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...

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