Caps Call Monday Press Conference
The Washington Capitals media relations department released a memo today saying that the team will hold a press conference on Monday at 1030 am at Kettler Iceplex to make a significant player-related announcement. No more details were provided by the organization.
However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this means that the team has likely come to terms with pending (on July 1) restricted free agent center Nicklas Backstrom. In fact both Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post and Pierre LeBrun of ESPN are reporting that the session is to announce a long term deal with the Swedish center with an average salary believed to be in the upper $6M range.
My take on this: GREAT! Backstrom is a super player and a stand up guy. He deserves to stay in Washington and there is no doubt the Caps covet one of the top centers in the National Hockey League. The 22 year old pivot man finished fourth in the league in scoring in 2009-10 with 33 goals and 68 assists, topping the century mark in points (101) for the first time in his career. #19 hasn’t missed a game in his three seasons with Washington. The fourth overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft is a fan favorite and hopefully will be Alexander Ovechkin’s center for a very long time in DC.
Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Semyon Varlamov have helped Russia to a 5-0 record in the World Championships in Germany. The Great #8 has tallied in each game, Varlamov has won his two starts, and Semin has a goal and three assists. Team Russia also has Ilya Kovalchuk, Sergei Fedorov, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Gonchar, and Alexander Frolov on its’ active roster so they are the heavy favorites, at this point.
Down on the farm, the Hershey Bears continue to roll and after handily winning game one, 4-2 (my blog on that here), they rallied from a 2-1 third period deficit to win game two against the Manchester Monarchs, 3-2, in overtime at the Giant Center on Saturday night. Chris Bourque, who was great in the series opener (AHL Eastern Conference Finals), notched the game winner in game two and he also scored the initial tally in that tilt. #17 left game two for a few shifts after being hit by Oscar Moller and the fast skating winger says he will be sore, but ready for game three in Manchester on Monday night. Games four and five are also in New Hampshire on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
There are no shortage of players on this current Hershey team that could be in DC when the puck drops in October on the 2010-11 season. The obvious first two are defensemen John Carlson and Karl Alzner, who are flat out dominant at the AHL level. Michal Neuvirth, who played a big role in the Caps club record 14 game winning streak this season, is undefeated in this year’s postseason after backstopping the Bears to the Calder Cup in 2009. For the all the hype given to Manchester Monarchs goalie Jonathan Bernier (11th overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft), Neuvirth is winning the netminding dual between the first and fifth goalies selected in the 2006 NHL draft (Varlamov was the third one chosen) so far in this series. Mathieu Perreault, who is only 22, has played very well centering the Bears second line and he figures to get a strong look by GM George McPhee and Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau in training camp in September. In addition, Bourque continues to impress me and he has the skating ability to play in the NHL but size has been considered his downfall, by some. My advice to Bourque is to keep plugging and don’t give up! After all, superstar forward Martin St. Louis is only 5′ 9″ and 177 and it wasn’t until he was 27 years old that he finally started showing that he could consistently be a top six NHL forward. Bourque is still only 24 so there is no need to try and write him off as a career AHLer just yet. Finally, forwards Andrew Gordon (25) and Steve Pinizzotto (26) have shown the ability to go to the net and score the tough goal. Gordon is more gifted offensively while “Pinner” is a banging, physical winger but both are hard workers that have NHL potential.