts? Was it a dirty hit? How long should Downie be gone for? How long will he be gone for? How do you suspend a player from the NHL if he probably was going to play in the AHL anyways? Discuss.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thrills, Chills, and Preseason Excitement

There's really nothing quite like preseason.

It's a bizarre time of year where you see some guys trying out new things (that often don't work), some guys being put out in new situations (who really shouldn't be out there), and an entire game with a complete lack of intensity (...yeah).

But for my hockey-starved heart tonight was like a tonic, a break in the monotony that is the offseason and a sign that soon enough we'll be right back in action. As soon as I set foot in the arena I was like a little kid. I was pointing excitedly at things and letting out weird little squeaks of joy for the strangest reasons - seeing the newly painted concourse for the first time. Hearing the announcer say "Welcome to Verrrrrrrrrrrizon Center!" after warmups. Listening to the muzak-esque music as we were warned that pucks may leave the playing surface.

There were some things that probably were worthy of a CapsChick squeak. The new scoreboard, for example, is better than advertised in my opinion - it's huge and crystal clear and really pretty spectacular. I took about 750 pictures of it, too, but mere pictures really can't show how great this thing is. You have to check it out in person. Wow, what do you know - there just happens to be a game against the Flyers this Friday!! The evil Flyers, the return of Briere the magical spearing midget, a new scoreboard and preseason fun? Now that's a Friday night. Join us, won't you? Tonight's crowd was a bit...sparse.

But it was all there. Horn Guy doing his thing. The power play music. The hockey song. Our beloved announcer with his crazy deep voice and his "Washingtoooooooon CAPITALS!". It didn't particularly matter that it was a meaningless game or that preseason still goes on for another week. I was right back where I always am, bouncing around like an idiot and yelling lovingly at my boys to stop doing stupid things. (It never works.)

So you're probably thinking, what about the game itself? Hockey? No?

It was a preseason game. There was good stuff and then there was forehead-slapping stuff. Here's a little bit of both:

- Mike Green had one of his trademark up and down games. There was even a five minute stretch of the game that was a perfect microcosm for a Greenie game - first he took a penalty. Then he emerged from the box and potted a goal. A nice goal, no less. And I have to say even with the dumb penalties and such he really does look a million times better and continues to make a case for a permanent roster spot.

- On the flip side, Jeff Schultz continued to make a case for a one-way ticket back to Hershey. I love Schultzie, I really do, but tonight was...rough. To say the least. When he hit guys it was almost an afterthought, like he forgot that he had about a foot and 20 pounds on most of the Canes. Then there were the defensive miscues, the turnovers, the botched plays that just had me shaking my head. He still needs a little work, unfortunately. I wonder if Hanlon agrees with me.

- And then there was Eminger, young defenseman #3 in tonight's lineup. I thought he played a pretty decent game, actually, and the reason I know this is because I didn't find myself saying "dear god, Eminger, what the hell was that??". Not once. He was invisible except for a few times when he joined the offensive rush (and only when it was smart to do so) - and for Eminger, invisible is good. Great, actually. We'll see what happens in the last three games, I guess.

- Semin was both the best player and the worst player for the Caps tonight - a pretty incredible feat, if you ask me. He was darting in between Canes players like they were standing still, taking amazing shots, making amazing plays, all good things. And then there were the plays that were too fancy, the passes that never made it to their intended destination, the turnovers and bizarre moves.

Oh, and my favorite moment, a classic Semin moment: 0.7 seconds left and a Carolina player darts down ice with the puck, clearly not with enough time to make it all the way...and Semin hooks him, taking a stupid, lazy penalty as we go into overtime. Because it wouldn't be a game if Semin didn't land in the box for hooking, right? Doesn't matter. I still adore him, even if I'm the only one.

- Once again the Caps scored first. Once again they blew a two-goal lead. Does...not...compute.

- I think Tarik jinxed the power play, because it looked kind of brutal out there. Either that or they really need Clark for it to work right. The penalty killing looked good, though.

- Ovie was throwing the body around quite a bit, which was just nice to see. Gordon, too, was pretty physical and took the brunt of a few hits, as well. Speaking of Gordon, did anyone see that he was picked as the one to watch on the Caps this year? Apparently he's supposed to pick up some offensive slack. Uh, memo to - he's a defensive forward. We know that. His offensive output is fine.

