Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Report From Caps Practice

From one struggling team to another; I decided to take the short trip (for me) to the Washington Capitals practice facility. Some thoughts and observations:

``Not even a losing record and supposedly a coach and a GM on the hot-seat can shake Alex Ovechkin. He was out there carrying on and generally enjoying himself. Very few NHL players act like they enjoy practice. Ovechkin seems like he's having too much fun out there. His energy and exuberance is refreshing.

``As you could imagine for a team in a deep hole, a lot of X's and O's and teaching by embattled head coach Glen Hanlon. He seemed very confident and in control out on the ice, not looking at all like a coach who's shaken by knowing he could be out the door with a few more losses. Hanlon also had about a 5 minute on-ice conversation with Olie Kolzig.

``The defense really focused on a lot of "D to D" passes, making sure they were crisp and accurate.

``At one point there was a modified criss-crossing 3 on 2 drill that had players shooting on both ends of the ice at the same time. The difference between what a starting goalie (Kolzig) lets in the net and what a backup goalie (Brent Johnson) lets by was pretty obvious.

``After the first half of team drills, Michael Nylander and Viktor Kozlov separated themselves from the forwards and worked at center ice on some close-range stick handling drills and skating. Nylander constantly looked like he was out of breath, always doubled over and even tripped a couple times. Everyone has bad days, but Nylander usually seems a lot more smooth and in control than he was today.

``The rest of the forwards mainly worked on some shooting drills and then did a rebound drill with Kolzig. The two most impressive surprising players for me were Boyd Gordon and Brooks Laich. Those guys can really let it rip, I was impressed. It's surprising they don't score more goals in games when they count.

``During one drill, the team was basically using 3 players to play keep-away from a 5 man forechecking unit. I mention this only because at one point while playing keep-away, Tom Poti rushed the puck up the ice coast-to-coast. The goalie denied his shot, but he skated clean through Nicklas Backstrom's line. Ovechkin, predictably, was whooping it up on the bench and definitely enjoyed that the most.

``Donald Brashear was pretty brutal in all facets (skating, passing, shooting, controlling the puck). It's easy to see why some Caps fans are getting frustrated that he never gets scratched and always manages to be on the 4th line. However, Brash was off the ice early, so it's looking like he might be in the press box tomorrow night.

``On the way out of the place I ran into John Erskine, and said hello and wished him luck. He's every bit 6'4" and was a pretty nice guy. Hopefully the Caps will put him back in the lineup soon, I didn't think he really did half bad so far this season.

Overall the team seemed pretty loose. Caps beat writer (and one of the best around), Tarik El-Bashir said the mood seemed pretty tense at Monday's practice. Maybe it's just getting more guys like Poti and Chris Clark back, but the mood seemed pretty loose from the players at least on the ice. Ovechkin was joking on Clark seemingly all practice and a lot of guys like Gordon, Laich and Brian Sutherby were pretty loose joking around with each other and the assistant coaches.

1 comment:

The Peerless said...

I trust you had all your innoculations before venturing into Kettler...