John Carlson, Karl Alzner pairing has impressed despite growing pains
In the last 55 seconds of regulation against the Penguins on Thursday, John Carlson and Karl Alzner were on the ice as the Capitals' defensive pairing. For the final 3:55 in overtime of that eventual 3-2 shootout loss to Pittsburgh, at least one member of the young duo was on the ice for all but 30 seconds.
The coaches' willingness to put Carlson and Alzner in big situations, whether against the Penguins or late in the Capitals' eventual 3-2 win over Ottawa last Sunday, has helped boost both players' confidence. It hasn't been a seamless integration for either player, but that's to be expected, Coach Bruce Boudreau said.
"That's what you get from young guys -- you get the inconsistencies," Boudreau said earlier this week. "In the Ottawa game in the third period, I thought the two young guys looked really nervous because they didn't want to make the mistake. John went to kick a puck [and] he missed it, Alzy just threw the puck away, but these are mistakes that, when you're a struggling team in the last five minutes of a game and you've got a one-goal lead, you're hanging on by the skin of your teeth. But they got through it and they got confidence out of that game and I thought they were both exceptional" against New Jersey.
Over the past three games, both Carlson and Alzner have plus-4 ratings. They drew assignments against the Penguins' top line of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis on Thursday, and while there were uneasy moments -- like when Crosby almost eluded Carlson for a breakaway -- there were also plenty of demonstrations that neither player was out of his element. Carlson stood up Evgeni Malkin on the blueline as he attempted to enter the zone on a power play.
"I feel a lot better out there right now," Alzner said. "Just with confidence to make plays, and you see a lot of confidence in the coaches when they come to us. We're playing a ton in tough situations at the end of the game, and you can't really ask for much more. You just have to get used to that, because at the beginning you're so worried about making any little mistake that you're making the wrong decisions."
| December 25, 2010; 3:38 PM ET
Categories: John Carlson, Karl Alzner
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