- The first period was all Caps, and then they went to sleep. Sound familiar?

- I thought Kozlov looked pretty good out there tonight, probably the best of the three acquisitions (although Poti was fine, too). His goal was a dirty, hard-working deflection of an Ovechkin shot - exactly the kind of goal Clark used to score. That in itself is a great sign to me.

- Thankfully we weren't subjected to a shootout, with Green providing the offensive push for Backstrom's tap-in goal. They gave first star to Backstrom, which was a little bit of a head-scratcher for me - other than that goal he really didn't stand out that much to me. Green, who made the goal happen and scored the first goal, was probably much more deserving.

Check out my pictures from tonight:

I'm off to sleep in my Caps t-shirt.


Let the Meaningless Home Game Commence

Like the NHL and the Caps, I'm still in preseason mode so forgive the lack of gameday previews - I promise once the season starts I'll be back with something brand spanking new for your gameday reading know, as soon as I figure out what the new thing will be.

So here's my gameday preview. Ready?

Caps. Canes. Verizon Center. Tonight. 7:00 pm. Steve Eminger is making his preseason debut. Ben Clymer is not in the lineup. Neither is captain Chris Clark. And there's a rumor that the Caps will be wearing the white jerseys...

So I'll be the lunatic in the red shirt taking pictures of everything and bouncing up and down in my seat right up until the puck drops. And then I'll be the nutcase in the red shirt jumping up and down as the Caps demolish the 'Canes with their awesome power. Keep an eye out, you may just spot me without even knowing it...I'm not that subtle.

It's good to have hockey back, even if it means nothing. Should be fun!


Monday, September 24, 2007

Kickin' Around K-Plex

The boys were back on the ice today for a high-spirited, fun-filled practice out at K-Plex. (Anyone else scared at how quickly Corey got that into the Caps' fan vernacular?? Me, too.) Lots of smiles, lots of playing around, but some good work getting done as well.

Seen and heard:

- You can see Capitals Insider for the lines they were rolling in today's scrimmage - it's really nothing different than what we've seen over the last week, though, so no surprises on that end. Defensive pairings are still being tossed around and mixed up all over the place, with no end in sight. This is one of those battles that looks tougher every day and probably won't be settled until all the preseason games have been played.

- Speaking of which, it's disturbing that Eminger has yet to play in a preseason game. Well, disturbing if you're an Eminger fan, and I still am. I just don't think he's quite done showing us what he's got yet, although his "just fine" performance so far in training camp isn't going to hold up against the stellar showings by some of his colleagues. Like, for example, Mike Green, who is blowing me away.

- There is some serious chemistry being created there, folks.

- This may be obvious, but if you want to win shootouts? Put Viktor Kozlov in there. Forget about the fact that he had more shootout goals last season than the whole Caps roster put together (that jaw-dropping number would be 5, by the way...). During practice today Hanlon would frequently pause the scrimmage and do mini-shootouts and Kozlov absolutely undressed Kolzig with a nifty shot, top corner.

- Actually, if Eminger is still here I say give him a shot in the extra frame as well - his turn came around and he showed off some stunning moves that were almost as pretty as Kozlov's, drawing some happy shouts (of which none were mocking, I'm sure) from his team when he scored. Finally, a little life from Stevie.

- At one point during the scrimmage Morrisonn basically knocked Ovie on his rear, which his team absolutely loved. Ovie was not impressed.

- Scrimmage was very controlled, including mock power play, penalty killing and four on four situations amid the usual end to end play. Both goalies looked pretty sharp, although Johnson actually outdueled Olie this time around and continues to have a strong camp. Hope he doesn't use it all up before the season starts.

- At about noon the fire alarm inexplicably starts to go off (later we find out thanks to Tarik that some idiot pulled the alarm). Flashing strobe lights, loud siren...awesome. Does that stop practice? Not at all. The players stopped, looked around for a minute, and continued playing. The assorted spectators barely flinched. I found this particularly funny for some reason - my father remarked that we were all either incredibly single-minded or incredibly stupid. I said there was no reason for the two to be mutually exclusive. The alarm...went off...for 45 minutes. Ouch.

