Caps Crush Flyers in Rookie Game

September 19, 2008 | Ed Frankovic

Caps Win Rookie Game 7-0

The Washington Capitals rookies crushed the Philadelphia Flyers rookies, 7-0, this afternoon before 1,200 fans down at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston, Virginia. The young Caps netted four power play goals in a dominating performance. Travis Morin (9th round pick in 2004) had two goals and an assist and forwards Francois Bouchard (2nd round pick in 2006), Mathieu Perrault (6th round pick in 2006), and Steve Pinizzotto (undrafted free agent) each had a goal and an assist for the Caps.

“I thought it was great. You see a bunch of young guys who had just been together about four days and to see it all come together like that is exciting and I think everyone in the organization should be pretty pleased,” said Hershey Bears coach Bob Woods who ran the Caps rookie team during today’s game.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of rookie games where we never win…it was nice to see an effort like that from our guys,” added Caps coach Bruce Boudreau on the performance, who watched from the railing above during the game.

The Caps were relentless on the Flyers all afternoon constantly beating Philadelphia to the puck and outworking them. In fact, by the third period the Flyers looked totally exhausted. Caps defensemen Karl Alzner attributed that to some of the extra conditioning drills that Boudreau had the team do this week and “Gabby” said if that works he’ll continue the trend on Saturday when the veterans officially hit the ice. Under Boudreau Washington plays a very aggressive style of hockey challenging the puck and the opponents at all times and it is this up tempo style that turned things around for Washington last year.

“I thought we never tired at all, sometimes frustration [when talking about the Flyers] makes you look tired. When you are winning you don’t seem to ever get tired,” said Boudreau, “I commented to the guys, I thought they did a very good job to adhere to what we’ve tried to teach them…I thought the overall speed and the aggressiveness was what I hope the real Caps will look like in the future.”

“Our tempo never dropped and theirs did. Bruce wants the guys to play hard for 60 minutes and that is what the guys did and we set a good example. Our goal right from the get-go was to work on the system in the summer and it will be the same system from the top (Washington) to the bottom (Hershey). Getting everyone on the same page makes things work a lot smoother and today was evident of that,” said Bears coach Woods.

Once again the most impressive player on the ice was Caps defensemen Karl Alzner (1st round pick, 5th overall, in 2007) who clearly stands out against players at this level. When I asked Boudreau if he was anxious to see Alzner play against the NHLers the coach responded, “I think he looks just as good next week because he plays his position so well and he is so cool and calm with the puck. Look at [Caps defensemen] Jeff Schultz and he is not flashy but you can’t wait to get him on your team on the ice and Karl is going to be very similar.”

As for the play of Bouchard and Perreault, two guys who have skill but lack size and sometimes desire Boudreau had the following evaluation of them after today’s game.

“That is the best I’ve seen them look…yeah they made some great plays and scored some goals but it was their tenaciousness and they never quit. They were working both at ends of the ice and finishing checks where as in last year’s camp and the summer camp for the most part they had a tendency not to work as hard but if they keep that up then they have a bright future ahead of them.”

“I thought they worked hard and they were on every loose puck in the zone. Again they think a lot alike and Pinner [Pinozzotto] adds in that grit handling the tough stuff in front of the net and it lets the other two guys buzz around…they really connected,” said Bears Coach Woods on Bouchard, Perreault, and Pinozzotto.

As you can imagine in a lopsided affair, the game was not without some scraps and Caps defensemen, Viktor Dovgan (apparently a close pal of Alex Ovechkin) got into a scrap with Flyers forward Josh Beaulieu and held his own. It wasn’t clear who started it but Boudreau didn’t exactly point the finger away from his guy and commented that “Viktor gets under people’s skin like Darius Kasparaitis did when he played.” Another reason for some of the altercations seemed to have to do with the Flyers continuing their pattern from last spring of running the opposing teams goalies. I asked Hershey Coach Woods if that was a factor in some of the altercations.

“Yeah, that and teammates sticking up for each other…we weren’t encouraging the fighting today but you definitely have to stick up for your teammates …any time you play Philly you expect it to get a little heated out there and we wouldn’t expect anything different in a rookie game,” said Woods.

