Monday, October 06, 2008

Final Cuts and Preseason Recap

In sad, but certainly not unexpected news, the Caps waived Quintin Lang today.   He is a fan favorite who played his guts out every single shift and blocked so many shots with his body it hurt to watch.  He will never be a star hockey player but there is a lot to be said for a humble athlete that pours his heart and soul into every minute of his playing time.  There are so many prima donna professional athletes today that don't give their all and they're paid a lot more than Lang ever has been.  Thank you for that Quintin and good luck as I hope some other team gives you a chance!

The Caps also sent winger Chris Bourque and blue liner Karl Alzner to Hershey.  Bourque had a great preseason and played like he belonged full time with the big club.  But it was a numbers game and the Caps had to get below the salary cap by opening night.  Bourque didn't have to clear waivers to get sent to Hershey so that didn't work in his favor either.

I also think that playing more minutes every night in Hershey will be good for Karl Alzner's development.  He played well in the preseason and seemed to get better with each game (listening to the games on the radio when I couldn't get the Internet feed to stream correctly makes it tough to assess player performance too deeply) but there is no need to rush the Caps top 2007 draft pick.  

Now, turning to the Caps preseason games.  They ended with a 5-1-1 record and their last game against Boston was by far the worst game they played.  It was a 5-4 loss in a shootout, but the score doesn't begin to reflect how sloppy they played that game.  Prior to that, the Caps played a lot of high energy games with Coach Boudreau mixing up the lines, playing  Sergei Fedorov on defense and Alex Ovechkin on penalty kills, until he got hammered with a puck to his leg, certainly kept things interesting.

My highlights:
  • The Caps have some impressive young prospects that will be playing in the NHL within the next couple of years and a couple of them made it to the Caps camp and stayed with the big club through part of preseason.  18-year old defenseman John Carlson impressed fans from rookie development camp in July through his preseason appearances as he played well enough to stay with the big club for quite a while.  He'll develop under Dale Hunter's juniors team in London.  I'm not the only fan that will look forward to his return next summer.
  • Center Jay Beagle, a checking line grinder, played for Hershey last year and will return there this year.  He's a high energy player and fans loved him for getting the best of agitator Steve Downie from the Flyers at Downie's request to drop the gloves. 
  • Sergei Fedorov plays defense almost as well as he plays center.  He'll be the Caps 7th defenseman after notching 2 secondary assists on outlet passes and playing +3 hockey against the Flyers.  I have to pinch myself to remember that it's The Sergei Fedorov that is now playing for the Caps.  He's absolutely amazing even at the age of 39.
  • Alex Ovechkin is his normal self only he looks leaner and stronger so watch out opponents.  Ovie came out for his preseason debut against Carolina hitting every thing in sight (I had the pleasure of watching that game!).  He netted more than a point per preseason game he played, including two short-handed goals on the PK.  I don't want Alex on the PK as the shot he took to his leg shows how dangerous that is, but I have no doubt he'd play all 60 minutes if coach would let him.
  • Captain Chris Clark returned after a long recovery from a groin injury.  He understandably looked tentative at first but by the end of preseason he looked like his old self - crashing the net, potting rebounds and defending his teammates.  Welcome back Clarkie!  
  • Jose Theodore, the Caps net minder, is the big unknown for the Caps going into the season.  He didn't have a stellar game against Boston, but he also made 40 out of 44 saves. And, the Caps played a lousy game or they wouldn't have allowed 44 shots.  I'm not a fan of Theodore after watching his streaky play with the Colorado Avalanche, but he was the best option the Caps had after Cristobal Huet turned down GMGM's offer and Olie Kolzig left.  I hope Theodore rises to the occasion of an energetic young team that has a lot of potential.  But, the Caps also have some impressive prospects at goalie, as Simeon Varlomov played like a beast in his preseason outing against Carolina and Michal Neuvirth played well during his outings after getting over his nervousness.   The future looks bright indeed.
The opening game for the Caps starts Friday night against the Atlanta Thrashers and Saturday they raise the SE Division Champs banner at the phone booth.  Ahhhh, I can't wait to be there, but they need to win Friday night's game first.

Let's go Caps!

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