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John Carlson is a star in the making

Capitals defenseman John Carlson takes a shot during Tuesday's practice at Bell Centre. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

In her latest column from Montreal, Tracee Hamilton writes about 20-year-old defenseman John Carlson, who has impressed nearly everyone in his first NHL playoffs:

It's good to be John Carlson. Monday night the Caps defenseman had his best game of the playoffs against the storied Habs in Montreal. Of course, the 5-1 Game 3 victory was also just his third playoff game in the NHL. But after his Game 2 heroics -- scoring the tying goal near the end of regulation before the Caps won it overtime -- and his almost flawless debut in Game 1, he's a grizzled veteran now, right?
Carlson laughed at that notion.
"I feel better and better and that's what the whole goal is," Carlson said Tuesday after practice. "I didn't score last night but I think I played probably my best game. I played the most minutes in three periods, not overtime, so I felt good and every game I'm getting better and better. That really helps as a young guy."

Click here to read the rest.

By Lindsay Applebaum  |  April 20, 2010; 4:53 PM ET
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I think Semin's going to bust out for a few. He also played some solid D and drew a penalty last eve.

Posted by: Justafan | April 20, 2010 4:57 PM

He's had so many great scoring chances...his time will come. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I agree with justafan & richmondphil. Why does everyone on this board panic about everything? Semin scored 40 goals this regular season. That's a goal every two games. So he's gone three without. So what? If he scores two tomorrow (not an unlikely scenario), his playoff pace will match the regular season, a goal every two games. Calm down folks. He hasn't played his best, particularly in Game 1, but he is hustling and will get his goals.

Let's Go CAPS!!

Posted by: chevychase10 | April 20, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

My only complaint about Semin, I outlined previously. It's really just a general complaint about any forward, but Semin and Ovi seem to want to try to stick-handle a bit more than others. Sometimes, I would like to see them dump the puck in instead of trying to finesse their way through. It paid off for Ovi with a goal and sgm3 brought up a few specific incidences when Semin decided to make the simple play instead of the harder one. It works.

All that said, Semin and Ovi have the skill to walk their way through the o-zone, so better that them two are trying it rather than someone else. (Remember Ovi's goal against the Rangers last year? He deked out about 4 of them before putting it through Lundy's 5-hole.)

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Also, Carlson is the man.

(I felt obliged since this column was about him.)

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

@richmondphil - agreed about stick-handling, but I'd much rather see them work give-and-goes rather than just dump it in. You work so hard to get possession in the NHL, why surrender that? Plus most of MTL's D can all skate and pass and excel in transition. As Tikhonov used to tell his players on the dominant USSR teams, "You dump it in? OK - then you go get it."

Obviously if we're talking Chimera, Bradley, etc. that's a different deal, but if the puck is on Semin or Ovie's stick [or Backstrom or Flash's], that's where I want it, 99% of the time. But I'd definitely like to see more give-and-go hockey from Semin, just as he was trained to do.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | April 20, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Well, the problem with the give-n-go's, is that all it does is open up the chance for the pass to be intercepted. Obviously if the guy has an open trailer, by all means, make the pass, but you dump when you have no other options..pass, shoot, whatever.

Plus, Semin had that give-n-go with Flash and neither of them wanted to shoot the puck.

I can count numerous times where Ovi and/or another player made a horrible errant pass because they were pressured and didn't want to dump the puck in. You dump the puck to a corner, you have a 50/50 chance to dig it back out..all depends on how hard the player wants to work.

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Leave Semin alone. Sure, he misses his assignments occasionally but he also had 40 goals this year and played much better last night. He's the type of player who "makes people miss."

He's also tight with Ovie, so keep him and keep him happy.

Posted by: Jordan_Kitts | April 20, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I thought his nickname was "Captain America" not "America's Hero"....I prefer Captain America

Is it Wednesday yet?


Posted by: malujoker | April 20, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Wow.....did anyone see the PP % of the Kings.....they are winning with the PP. A whooping 58 %.

Are we all rooting for the Flyers in the Flyer/Devils series??

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | April 20, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Fro_ | April 20, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Yes trail passes get intercepted - but that's not what I'm talking about. I am talking good, old-fashioned, headman hockey. You make the other team work extremely hard trying to defend it. But yes, of course if there are no other good options, dump it.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | April 20, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

@Jordan - agreed on Semin. He hit 40 and missed a slew of games [and had constantly changing linemates]; must be doing something right.

And yes Carlson definitely rules!

Posted by: Timbo_1 | April 20, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

I really don't know what you're describing then. You mean passing off the rush or setting up and executing the give and go?

If it's the former (on the rush), than a trail pass would be the first pass in the give and go. If it's the latter (setting up), then that's not where my complaint about Semin lies...My complaint Is when guys are trying to stick-handle their way on the initial rush, get stood up, and doesn't make a shot or pass. They are trying to create offense themselves, which ends up in a turnover near the neutral zone and a fast transitioning Habs team coming at us. Why not dump the puck in deep? Even if the Habs regain possession, it's not at the neutral zone basically.

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Check out Carlson more here.

