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Bruce Boudreau talks defensive pairings

For the first few weeks of training camp, Coach Bruce Boudreau talked about the possibility of playing John Carlson and Karl Alzner together as they often did in Hershey. But in recent days Boudreau changed his mind, opting to not unite the young defensemen as a pairing, at least for tonight's season opener against the Atlanta Thrashers.

At the morning skate at Philips Arena, Carlson skated with Tom Poti while Alzner was matched up with John Erskine.

"Just thought this was a better fit. We'll see. By the middle of the second period it might be changed back," Boudreau said, adding that for now he liked having Poti's veteran presence with Carlson to help him adjust to the NHL full-time. "I think we've got that top four and we're hoping that Erskine, Karl and [Tyler] Sloan will be able to be good partners together."

Also aiding in the switch is Alzner's previous experience playing on the right side. He's left handed and thus more accustomed to the left side of the ice, but after some stints on the right both with the Capitals and Bears it's become an easier transition.

"It is a little bit more of a challenge," Alzner said. "Just on little plays you want to make, like quick plays up the middle or up the wall that sometimes are difficult because you have to move a few inches over to get the right stick handling move. Other than that it's not too bad. It's not something I can't get used to and I'm pretty used to it right now."

For the Capitals that gives them essentially two pairings with the offensive-defensive hybrid with Jeff Schultz and Mike Green, then Poti with Carlson. The three remaining blueliners are all rather stay-at-home guys.

Granted, all of this could change as early as the middle of tonight's game, as Boudreau said.

-- Based on the morning skate it looks like Tyler Sloan, Boyd Gordon and D.J. King are the scratches against the Thrashers. I'll post the full line-up after the pregame warm up to make sure there aren't any late changes.

-- Semyon Varlamov participated in this morning's skate and got a fair amount of work.

-- Ondrej Pavelec, who went 0-5 against the Capitals last season, appears to be the starter in net for Atlanta.

By Katie Carrera  | October 8, 2010; 12:32 PM ET
Categories:  Atlanta Thrashers, John Carlson, John Erskine, Karl Alzner, Tom Poti  
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Next: Tonight's lineup: Caps at Thrashers

Comments

drop the puck already ... :)

Posted by: ccape1 | October 8, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Woooooo! Matt Hendricks in the starting lineup!

Posted by: Raber | October 8, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Glad Varly is getting better (for how long we shall see).

I know so many people were thoroughly against the Poti signing, but I think it is possible that he steps his game up this season. He can be very good at times, and I think with this new contract and the end of his career closing in, his desire for that cup will spur him on.

Posted by: capscoach | October 8, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

On the D pairings, congruences aside, I think the factor is ice time. Until he proves himself otherwise, Karl is the #5 defenseman on this team.

Posted by: Justafan | October 8, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Carlson and Poti played well together last post season so no worries there but Alzner and Erskine??!! That pairing scares the heck out of me!

Posted by: PhilR | October 8, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Alzner and Sloan might not be so bad. The only good thing I can think of with Erskine and Alzner paired up is that Alzner is not slow, and can cover for Erskine when he goes to make a big hit.

Posted by: capscoach | October 8, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

PhilR: I'm a little concerned too but Jurcina experienced his best playing days (IMO) here in Washington when he was paired with Alzner during the early part of 2008. Alzner seemed to be able to maintain things when Jurcina would take a run at someone. Erskine has a habit of that but I still find myself cheering for him more than being upset with him because he just works hard as heck every shift. Gotta appreciate that.

Posted by: fanohock1 | October 8, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I find the Erskine-Alzner matchup intriguing. I like Erskine (start the flaming) and think he too often gets matched up with the wrong D-partners. I think he can do the things he's good at--and do them better--with the right partner.

My general sense is that when Erskine is paired with an offensive partner, it puts too much emphasis on skating ability. That's not John's forte. Smashing heads is. When he's with someone who can help mind the store, he can go be physical and be freer to do so.

Instead, treat him like an offensive D-man. No, he won't score goals, but that way he can be less tethered to a role and can be a more physical presence.

Eh, my $.02.

Posted by: EricinReston | October 8, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Maybe after Erskine TRUCKS a few guys, Alzner will follow suit.