- After "formal" practice ended things kind of dissolved into a free-for-all, with various drills and games and miniature coaching sessions taking place all over the ice. My favorite was Jurcina and Fleischmann who worked on battling for the puck along the boards...all around the rink. The funny part was that those two seem to get such a kick out of each other it usually ended up being nothing more than a very smiley wrestling match.

- Meanwhile about 10 players lined up around Olie and proceeded with a fascinating drill where one guy would shoot the puck from the slot; the two or four players closest to the net would then try to get the puck past Olie, with varying results. They then rotate around and the next guy takes a shot, and so forth. When a guy got it in with one shot (as Matt Bradley did) there was celebration ; when they miss the net they were mocked and jeered incessantly (as Matt Bradley was on his next attempt). I'll try to have video of this up at some point later today.

Update: I promised video later today, and it's still today (for another half hour...just under the wire!) I recommend putting the volume on low because of the fire alarm, but I had to leave the sound in there so you can hear the cheering and taunting. Plus then you get to hear the lovely sound that Tarik and I, along with about a dozen other people plus the Caps themselves, were treated to for almost an hour. Fun.

Here are the boys being, well, boys:

- For some reason after going back to the locker room following practice, Clymer reemerged still in his hockey gear from the waist down...and in just a shirt and a backwards baseball cap on top. He then talked to Jay Leach for a while, flew around the rink a few times, and left again. Now I'm not complaining, of course - I am human after all. I just thought it was strange.

So there you have it. The boys looked nice and relaxed for tomorrow, ready to take on Carolina in the home preseason debut - and once again after sitting through practice I am thankful that I don't have GMGM's job. This is getting a little crazy.


Oh, Touché

Before I head out to Kettler for practice, let's play a rousing round of our new favorite game - I call it "Pick on hockey because it's easy and fun (and Kornheiser the Evil Genius is too busy watching 300 pound morons running into other 300 pound morons on Mondays to bother with his old pasttime)"!

Today's contestant: local snarky columnist Norman Chad, who takes the NHL to task for, well...starting.

How dare they. Bastards.

People around here may be getting excited about the start of a new season, so naturally here comes our good friends at the Post to smack us all back down to earth. Hockey? What an absurd sport! Certainly not silly like putting an inflated orange ball into a hoop while handing out penalties for something called "traveling". Or like throwing a Stewie-shaped ball from one overweight player to another, where penalties are called by tossing a little yellow flag daintily onto the grass. Or like whacking at a ball with a club and then running like hell...for 10 seconds.

Yup, hockey is crazy. Why would anyone watch this stupid sport? And look, ha ha ha, now they're starting in London this year. And they're playing an outdoor game, who the hell would go see that? Hockey in Atlanta??? Who cares!

Never mind the fact that the London series between, of all teams, the Ducks and the Kings, has sold out in merry old England. Forget the fact that tickets to the so-called "Ice Bowl" (which I'll leave alone for today because there's enough snark on the internet already) sold out in less than an hour. And let's not talk about how Atlanta has suddenly been reminded they have hockey by making the postseason for the first time in franchise history, early embarrassing sweep or no.

Of course, thanks to the wonder of the internet, you're treated to Norman Chad's obnoxious "I was too tired to think of anything real to write so I closed my eyes and wrote this crap" column while seeing a sparkling new ad for the Capitals' new Six Pack ticket plans.

I love technology.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Truly Comcast-ic

Once again a big thanks to one of my super junior reporters in the field, Chris, for pointing out something truly remarkable that will be taking place starting October 1. Comcast Sportsnet, the channel founded to drool over the Redskins and ignore the Caps, is actually putting on a bit of fanfare to herald the start of the Washington Capitals' 2007-08 season.

We begin 4 whole days before the actual season opener with a special half hour season preview edition of SportsNite talking only about the Caps.

But the madness doesn't end there, folks.

That very same night we are then treated to what CSN is calling a "Caps Classic" game from 7:30 to 9:30. What exactly is considered a "classic" remains to be seen, but if its a game from the last season or two I'd say your options are pretty limited. Place your bets.

Think that's a lot of hockey for lil' CSN? Wait, there's still more!! Immediately following the classic game we will have the privilege of watching something called "Caps Speak: A Hockey Roundtable". I...don't really know what that is but I like the sound of it already.

