Caps Sign Backstrom, Johansson
The big player related announcement by the Washington Capitals today was indeed the Nicklas Backstrom extension that everyone was expecting. #19 signed a 10 year, $67M deal with the Caps. Backstrom, who is only 22 years old, will play the prime years of his career alongside the Great Alexander Ovechkin (signed for 11 more years in DC) giving the Capitals arguably two of the top five or six players in the NHL.
In addition, the organization added some bonus news today as 2009 1st round NHL draft pick Marcus Johansson signed a three year deal. Johansson, 19, is a 5’11”, 189-pound native of Landskrona, Sweden, who recently finished his second season with Farjestads of the Swedish Elite League (SEL), the top professional league in Sweden. He recorded 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 42 games this season in the SEL, finishing tied for fourth on the team in goals and sixth in points. He also made his second appearance for Team Sweden in the World Junior Championship. He had six points (one goal, five assists) and a +7 rating in five games and, as Sweden’s captain, led the team to the bronze medal. The young man, who will wear number 90 with the Caps, recorded 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 45 games for Farjestads in 2008-09 and scored two goals in six games at the 2009 World Junior Championship, winning a silver medal. He also proved to be a steady threat for Sweden at the under-18 level as well helping his team to the gold at the 2007 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and to the bronze at the 2007 Under-18 World Championship.
Johansson will participate in the Capitals develoment camp at Kettler Iceplex the week of July 12th and then will be back for training camp in September.
Hershey Loses Game Three, 3-2, in OT
With 15 minutes to go in the third period on Monday night the Hershey Bears held a 2-0 lead in game three of their best of seven AHL Eastern Conference Finals playoff series against the Manchester Monarchs. Hershey seemed poised to go up 3-0 in this series but then the Bears allowed two goals in less than two minutes and when Justin Azevedo tallied 2:43 into overtime the Monarchs gained new life. Game four is set for Tuesday night at 7pm from Manchester. Game three, in Manchester, was sparsely attended with only 2,372 showing up for such a big tilt.
Honestly, Hershey really didn’t deserve to win this contest as they were outplayed over the last 40 minutes of regulation and then into overtime. They were outshot 32-12 during that time after the Bears dominated the first period with a 13-8 shots advantage and a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard. Michal Neuvirth (37 saves on 40 shots) was the primary reason that the Bears were ahead for most of this contest. In addition, Hershey’s penalty kill was super solid thwarting all seven Monarchs opportunities, including a 16 second 5 on 3 in period two. Andrew Joudrey continued to play a big role in the Chocolate and White’s ability to prevent power play goals.
The best Hershey skater was once again Chris Bourque, who had two assists and was on for both Hershey tallies and none by Manchester. The first goal by Alexandre Giroux came as a result of a super Bourque backhanded pass to #12 in the slot on the power play. Then on the second tally, an even strength marker, Bourque made another backhanded pass to Mathieu Perreault, who beat Bernier to give Hershey a two goal cushion just 3:55 into period three. On that second goal, Karl Alzner set the whole sequence up with an excellent pinch on the left wing boards and he stole the puck and got it to Jay Beagle, who earned the second helper. Bourque was named the third star of the game and he continues to impress me with consistent top notch performances at this level.
On the game winning tally, Azevedo was able to shake off an off balance John Carlson (-2) on the left wing boards leaving Alzner (-1) to defend a two on one in the slot. When Azevedo fed the puck to Dwight King, #7 went to him and then Azevedo beat Boyd Kane to the front of the net to tap in a nice pass that Neuvirth had no chance on. Manchester did an excellent job of going to the cage all evening and that was a major reason why they were finally able to grab a victory.
This was a stinging loss for the Bears and it was their first overtime defeat in six games in the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs. With Andrew Gordon out with a lower body injury, Kane joined the top line with Giroux and Keith Aucoin but they went -2 on the evening. Hershey only generated 25 shots on Jonathan Bernier as the Monarchs played desperate hockey. The best forward line for the Chocolate and White was Bourque, Perreault, and Beagle.
Defensemen Thomas Hickey of Manchester, who was the 4th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft (one pick ahead of Alzner), made his playoff debut and he had an assist on the first Monarchs tally and was +2. He had a very strong game, including five shots on net, and after seeing him play on Monday I am not sure why he hasn’t been in the lineup until now? Forward Oscar Moller led all players with seven shots but he did not have any points for Manchester.
The bottom line is Hershey needs to play a much stronger game on Tuesday night if they want to grab a commanding series lead. Gordon has pretty much been ruled out of that contest so the Bears will need to get some other guys to step up in his absence.