If he develops into a more physical player, that would be a good thing.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | October 8, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

That line pairing is a big mistake. Putting Alzner with Erskine means setting him up to fail. He plays great with Carlson, there's a natural chemistry between them. When he's on with Erskine, he's spinning around and having to make up for Erskine's miscues. The problem, once again, is that Bruce won't settle on lines to make everyone comfortable. Its a huge flaw.

Posted by: oo7 | October 8, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

"Ondrej Pavelec, who went 0-5 against the Capitals last season, appears to be the starter in net for Atlanta."

Let the shelling begin...

Posted by: CapsNut | October 8, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Never been an Erskine hater but the guy is just slooooooow. As a number six dman he is adequate I guess, would I like better? Certainly, but hopefully he will be the 7th by seasons end through some sort of transaction. Alzner playing his off side as a rookie with the #6 dman is what really concerns me.

And I agree, Juice and Alzner gelled well when they were paired.

Posted by: PhilR | October 8, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

@oo7

It's the first game...BB kept the forward lines mostly together and theD pairings during the season (at least until the deadline) The whole point of the first few games is to try stuff out...c what works...give BB a week and then complain.

Posted by: capscoach | October 8, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

To continue on the Caps and "physicality".

The Caps - I strongly believe - lost against Montreal for psychological reasons and not at all because "they weren't physical enough". In fact, being smaller and quicker would've helped them more against Montreal.

I think 2 things hurt the Caps:

1) the demoralizing effects of playing in an Olympics their Russian players - whether they said so or not - had to feel was a bit rigged. The team was not the same after (and I have to say that Ovie's dynamic leadership was not as strong, after). They were kicked, and to me, Ovie looked a tad jaded. His emotional growth is huge - Ovie has the kind of charisma and ability that has already electrified this city once. He's at a crossroads now: will he move towards vulgarity or classiness?

2) they were so much BETTER than everyone else they simply were unable to turn on that desperate intensity they needed. That switch is hard for all of us to find sometimes.

Physical players - from Bob Gainey to Mark Messier to Jarome Iginla to Ryan Kessler to Mike Richards - all add a great deal to the game and are part of a valuable mix. But players like Semin, Bossy, LaFleur also have a different kind of passion and temperament and if the game cannot hold them (it could not hold Bossy for long) it is an impoverishment to the game.

The "policemen" (Koci, Brasheer, others like) do not. They are part of a North American mythology of the game and besides injury and concussion, I'm not sure what they do. Again, the officals and refs DO control how the game is played and how the small oligarchy that is most influential in this game tells them to call the games is all that signifies.

Posted by: RedLitYogi | October 8, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Carlson and Poti played well together last post season so no worries there but anyone and Erskine??!! That pairing scares the heck out of me!

Posted by: PhilR
---
fixed that for you! :-D

Posted by: FrankM73 | October 8, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Really glad to see that Crosby didn't figure into any of the firsts in the new stadium.

Posted by: fanohock1 | October 8, 2010 12:57 PM

Sorry fanohock1 but you are mistaken. Crosby was the first to sit-to-pee in the mens locker room of the new stadium.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | October 8, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

So much to like about Erskine, loyal soldier, good teammate, works his tail off...but he just can't catch most good forwards in the league without getting penalized, unfortunately. That said I like pairing him with Alzner as the 3rd, big diff btw going against the top 6 vs the other team's 'bottom 6' forwards, to use Burke's terminology.

And the Poti-Carlson pairing was terrific in the playoffs, hands-down our best defensive duo vs. MTL.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | October 8, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I really have NO IDEA what to do with myself b4 this game starts.

I feel like a kid the night b4 a trip to KINGS DOMINION!

...back in the 70's and 80's that is.

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | October 8, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

"Ondrej Pavelec, who went 0-5 against the Capitals last season, appears to be the starter in net for Atlanta."

Let the shelling begin...

Posted by: CapsNut
----
careful.. he's a young goalie and he's probably improved a bit...

but we're better too, so 5-0 or 5-1 sounds about right! :-D

Posted by: FrankM73 | October 8, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Poti and Erskine were worst pairing last year, at least we don't see that.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | October 8, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

In fact, being smaller and quicker would've helped them more against Montreal.
-----------

Totally - how many times did Plekanec, Gomez, Gionta, etc. just waltz around Schultz like he was standing still? This is my biggest problem with JS being on the #1 unit - against top forwards, he just can't keep up.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | October 8, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Sucks that King won't be in. Thrashers have Boulton, Valabik, Thorburn, and Eager --- ALL tough guys. I guess Erskine and Hendricks will have to do the heavy lifting tonight.