And then we do it all over again Tuesday. (Two Caps Classic games? I didn't know that many existed, but okay.)

Sure, the cynic in me is grumbling that this is still less coverage than the 'Skins get when Clinton Portis sneezes and in hockey towns they've had this kind of coverage for weeks...but this is DC. I'll take what I can get, and frankly this is more than we've had in a long time. It's fantastic - if you ever needed a sign that there's a buzz around this team, this is it.

I for one will be setting the DVR, absorbing as much season preview goodness as possible until the main event: Friday, Caps, Thrashers, season opener...

Maybe it's just the cold medicine/caffeine buzz I've got going, but I'm getting giddy just thinking about it.


Thursday, September 20, 2007


There were times watching the Caps and Senators tonight that I felt very optimistic. There were times I felt downright smug.

And then there were the times that just made memories of last year come screaming back.

Such is preseason, I guess.

For the first half of tonight's game the Caps were either dominant or at least at equal footing with last year's Eastern Conference champs. Olie looked sharp. The power play was clicking. Nylander and Backstrom were wowing the crowd with dazzling puckhandling displays. The Caps opened up a commanding 3-1 lead and seemed to be on their way to their first win of the preseason...except no one told the Senators it was over.

It's hard to be too down about this one (at least that's what I tell myself to keep from losing all the optimism I've gathered this summer). After all, Semin was still back in Washington, Fleischmann and Klepis were playing on the top two lines, and Olie came in to Ottawa expecting to back up Neuvirth and ended up playing all 60 minutes.

Oh, and as my good friend HG, who was lucky enough to attend pointed out, Clymer wasn't playing.

Yeah. That was probably it.

Best moment of the night, by the way, was Lawrence Nycholat (remember ol' Larry?) knocking Bradley down and then not two minutes later dropping the gloves with Sutherby. What is that all about? Maybe he's still pissed at Brads for calling him a rookie...

The Caps are 0-1-1 in the preseason so far, and as my father loves to remind me, at the end of the night the team is still 0-0-0 to start the season. Need further proof that the preseason doesn't mean a damn thing? The first year of the Caps' existence they went 3-4-1 in the preseason. They then won 8 games all...season...long. So I choose to remain sane and not freak out about blowing a two-goal lead, instead looking ahead to what's next - another meaningless tilt Saturday night against Vinny and the Bolts.

Feel the excitement. Pass the Nyquil.


#27 In Your Programs, #1 In Your Hearts

I'm briefly coming out of my Nyquil-induced stupor to address a story that seems to be brewing around the District, and that is the potential impending departure of one Ben Clymer from the Caps ranks.

Those of you who know me (and probably many who don't) know that I'm an unapologetic Clymer fan. Now before you men get out those taunting smiles, those knowing winks, and those cries of "puckbunny!" it is not because of his physical attributes that I devote myself to Ben.

It helps, but that's really not why.

I have always been a third and fourth line type of gal - I love those guys who go out and give 110% every night, those guys who may not score the pretty goals or make the pretty plays but rather the guys who play in the trenches night in and night out. The scrappy, feisty underdogs who won't get more than 10 goals a year but who bring you up out of your seat with a big hit or a garbage goal. That's the type of player that Clymer is, and it's the main reason why I root for him so openly even while others mock.

I'm actually pretty amazed at the way Caps fans have turned so quickly on Ben, repeatedly calling for his removal from the team after what was frankly just a forgettable year. Are we so quick to forget that his first season here he formed a third of that oh so popular CBS line? That a shift to defense and a crippling injury hampered his performance last year? This is DC, the land of the eternally underappreciated, and yet we laugh and point and gather our pitchforks to drive someone out who maybe doesn't post the numbers we think he should post.

What are we, Flyers fans? For shame.

Anyways. I've made my peace with the fact that Clymer's days here in DC may be numbered. I understand the rationale behind such a move and I won't argue it, nor will I put up any sort of fuss should #27 find himself on the outside looking in. After seeing the way Laich, Bradley and Sutherby have played together so far I have no doubt that those three will in some way make up our fourth line and there frankly may not be room for someone like Ben on this team any longer.

I just thought someone should let him know that some of us around here still like him and will wish him luck wherever he may end up, whether it's here in DC, San Jose, or even...Pittsburgh.