Goaltending duties were split evenly among Semen Varlamov (1st round pick in 2006), Braden Holtby (4th round in 2008), and Michal Neuvirth (2nd round pick in 2006) and all three performed very well in their one period of action.

Boudreau had the following to say on the goaltending for Washington in today’s game.

“I think the goaltenders are having a great inside competition amongst themselves (he noted that the internal Caps rookie scrimmage game on Wednesday was a 1-1 tie). They are doing exactly what they are supposed to do…it is a friendly competition between  the two guys turning pro (Varlamov and Neuvirth) but both want to play…when all of them give up no goals it is tough to say one is better than the other…Varlamov made some big saves in the 1st period and Michal [Neuvirth] made some tough ones in the third and you could see that he was of the mindset of I’m not letting one in, I’m not letting one in,” said Boudreau.

When asked about the decision on which goalie would play where this season Hershey Coach Woods said, “It is good choices. All three guys today had some tough saves to make and they got the job done. When you have to make tough decisions that is a good thing…the higher ups will make the decisions and I’ll take whatever guy they give me because they’ve all been good.”

Right now I see Varlamov being the guy in Hershey but it is still early and Daren Machesney hasn’t even had a chance to show his game but will do so starting Saturday.

The play of defensemen Josh Godfrey was addressed and Boudreau said, “He uses his shot, a heavy shot, but we want him to not rely on that as much..he competed well, made the simple play…hard to find fault when you win 7-0…not sure where he is on the depth chart number wise but he is a guy that will definitely need work in Hershey…he’ll play a lot and get the experience he needs.” Bears Coach Woods called Godfrey, “an offensive player, he has a big shot but has to hit the net more, he definitely will be on our PP.”

For those who read my draft review blog and development camp blogs I was very interested in the play of 2008 1st round pick John Carlson because I had heard good things about him from another teams scouting department.  John had a good game today and according to Tarik El Bashir of The Washington Post he had very good practices this week and Boudreau had mentioned him. Carlson was one of the few guys who passed the Boudreau “skating suicide test” so when I spoke with John I asked him about his conditioning, something that had been a question mark on him pre-draft. Carlson, who will play for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this season under Dale and Mark Hunter mentioned that he “had three weeks of skating as a team with London before Caps rookie camp and [he] was there a week and half earlier so [he] is in good shape.”

“I am really happy with him..for a young guy I think he is very confident and he doesn’t back down from anyone as he showed today going after the one kid [Jon] Kalinksi. I think he is going to be a good player, “said Hershey Coach Woods about Carlson.

Carlson summed up the first week of training camp with the following: “Every day we got better individually and as a team. Every day the passes got crisper and that is a testament to the coaches….we did lots of game situations in practice….an aggressive style of play works well with my game, I like to jump in on the play and [coaches] give us leeway to do that. I really like this style of play and I can’t wait to play here one day.”

Barring injury I can definitely see Carlson playing in the NHL some day for Washington.

Given today’s performance and from what I saw back in July in development camp both the Caps and the Hershey Bears will be exciting teams to watch this year so for those of you in the Baltimore area whether you choose to go see the Caps or the Bears, you won’t make a bad choice. Hopefully you get out and see both teams this season because it looks like very good things will be happening for both.

Other Notes: One would think that a superstar like Ovechkin would be off doing some self promotional activity or be away from the spotlight but that is not the case with the Great #8. When I walked into the locker room today after the rookie game Alexander the Great was in with the rookies yucking it up and having fun with the younger guys. This tells me that Ovechkin is one guy that is committed to his teammates and winning. His leadership skills continue to grow each day…according to Tarik El Bashir the only player not in town as of 3pm Thursday was forward Alexander Semin….Anton Gustafsson (2008 1st round pick) has not skated since aggravating the herniated disk in his back on day one and when I saw him before the game started he had his back up against the wall and clearly looked dejected and frustrated. Anton is only 18 so it is far too early to give up on him yet. I just hope he gets things together mentally and physically because it would be nice to see him approach the level his father Bengt reached with the Caps back in the 80’s…the Caps first pre-season game is next Wednesday, September 24th at Carolina.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I will be on the air in studio on “Such on Sports” on Saturday from 1pm to 4pm.