Posted by: greenmachine | April 20, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Huh? A trail pass is a drop pass - i.e., you're hitting "the trailer," the guy trailing behind the play. Yes, those can get picked off. I am talking basic give-and-go hockey, which all these guys - Semin and Ovie especially - grew up playing. Headman the puck and get ice.

But I see your larger point.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | April 20, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Look at it this way..if the guy is about to turn the puck over at the blue line by getting stood up, what harm is there to dump the puck in deeper preventing that turnover at the neutral zone, and forcing guys to go dig it out of the corners?

It gives our defenders time to adjust, stymies there fast transition, and gives us a better chance of regaining possession.

If the pass is there, make the pass. But don't try to finesse around 3 defenders and lose the puck..dump it in deeper, make them turn around and retrieve it.

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Carlson got caught flat-footed on the Habs one goal last night. But all in all, it's great that a time picking late in the draft can come up with a player like Carlson. It gives hope for long term success.

Posted by: zmega | April 20, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

So are you talking about in the rush or when we set up shop?

Again, my complaint is only directed towards players who loose the puck at the blue line because they tried to finesse through it on the initial rush. Why turn the puck over there if you can dump it in deeper?

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Dude which of our D haven't. MTL has a great PP [only the Caps had a better one] for a reason - I'd hardly blame Carlson for that goal. Plekanec made a play, and whoever gave it to him made a hell of a pass. A good PP will eventually score goals, no matter who's out there.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | April 20, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Poor Karl Alzner.

Posted by: athena2 | April 20, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

A trail pass is a drop pass - i.e., you're hitting "the trailer," the guy trailing behind the play. Yes, those can get picked off. I am talking basic give-and-go hockey, which all these guys - Semin and Ovie especially - grew up playing. Headman the puck and get ice.

But I see your larger point.


It's not trailing behind the play, it's trailing behind the guy who made the pass. You can definetely give and go by hitting a trailer...all the trailer has to do is pass it back to you. (see; Gordo and Carlson odd-man break in Game 1)

Anyways, I think we are talking through each other. I think you are referring to setting up in the o-zone, not on the initial rush. If you are talking about the initial rush, I'm not seeing how it's just as simple as to make a pass and execute a give and go. If it's an odd-man break..sure..give and go on the rush. Generally, the passing lane is going to be blocked though..It's not simple or easy to execute a give and go on the rush, 5 on 5 hockey...

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Or do you mean for the pass receiver to give it back to the guy penetrating the blue line? Ie; Ovi hits Semin near the blue line, then Semin hits Ovi right back as Ovi comes through the blue line, full speed.

I think this is what you have in mind. Which would be a very good way of breaking through neutral ice. :)

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

The rush. But agreed of course you can't cough it up at the blue line - but I don't remember either of those guys being a big culprit of that. There was a coach of the Whalers, damn why can't I remember his name, but he had a saying "shoot or pass." Basically, your point [or how I am reading it anyway; don't stickhandle]. Coached forever in the A but I am drawing a blank right now. I have to head out but I'll check back in later - is my memory that far gone already? Geez Louise.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | April 20, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

That has to be what you that I think about it. I was thinking you were saying give and go after they're pass the blue line. I see what you mean now.

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

my only hope is that the Caps don't try to accentuate Carlson's offensive game at the expense of his defensive one. We already saw Mike Green start off as a decent defensive player, then turn into strictly a one-dimensional offensive player, and then thru no fault of the Caps, find his defensive game again.

Lets hope Carlson's defensive game is appreciated enough by his coaches that its not messed with.

Posted by: cstanton1 | April 20, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I understand what you're saying now.

For some reason, I thought you meant for the first guy to go through the blue line, and then look for a give and go situation. Ie; always hitting a trailer. :)

You mean more so executing the give and go to gain the o-zone cleanly.

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

If I had a dime for every time Semin decided to dump the puck in, I'd have a dime.

Its not in his nature and he's averse to that kind of coaching. There are definitely times he needs to dump the puck in instead of overhandling the puck.

More importantly, he needs to keep his wits about him when he's playing deep in our def zone. He gets his pocket picked too often. He doesn't have seem to have much awareness when he's deep in our zone and the puck comes to him. I would not pass the puck to Semin if he had anyone close to him in our end of the ice. He's going to lose that puck more times than not. For a player with incredible skill, he's also a turnover machine.

Posted by: cstanton1 | April 20, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Jack Adams maybe? Was that it? My mind is fried, sorry - and yes, I do think we were talking right past each other; probably my fault, my HS coach simply couldn't get enough of 'dump n' chase' and I still bear the scars, apparently [and yes, I do realize it has its place].

Posted by: Timbo_1 | April 20, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

my HS coach simply couldn't get enough of 'dump n' chase' and I still bear the scars, apparently [and yes, I do realize it has its place].

Posted by: Timbo_1 | April 20, 2010 6:14 PM |

That's just good ol North American style hockey. :) haha

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Also, Timbo, just to clarify..I'm not asking them to dump in once they gain the red line or anything. I want them to dump in if that player, who has already gained the offensive zone and has passed the blue line, gets stood up. Like Ovi did last night on his goal. He got stood up after gaining the offensive zone, so he just threw it in the corner. Backs dug it out, and passed it right to him for that beautiful one-timer.