Okay, maybe not Pittsburgh.

Even I have my standards.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Germs Stink

Sorry for the lack of updates - I've been stricken with some horrible, crippling disease that...

...okay, it's just a cold. But it's bad, really.

Anyways, I'll be in and out for the next few days depending on what kind of miracle drug I can find and I'll try to put a little something together for tomorrow night's preseason game in Ottawa. Until my full recovery you can, as always, visit any of my esteemed colleagues for breaking news and updates on the Caps.

In the meantime, I'm going to figure out a way to blame this on the Penguins...


Monday, September 17, 2007

Training Camp Recap

Happy 22nd Birthday, Ovie!

Training camp is now in its fourth official day and things continue to click along for the Caps out at Kettler. I had the unique opportunity this weekend to share the full training camp experience with some of the ladies from HLOG, who traveled far and wide to see our very own Capitals in action.

Poor things.

They may have smirked at Semin falling to the ice or joked that Olie was too slow to stop a sleeping turtle, but I think the general consensus was that the Caps looked okay and a good time was had by all - so good that I forgot to update the Cheap Seats with the weekend's training camp activities! Oops.

Seen and heard this weekend:

- Bradley, Sutherby and Laich have been playing on a line together throughout camp and seem to have found some nice chemistry, providing gritty, hard-nosed play combined with some pretty passing sequences that are very promising.

- Michael Nylander is absolutely one of the best puck handlers I've ever seen. After drills yesterday Nylander stayed out on the ice with camp invitee Grant McNeill to work on puck handling. (Video is available by clicking on the picture at the bottom of this post, by the's pretty impressive to watch, and I've even set it to dorky music just because I can.)

- Speaking of Nylander, he and Semin have provided a flashy one-two punch together and have really seemed to click, which throws even more line combination possibilities into the mix. I've said it before, though - it's nice to have options, and having a glut of players that can fill numerous positions with numerous partners is a great problem to have.

- Kolzig really doesn't like to get scored on. Especially by Matt Bradley.

- Classic moment of the weekend: Ovechkin vs. Kolzig in one on one drills yesterday. An increasingly frustrated Ovie is routinely stymied by the big goalie, who of course mocks him and even throws in a little celebratory dance for good measure (and if you've never seen Olie doing the cabbage patch in full goalie equipment, you haven't lived). Alex makes him pay on his next try, though, and responds with a victory dance of his own along the boards, much to the delight of the Sunday morning crowd.

- Jurcina and Klepis were messing around after Group A's practice yesterday and at one point Klepis came tearing around the net followed closely by Jurcina, who chased Jakub over the boards before skating away with a grin.

- I haven't really gotten a good look at Kozlov, although he and Ovie seem to have some nice chemistry in the few moments I saw them together during a scrimmage. Both Viktor and Semin have taken pucks to the mouth since training camp started, but both have been back out there the next day good as new.

- Poti is...huge. Between him, Morrisonn, Jurcina, Schultz and Pokulok, that is one big blue line for years to come.

Here are some pics courtesy of Teka, one of the HLOGgers whose camera frankly kicked my camera's butt:
Jamie Hunt...I think

Unknown baby goalie (who was pretty impressive) and Werner

Next stop for Matt Bradley: Riverdance

We don't think Semin was as big a fan of us as we were of him yesterday...

...but that didn't stop him from posing half-naked for us laterYou can check out a slideshow and a few little videos I've created from the last two days by clicking on the picture below:

Training Camp Videos

Update: Per Tarik, Hanlon is planning to start the season with Nylander and Kozlov as his #1 and #2 centers, leaving Backstrom on the wing for at least the first few games. Interesting. That explains the Backstrom-Nylander-Semin line Tarik reported on earlier today - there is some serious dangling power on that line, that's for sure...

Update: Bouchard, Alzner and Godfrey have been returned to their junior teams, which shouldn't be too much of a surprise despite their strong showing in training camp. I know a lot of people were itching to see at least Alzner attempt to crack the lineup, but he's 18 - I'd love to see him get a little more experience, a little more polish and a little more time to be a kid before forcing him into the NHL. He'd get minimal time in the regular roster if he were to stay, and he'll have prime minutes working with the Hitmen. Best of luck to all three and I'm sure we'll see them soon!


