White is Right
It was a great evening at the ’Plex tonight, as the Caps’ first ever summer development camp at Kettler took center stage with a Blue vs. White scrimmage. White prevailed by a 5-3 count, and a decent crowd showed up on a Wednesday night. The game was played in two 30-minute halves with a running clock. The ice was resurfaced during the intermission.
Because of varying vantage points, it wasn’t always easy to tell who scored. I can tell you than Mathieu Perreault tallied twice for the Blue bunch. The first came after a nice deke that was followed by a backhand tuck on newly signed netminder Simeon Varlamov. The second was a rebound putback that beat Justin Mrazek. The other Blue tally came from Mike Radja, who’s readying for his senior season at UNH. Radja took a smart pass from Joe Finley, gained the zone, beat his man wide with speed and then flipped the puck high over Varlamov’s glove.
The White tallies I noted came from MSU’s Bryan Lerg, defenseman Patrick McNeill and 2007 draftee Justin Taylor. I was told that Yale’s Sean Backman also netted a White goal, but didn’t see it so can’t swear to it.
Some other notes from the night:
First-rounder Karl Alzner looked solid and lived up to his scouting report. He made smart plays with the puck and was rarely caught running around or out of position. He moves fluidly and is very mobile.
Finley’s puck-moving skills were better than advertised. He had an up and down contest, but mostly up in these eyes. He’s going to be a big part of the Fighting Sioux in 2007-08, and it will be interesting to see where he is at this time next year.
Francois Bouchard showed a lot of skill and some dangling ability. He also seems to have a nose for the net. He played on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Pasi Salonen. Although they did not score, this trio created scoring chances.
Backstrom was adept at bringing the puck up ice, and was extremely alert at covering for his blueline teammates who were caught up ice in transition on more than one occasion. He didn’t stand out noticeably, but probably will before the week is out.
Oskar Osala was involved physically throughout the contest. He likes mixing it up along the wall and in the corners.
In Finley, Alzner, McNeill, Viktor Dovgan, Sean Collins, Sami Lepisto and Jamie Hunt, the Caps have a nice group of pro-ready defensemen. They have another bunch who are already competing for NHL jobs and another handful (including 2007 draftees Josh Godfrey and Theo Ruth) who could be pro-ready in a year or two. Not all will make it of course, but enough of them should to put the Caps’ backline in good stead a few years up the road.
Varlamov, Daren Machesney and Michal Neuvirth all looked good in goal, with Neuvirth standing out in particular. Varlamov had to deal with a lot of early shots and a great deal of traffic in front and he handled those situations well. He’s a little rough technique-wise, but he’s a kid. Machesney was impressive at last year’s camp and he played well on Wednesday. A 2005 draftee, he’s the furthest along of all the Washington netminding hopefuls. Machesney is coming off his first pro season. Neuvirth is more polished than Varlamov at this point. He showed a quick glove hand and was the only one of the five goaltenders who escaped without surrendering a goal.
Finally, it was great to see Glen Hanlon, Bruce Boudreau and the other coaches and to catch up with all my pals in the media and blogging arenas. Thanks also to the fans who took a moment to say hello, and hope to see plenty more of you all as the week wears on. With four games in four days, look for some separation by the elite players and some possible temper-flaring as the days pass.