Posted by: Matt252 | October 8, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Timbo_1,

Only thing is they are playing in Atlanta and home team gets last change. They will most likely attempt to get their 1st/2nd lines on the ice against that pairing. Question is, can BB adjust and get them off the ice quickly to better match up?

Those are the types of questions that BB has not been able to ease my mind about. He seems slow to react to what other coaches are doing.

Posted by: PhilR | October 8, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

@RedLit - you make some good points, I responded but it didn't post for some reason. Basically said that, other than for the Carlson-Poti pairing, our D really struggled against MTL's quick forwards like Gionta, Plekanec and Gomez, Camillieri, etc., way too much time and space especially against JS, unfortunately.

I also agree about the Olympics, I felt bad for our Russian guys - how Bykov gets another whiff at coaching their national team is absolutely beyond me btw, that guy's an idiot.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | October 8, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

"oligarchy"

Posted by: RedLitYogi | October 8, 2010 1:50 PM

two post penalty for you.

i've been around for longer than i care to admit - i've never read or heard this word before - had to look it up

for all of the other non-edumacated like me:
1. a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.
2. a state or organization so ruled.
3. the persons or class so ruling.

so that's the 'new' thing i learned for the day - my boss won't be to pleased about it though

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | October 8, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

@ FrankM73

I'll take Erskine any day over Sloan, lets be real here its not like BB has the forwards with a defensive mind, for example like Scotty Bowman had when he put Fedorov on the D.

Shout out to SECTION 115 -

See you guys Saturday - SUMMER IS OVER :)

DROP THE PUCK !!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: bqts | October 8, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

@tominsocal

I agree, and that's exactly the pairing I had in mind in my above post. Poti pinches, rushes, and freewheels about the ice FAR TOO MUCH for Erskine to have a chance to be effective. Erskine needs to be the roving freight train, not the stay at home guy.

@wtf_e_fehr

I want you to know every time I see Fehr on the ice my brain ways "WTF?"

Posted by: EricinReston | October 8, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Wild/Canes tied at 1 in the third. Been a pretty boring game other than the first periods which was rather rough and tumble. Lots of perimter shots in the third and lots of whistles.

Posted by: PhilR | October 8, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

@bqts:
about Erskine and Sloan... I want a new 6th D-man... those 2 are 7 and 8's... ugh!

if I had my druthers, I guess I'd pick Erksine since he'll stand up for his teammates!

Posted by: FrankM73 | October 8, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

No, I agree PhilR - I really like and admire so much about BB and what he represents, but good Lord did I want to throw something at my TV last spring with the in-game adjustments. Or lack thereof, particularly on the power play.

He kind of reminds of Francona a little bit [Sox mgr] - he's a big believer in not tearing down a guy's confidence, which I can definitely see the point of - but sometimes it's like, enough already, pull him!

Posted by: Timbo_1 | October 8, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Really glad to see that Crosby didn't figure into any of the firsts in the new stadium.

Posted by: fanohock1 | October 8, 2010 12:57 PM

Sorry fanohock1 but you are mistaken. Crosby was the first to sit-to-pee in the mens locker room of the new stadium.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | October 8, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

@SAOTI: How do you know this? Was cstanton1 in yet another NHL locker room and witness this?

Posted by: fanohock1 | October 8, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Man, if the Caps could somehow get their hands on Miko Koivu their 2C problems would be history. He has been the one impressive part of watching this game today, creates a ton of chances and gets back responsibly on D. Unfortunately theWild know what they have there and his price tag would not fit.

Posted by: PhilR | October 8, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

@SAOTI: How do you know this? Was cstanton1 in yet another NHL locker room and witness this?