Friday, September 14, 2007

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

Training camp! It's official, we're underway for the 2007-08 season - it's the first day so it's really just a lot of drills and a scrimmage and stuff. I have no real observations from today since...well, it's the first day. Maybe I'll have something of merit tomorrow. For today, though, I'll share with you my new weird obsession with Milan Jurcina.


Milan making a weird little faceMIIII-LAAAAN
Milan and Poti
Morrisonn and a smiley Milan
Jerky and Mo, together again


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Caps Media Day News and Notes

No excuses.

That was the dominant theme, the message being passed down from player to player as the Caps officially opened their doors to the media today to kick off training camp. Rebuilding is done. We're built. Now we see what it is we've created, take it out for a spin, and aim for a return to the postseason.

"[Management] put a lot of effort and a lot of money into the team this year and I think it’s our turn to step up and show that we’re a playoff team," Chris Clark said at today's Media Day. "It’s our job – we know it. We have the resources, we have [Kettler], everything we need to get there and it’s up to us. On paper right now we should be a playoff team. We just have to get there."

"I haven’t been more excited for an opening game than I am this year," added Clark with such genuine enthusiasm that you couldn't help but believe it.

In fact, almost every sentence uttered by a Cap seemed to have the words "excited" or "ready" in it. Even Hanlon and McPhee appeared a little more optimistic than usual and the assorted media that gathered seemed to get caught up in the energy. One could say that the mere presence of assorted media is a sign that a buzz is growing, with several television cameras and a large handful of representatives from the print media and the local blogosphere in attendance. When approaching the media scrum Olie pretended to be shocked and asked, "Am I in Washington??"

Ha. It's funny because it's true.

The glamorous life of an athlete
Players looked toned, tan, happy to be back and ready to go. It was great to see the guys joking around in the halls as they went through the tasks of what must be a pretty mundane day - physicals, media responsibilities, signing jersey after jersey, and of course those lovely yearbook pictures. Olie joked that he'd seen Ovechkin and Ovie needed a haircut; Ovie's response when told of this criticism: "It's my style. Gangster style."

Ovechkin and Jay Leach havin' a chat
Hairstyles and Russian gangsters aside, playoffs were the first thing people talked about today. Hearing people talk, it's obvious that making the postseason is no longer just a hope, a faint goal that ultimately gets tucked away to make room for reality. It's now the expected conclusion to the season and everyone basically said that anything less would be a disappointment. Whether they're playoff ready or not obviously remains to be seen, but if optimism is all it takes to push the Caps over the cusp, they've got it to spare.

Said McPhee, "If we play up to our capability and stay healthy we should be knocking on the door."

One of the expectations for this year's training camp is that it will be incredibly competitive, with young guys from Hershey competing with guys clinging to last year's roster spots at almost every position. I caught up with Brooks Laich for his thoughts on this new development and how he plans to stay ahead of the pack.

Laich and...gasp! CapsChick's head, revealed!
(photo courtesy of Ken Berard)
"I think I have to show that I can play at both ends of the ice, contribute some offense but be solid defensively, don’t miss any assignments, that sort of stuff," he said. "Also with so many centers here at camp, being able to play all positions, left wing, right wing, center, kind of being a jack of all trades is something that’s gonna help me."

He's definitely aware of the heightened expectations on him this year, his third full year with the Caps. "I’m 24 years old and mistakes of inexperience are no longer acceptable. I don’t think I have as long a leash to make mistakes and more things are expected from the coaching staff. Also I expect a lot more out of myself."

Now it is September, almost hockey season, and training camp is in the air...but there's still a bit of baseball to be played. So naturally I had to ask Brooks, a diehard Blue Jays fan, about playing with a Red Sox fan (Clark) and now a Yankees fan (Poti), and he informed me that he actually braved a Red Sox-Orioles game with Clark just the other day.

"Unfortunately I was rooting for the Orioles just because the Red Sox are my enemy but the Red Sox won," he said. "There’s myself, there’s Boyd Gordon, there’s Steve Eminger – we’re trying to preach the Blue Jays in the locker room but guys are diehard fans and they aren’t going to change. It makes for some good camraderie in the locker room, though."

