Well, that was fun. It may have lacked pace here and there, but it was great seeing all the boys back out on the ice this morning. Two of the three groups hooked up in a scrimmage comprised of two 25-minute halves, while the other group practiced on the other sheet here at the K-Plex today.
White won the scrimmage by a 4-2 count, with Kyle Wilson contributing two goals (including a shorthanded marker) and an assist to the White cause. Here are a few random observations from today’s session:
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth looked sharp to me. He had an active stick in front, and was constantly jabbing his blade out to break up passes and deflect shots, to good effect. Neuvirth was nicked for a single goal in his 25 minutes of work.
Although Viktor Kozlov left early with an injury inflicted by a Frederic Cassivi-launched puck, he looked to be in midseason form before departing. Kozlov was all over the ice and was making strong plays at both ends.
Speaking of midseason form, two words: Michael Nylander. One more word: Wow. Darting, dashing and dishing. He made a terrific play behind the white net to set up the game’s first goal. He pulled up with the puck, faked one way to draw Neuvirth to that side, then dished a perfect pass out front to Scott Barney who buried it before Neuvirth was even able to realize what happened. When Nylander was out there with Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann, the opposition always seemed to be scrambling to a degree.
I noticed Caps blueliners acting aggressively to break up plays at the offensive blueline, keeping the puck in and maintaining offensive pressure in the process. Milan Jurcina and Tom Poti both managed to do so on the same shift.
Of those players who participated in the team’s rookie camp leading into the NHL camp, I thought Wilson and Steve Pinizzotto were the most impressive.
Brian Pothier fired a tape-to-tape home run pass from his own zone to Francois Bouchard at the opposing blueline. In an instant, I was transported to an era in which Phil Housley was setting up Teemu Selanne in a similar seemingly effortless fashion. The Pothier pass did not result in a goal, but it was pretty to watch nonetheless.
Wilson and Matt Bradley were both effective in penalty killing situations.
Nice to see Jeff Schultz glide into the high slot, take a pass from Wilson and fire it home.
Alex Ovechkin made a slick play to get the puck to Joe Motzko, who then put the moves on the goaltender and calmly deposited the puck in the cage. Nothing to it.
Goaltender Daren Machesney is day-to-day with a groin injury. The Caps imported a pair of netminders (Kris Moyette and Anthony Feyock) who have collegiate and CHL experience. Moyette and Feyock played the second half of the scrimmage.
It felt like midseason in the locker room afterwards as the players debated the virtues of various big-screen TV options, the wonder that is TIVO, and chided each other over who got the best deal.
Good to see some of my Hershey buds in the house, including Doug Yingst, John Walton, Dan “Beaker” Stuck and Justin Kullman. John Williams and D.J. Church of the South Carolina Stingrays have also been around helping out since the start of rookie camp.
Ex-Cap defenseman and Comcast SportsNet analyst Joe Reekie took to the K-Plex ice in the afternoon, holding a free clinic (no, not that kind of free clinic) for amatuer players. The sight of Reekie on skates again prompted some good-natured ribbing from some quarters. Well, from this quarter.
I had a short, impromptu one-on-one water cooler type of conversation with Ted Leonsis an hour or so after the scrimmage ended. He’s at least as giddy as the rest of us are that hockey is back and that the Capitals would seem to be a viable playoff contender.