I am talking specifically about what a player should do when he has already gone past the blue line. Not necessarily what a player should do to gain ice past the blue line.

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

if you wanna score in the playoffs, you just gotta be willing to pay the price and go to the net... if you hang around the perimeter like Semin does now or Mike Gartner did in the old days, you're just NOT gonna be as productive.

and if you keep doing that and don't change your way, eventually people will get tired of you and you will get shipped outta town in favor of a real warrior like Dino Ciccarelli.

Posted by: joek443 | April 20, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse


Where was the Backstom OT goal scored from? How about Carlson's? How about Backstrom's first goal in game 2? How about the Ovie goal and Laich goal last night? How about most of Ovie's goals in the playoff last year against Pittsburgh?

I do absolutely agree that you have to go to the net and many playoff goals are scored there but there are still a good amount of playoff goals scored on rushes and other outside shots.

You need perimeter scoring too. It's the combination of both that makes an offense lethal because it's extremey hard to cover both areas thoughout a game.

Posted by: sgm3 | April 20, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

@ sgm3

that's fine as long as you produce... I don't care if you score on a 50-foot slapshot or a 5 foot lay-up.

Semin has yet to produce a single point in 3 games... what do they always say in basketball if your jumpshots aren't going in? they tell you to go to the hoop, at least get some fouls and go to the line.

if your 30 or 40-foot wrist shots aren't beating the goalie, how about getting closer to the net and try taking 10 or 20-foot shots??

Posted by: joek443 | April 20, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Carlson two years ago was playing USHL. Last year he played a year of Junior for Dale Hunter at London I think and then played as Hershey won the Calder Cup. Christmas past champion on the WJC and now the NHL. A rocket to stardom.

Yes, one can feel for Alzner - #5 overall the year before Carlson went at like #27 overall. Karl though, one would hope, will turn into a very respectable Calle Johansson type D man. Let's not forget he was WHL d-man of the year and captained a Canadian team I think to the WJC himself. He's maybe lacking Carlson's raw skill but he's had great coaching and should do fine.

Posted by: tominfl1 | April 20, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Semin needs to necessarily go to the net and do some grunt work to get his production going.

He just has to find ways to get his shots off, without it being blocked or deflected. Use some creativity, try to cut a different way or something.

He has a ton of scoring chances so far though..he's due to score.

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Garts was not shy at all to shoot. And as much as I loved Dino, he was not a better player than Gartner.

Posted by: igor_k17 | April 20, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Mike Gartner scored 708 goals in 1432 regular season games - 0.49 goal/game avg.

he scored 43 goals in 122 playoff games - 0.35 goal/game avg.

Dino Cicarelli scored 608 goals in 1232 regular season games - 0.49 goal/game avg.

he scored 73 goals in 141 playoff games - 0.52 goal/game

you see why the Caps traded Gartner for Dino? you want your best goal scorers to maintain their level of production in the playoffs and Gartner couldn't do it because he was a perimeter player.

Posted by: joek443 | April 20, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

They're both amazing players who scored very different types of goals. I think joek443's point is that Gartner was given up because Dino was money in the playoffs.

While I don't necessarily think Semin needs to given up, I see his point about Dino/Gartner.

Posted by: richmondphil | April 20, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

I agree with joek443 about Dino vs Gartner. Dino was magnificent in the 91-92 series against the Pens (4 goals one game). He took mega-abuse from Ulfie but kept coming back for more. Had the rest of the Caps come through in the that series, who knows.

I would not give up on Semin though. We have Ovi-Backie-Semin and that is way better than Dino-Ridley-Hunter from an offensive standpoint. We just need Semin to give what he can. Semin doesn't need to be the "man," just a very nice complimentary piece of the puzzle.

22 pts in 24 games. Not a bad start to his playoff career. And he, Laich and Flash if I recall had a beautiful tic-tac-toe maybe vs Flyers.

Posted by: tominfl1 | April 20, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like he is keeping the #74. Looks like I'm buying a his jersey this year after all.

Posted by: real8 | April 20, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

We won 0 cups with Garts. We won 0 cups with Dino. Moreover, the highest number of cups any team has ever won with Dino is 0. And the very same season Red Wings got rid of him, they won the cup.

Again, don't get me wrong - I am not saying Dino was somehow a bad player or anything like that. It's just these theories that somehow playoffs change the game radically and a team needs to abandon what it does best during the regular season... Shoot the puck, shoot the puck!... Anybody here remembers how we made Wregget look like Roy while throwing tons of pucks at him? I don't remember Jagr fighting his way into the crease or Mario parking his rear end in Beaupre's lap while they were eating our lunch at Cap Center. Ah, they were perimeter players, they must have never won anything!
Yes, you need your Knubles and Laichs, and Fehrs - but just because it's postseason, it doesn't change the fact that you need your Semins as well.

Posted by: igor_k17 | April 20, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

the next Bobby Orr, maybe?

Posted by: Satchelass | April 20, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

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