Posted by: fanohock1 | October 8, 2010 2:18 PM

He tweeted while doing it, and facilities management sent a tweet confirming. They are set to post a plaque outside the stall and unveil it during their Fan Appreciation week there.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | October 8, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Here we go again... Did we not explicitly bring in DJ King to play against all the East teams who have gooned-up in the offseason? (with Atlanta being #1 on that list). 2 middleweights do not equal 1 heavyweight, mark my words this will be an issue tonite.

Posted by: mike1005 | October 8, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Really glad to see that Crosby didn't figure into any of the firsts in the new stadium.

Posted by: fanohock1 | October 8, 2010 12:57 PM

Sorry fanohock1 but you are mistaken. Crosby was the first to sit-to-pee in the mens locker room of the new stadium.


It also looked like he was the first player to cry on the ice...but then again thats just how he looks

Posted by: chatton | October 8, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

RedLitYogi- That was one of the most erudite posts that I have ever read on Capitals Insider. I agree with you 100% on point #1. I believe the Olympics had a huge negative impact on many of the Caps players, not just the Russian boys.
And the rest of your post lucubrated other important factors.

Posted by: gewhiteva | October 8, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Not sure if any of you were able to watch the Car/Min game that just ended but Skinner is gonna be a pain in the "you know what" to play against. He's a smaller shifty just pain in the @ss kinda guy. Plays 100% every shift like an OV or Jason Blake but is more "shifty" and doesn't give up on the play. He almost single handedly killed a penalty! Good for Carolina. It's amazing how many teams win a championship then for the next decade are at the bottom of the barrel and a non-contender.

4 HOURS 35 MINUTES & counting!

HORN HORN HORN

I've never been this excited about a season to start.

Posted by: pokerfaceI208 | October 8, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

@wtf_e_fehr

I want you to know every time I see Fehr on the ice my brain ways "WTF?"

Posted by: EricinReston | October 8, 2010 2:07 PM

lol, mission accomplished!

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | October 8, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't that Mario pouring Cindy's tears into the ice during the pre-game ceremony?

Posted by: tominsocal1 | October 8, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree with oo7. Its not a coincidence that Alzner played his best hockey in Washington when paired with Jurcina so he could play his natural left-hand side. I don't understand why Boudreau tries to put everyone else in a position to succeed, except when it comes to Alzner.

And Carlson should be paired with a defensive defenseman. How many times does Tom Poti have to prove he's not that, BB's view of him notwithstanding.

Posted by: red4z | October 8, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

For hockey's sake - drop the damn puck. This time is moving far too slow. LET'S GO CAPS LET'S GO CAPS. Good to be back posting with all you Caps supporters. The journey begins tonight.

Posted by: Jonathan6 | October 8, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

For hockey's sake - drop the damn puck. This time is moving far too slow. LET'S GO CAPS LET'S GO CAPS. Good to be back posting with all you Caps supporters. The journey begins tonight.

Posted by: Jonathan6 | October 8, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

The best thing about Erskine is that he is a pretty good fighter.

Posted by: LloydChristmas | October 8, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

WaPo closed the comments for the Wise column. Not going to spread more hate here, but maybe the editors could mix it up a little and have Krauthammer do a hockey column and Wise can take a crack at wingnut opinionations. That would be more meaningful from every perspective.

Posted by: washingtonpost31 | October 8, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

WaPo closed the comments for the Wise column. Not going to spread more hate here, but maybe the editors could mix it up a little and have Krauthammer do a hockey column and Wise can take a crack at wingnut opinionations. That would be more meaningful from every perspective.

Posted by: washingtonpost31 | October 8, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Drop the puck I can't stand it anymore!

Posted by: EricinReston | October 8, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

@ LloydChristmas

you forgot to mention erskine's boyish good looks

Posted by: _stevo | October 8, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

FYI

SJ vs. CBJ on versus NOW!

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | October 8, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

It makes some sense to me: two veteran guys paired with respective young guys; one slightly more physical (Carlson) paired with the 'softer' veteran (Poti); the other paired with the more physical but slower guy. Seems to be a good balance point for speed, grit and experience considerations.

Posted by: HokieSkin | October 8, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Every time the puck's in our zone, I want Erskine to circle around screaming HULK SMASH! And then do it.

Posted by: EricinReston | October 8, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Every time the puck's in our zone, I want Erskine to circle around screaming HULK SMASH! And then do it.