Seen and heard:
- Kolzig, a slightly more muscular Green, and Ovechkin shooting a spot for FSN's The Best Damn Sports Show Period on the science of sport. In between takes they skated around and passed a puck back and forth, with Olie showing off his legendary puck-handling skills.

Lounging in between shots
- Players rotating between the locker room, the medical testing rooms, interview areas, photo shoot areas and a long row of tables filled with things for them to sign.

- Milan Jurcina walking around in a brand new Caps hat...and I know it was new because he left the sticker on it. Silly Milan.

- Jurcina, Clark and a few others strolling through Kettler in pink socks. Looks like someone forgot that washing red with white creates a slightly more feminine look than they're going for. Oops.

- A bunch of guys (Clymer, Bradley, Fehr and a few others) sporting new matching buzz cuts...and Semin wandering around with a lovely mini-mullet.

- And this:

Check out Olie cracking up at Alex's swing and a miss:

Camp starts tomorrow - hope to see you all there!

By the way, for more coverage and audio clips from today's presser check out Japers' Rink. It's worth it just to hear Ovechkin say "gangster style"...


Caps Rookies in Flyer Country

My weeklong quest to do nothing unless it involves the Caps' official start to training camp continued as today I ventured outside the beltway...way outside...all the way to Voorhees, NJ.

(I do this for you, folks.)

You can read in-depth rundowns of the game from Vogel and Tarik - all I can provide you with is the rapturous afterglow of the very first official hockey game of the season. Even the fact that the Caps lost 5-3 couldn't dampen my spirits at witnessing an honest to goodness hockey game, with players from two different teams, a packed house, line changes, goals, penalty killing...

Oy. Did I mention the penalty killing? I won't go into how many penalties there were total (mostly because I stopped counting after the first period) or how well they were killed off (which is not very well). Let's just say any question that these kids are future Caps was put to rest after this one.

It was a pretty entertaining game, though - some nice Caps goals, some ugly Flyers ones, and what I thought was a standout performance by Karl Alzner. He is just head and shoulders above where someone his age should be. He's calm and collected all the time and he has a quickness that is surprising considering the intelligent decisions he makes. Everyone played well today...he played amazingly well. Training camp is going to be very interesting.

Check out my pics and please don't mock the blurriness. It' artistic choice.

Or maybe it's just because they moved so damn much and I promised pictures. One or the other.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

THN Spotlights Caps' Bloggers

- As I was preparing to swing up to Voorhees for a few delicious hours of hockey I happened to check my e-mail and was delighted to find that the latest digital issue of The Hockey News had been delivered straight to my cyber mailbox. I was going to wait to flip through it, but I'm not a patient person by nature so I dove right in - only to find a wonderful piece by James Mirtle on our very own Ted Leonsis and his approach to hockey blogging:

"[t]he area where Leonsis most challenged the NHL norm was in the Capitals' press box, where he employed his new-media background and reached out to traditionally shunned Internet pundits by offering full credentials to more than a dozen local bloggers.

A year into the experiment, Washington has one of the most well-developed wings of hockey's blogosphere and a whole new branch of coverage in a city where only one print journalist regularly follows the team on the road."

If you don't subscribe to THN, I highly recommend that you rush to your newstand and pick up the September 18th issue to read the rest. The story even includes a moment of fame for the two OFB contributors that made the trek over to Russia with Mike Vogel and Spike Parker for the World Championships. It's a quick read but a great one - check it out!

- This so doesn't require it's own post, so I'll just stick it in this one: Semin. Is. Here.

...anyone else feel a little more relaxed now?


365 Days Ago...

September 12, 2006 - that is the day that A View from the Cheap Seats officially joined the blogosphere.

Here we are 12 months later and it's still kicking, albeit with a slightly flashier look and maybe a few more readers but just as full of craziness as that first day long ago. It's strange how quickly time passes - back then we were sitting on the cusp of a new season fresh with expectations, optimism in full force, longing for just an inkling of respect for the sport we hold so dear...

...boy, the more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

Special thanks to everyone who has stopped by over the past year - the fact that you subject yourselves to my ramblings at all will never cease to amaze me but I appreciate each and every one of you. Your comments keep me honest and your mere presence reminds me that insanity, like misery, loves company.

Make a wish!