Posted by: EricinReston | October 8, 2010 3:43 PM

He looks more like the Thing, so how about 'It's clobbering time!' everytime a forward from the other team gets close.

Posted by: HokieSkin | October 8, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Sucks that King won't be in. Thrashers have Boulton, Valabik, Thorburn, and Eager --- ALL tough guys. I guess Erskine and Hendricks will have to do the heavy lifting tonight.

Posted by: Matt252 | October 8, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse


According to Steve Hindle: The healthy scratches for the Thrashers tonight are Boulton, Valabik and Meyer while Jim Slater remains on the IR.

So they are only dressing two of the four you mentioned.

Posted by: icehammer97 | October 8, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Jonathan6:
here's to hoping for a "2 point night"

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | October 8, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

If 4-Skine can play as well as he did against the Rangers in the playoffs a couple of years ago, we have nothing to worry about. But thats a big 'if'

Posted by: griz0615 | October 8, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Rumor has it, Sloan perfected his Spectator Spice Seasoning (aka 4S) for his popcorn and made little travel versions using zip-lock baggies. So he will hardly realize he isnt in the press box at Verizon. Talk about thinking outside the box and being creative, no wonder he made the cut.

On a related note, Boyd Gordon has apparently begun his regular season workout routine and is the process of perfecting his Boyd's Bodacious Beverage Booster (aka 4B).

Uh oh...watch out Tyler, he's coming after ya.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | October 8, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

What happened to Tarik

Posted by: gregandcass | October 8, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Tarik wanted to spend more time with his family.. this job called for too much travelnig. He is still doing stuff for Wapo though, like racing and college football...

2 & 1/2 hours to go!! =)

Posted by: rachel216 | October 8, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

oops I lied. I forgot the game starts at 7:30.

Posted by: rachel216 | October 8, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Who's gonna score the first goal?! (for us?!)

Posted by: rachel216 | October 8, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

gregandcass:
tarik got run over by the train they call the 'katie carrera'
or
he took on new assignments at wapo
but we still have lindsay and geno too!!

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | October 8, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

rachel216:
flash (hat trick) on his way to 50!!

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | October 8, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Thanks. Katie is great.

Posted by: gregandcass | October 8, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Let the 6 1/2 months of PRE-season hockey begin...

Posted by: joek443 | October 8, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

DJ King is sitting out while that useless waste of Cap space, Flash is playing! I know that they are two different types of players, but my god didn't anybody learn any lessons last year this team is not tough! Atlanta has plenty of tough players, come on BB wake up! After last seasons playoff debacle you shouldn't even be here! How do you lose with this team? I'm still angry and BB is still the coach! Ugghhh!!!

Posted by: Squigsfan83 | October 8, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Пусть шайбу упасть!
Pokles puk!
spusti pak!
la mise au jeu!
lašas Puck!
Drop the puck, eh!
падіння шайбу!
Rückgang der Puck!
slippe pucken!
släppa pucken!
pudottaa kiekko!

DROP THE PUCK!!

Posted by: Rhino40 | October 8, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I hate to start complaining before the first puck drops but it seems like they set Alzner up to fail. He finally makes the team out of camp and you put him on his off wing with the weakest partner and the fewest minutes. Poti is a veteran and could easily handle this. But to ask that of Alzner is unfair to him and his development. Done crying, Let's go Caps!!

Posted by: real8 | October 8, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

king shouldn't see more than 50 or so games during the season with him regularly getting a jersey come february - he'll be needed more in the playoffs than right now. no sense in risking injury to what little grit/muscle they have tonight

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | October 8, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

@rachel216. I am going with MJ.

@Squigsfan83. Two of Atlanta's 4 toughest players are in the press box.

Posted by: icehammer97 | October 8, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Interesting for me at least about Alzner playing left while being lefthanded. Growing up I was left handed and played left most of the time but that is because I was almost always paired with another lefty who wanted to play right so they could have a better one-timer shot. Defensivly I liked playing left because it gave me more reach to the right which playing left ment the middle of the ice so it helped in guiding guys to the outside. For Alzner mainly being a defensive d-man it is interesting he likes the left side better.

Posted by: icehammer97 | October 8, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

WTF?

GAME THREAD!?!?!?

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | October 8, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

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