(I'll let you know if it comes true...)


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rookie Camp: Day 4

Anyone who made it out to Kettler this morning was treated to something we've been waiting for all week - rookie scrimmage!!

After days of drills, which while highly necessary and understandable are a little on the dull side, the arrivals of defensemen Karl Alzner and Josh Godfrey finally provided enough players to have a full scale, 5 on 5 scrimmage. Remember the scrimmages from July's development camp? Think the complete opposite of that - exciting, fast, smooth, and bursting with talent on both teams, today's game was really a great look at the future of the Caps.

Despite the occasional appearance of Dean Evason to set up a certain play or scenario, this was an actual game - offside, hand passes, even penalties.

Tsk, tsk...
Almost like real hockey, folks! Here's how the teams broke down:

WHITE - Backstrom, Beagle, Bouchard, Guerin, Kronick, Lacroix, Morin, Pinizzotto, and Werner up front; Alzner, Collins, Godfrey and Lepisto on the blue line; Machesney in net.

BLUE - Gordon, Joudrey, Leffler, Lynes, Maxwell, Perreault, Taylor, Wilson, and Brashear (yup, Brash stepped in to even out the teams!) up front; Hunt, McNeill, Pokulok and Sloan on the blue line; Neuvirth in net.

I'll admit, when I saw the white team lineup I thought naively that this would be a walk for them. Backstrom and four of our hotshot defenseman on one team? No contest. The blue team really pulled out strong after the first period, though, riding some strong play from Andrew Gordon, Sasha Pokulok and Tyler Sloan and killing off several penalties while netting a few power play markers of their own. Even Brash chipped in a goal as the blue team went on to win 5-3.

It's hard to really single out too many people as being standouts today. I can say that Backstrom was and continues to be just as impressive as expected and is obviously a shoo-in for a spot at training camp. Alzner was equally satisfying, steady and always in good position on the blue line, and Godfrey's shot (when it gets through) is as wicked as advertsied. Pokulok probably worked the body the most and did it well, throwing around his 6'5", 220 lb frame like it was a bag of feathers.

Other than that, though, there were just really good performances up and down each bench. Sure, there were rookie mistakes and plays that were glaringly amateurish, but there were also great passes, great plays, great saves and great goals aplenty from even the unlikeliest of people. So enticing was this game that at one point about six or seven of the Caps gathered around the glass to watch the end (although I think it was also partly to pick on Brashear...)

All in all, a good preview for what should be a good tilt as the Caps rookies take on the baby Flyers in thrilling Voorhees, NJ tomorrow afternoon. I hope to have some good stuff for you to wrap up this very successful rookie camp - here's to a Caps victory, the first of the season!

Seen and heard at the Caps' informal practice session:
- Locker leading the team in more drills that at one point seemed to even confuse the players...or maybe it was just me
- Clymer greeting many of his teammates for the first time since the spring, including a cute grin-filled reunion with Jurcina

Clymer and Jurcina...together again!

- Olie starting off the scrimmage with a reminder to show some effort. He actually didn't have to yell at the team during the game this time

Don't piss off Zilla

- A series of goals on Johnny leads to the inevitable smashing of the stick over the crossbar and the string of curses
- Tarik spotting! (It's about damn time...Corey's been out here for days)
- Nylander doing laps around the rink for about 10 minutes while the ice was being resurfaced. Yeah, the guy is in pretty good shape.
- A handful of centers took some time at the end of practice to work on their faceoffs...always a good idea.

Here's Sutherby helping out Laich and then Laich working with Steckel:

Laich working with Sutherby and Gordon...check out Boyd's mad skills, he hits it every time: Finally Laich vs. Sutherby:

And there you have it! More tomorrow...


Monday, September 10, 2007

Rookie Camp: Day 3

More Rookie Camp MADNESS!!! Can you feel the excitement? It's impossible to put it into words, so feast your eyes on the multicolored, nameless jerseyed thrill ride that was Rookie Camp: Day 3.

Check out my rookie camp galleries for more exciting stuff:

Oh, and check out Kevin Hatcher Fan Club for a more detailed recap of today's events, including a fabulous Olie story from the Caps practice earlier today that I just can't put into words...and Biff's continued belief that Dave Steckel is trying to kill him.