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Posted at 3:38 PM ET, 12/25/2010

John Carlson, Karl Alzner pairing has impressed despite growing pains

By Katie Carrera

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

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."

By Katie Carrera  | December 25, 2010; 3:38 PM ET
Categories:  John Carlson, Karl Alzner  
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Next: Michal Neuvirth to face Hurricanes

Comments

Well, nostrathomas sure blew it with the Caps-Pens game. They played well. Have to admit that was a great play like Crosby, but you DO wish they'd learn to cover him. I think that would be the job of our center. I'll bet we're all wishing we had someone like Kono on the team.

Anyway, as punishment for the lousy prediction, nostrathomas will spend the next three days in Death Valley trying to clean the impurities out of his soul. I'll watch the next two game on Wed on DVR and get caught up.

Meanwhile, here's hoping Santa brought you a jug of your favorite beverage.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | December 25, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Watching the 2009 Playoffs Caps/Pens on NHL Classic. Still pisses me off.

Posted by: kcbrichmond | December 25, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Watching the 2009 Playoffs Caps/Pens on NHL Classic. Still pisses me off.

Posted by: kcbrichmond | December 25, 2010 6:24 PM

i turned if off after game 6

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | December 25, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1

I've also been wondering about why teams don't increase their coverage of Crosby -- even double teaming him like they do to Ovi.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | December 25, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

If any of you are going through withdrawals with the NHL off today and you have NHL Network, go to it now. They are showing the Gold Medal game of the 2010 World Junior Championships. It's the game that our boy Carlson scored in OT to win the championship. Merry Christmas!

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 25, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Thanks a lot fanohock1. I'm now watching the WJC game. Happy Holidays to all!

Posted by: sca187 | December 25, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

@tominSLOWcal

What's up with this team. Second half of Boston game! The Pens game they looked like contenders!

They're bipolar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | December 25, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow's Caps vs Canes game gets postponed because Raleigh is getting 2-4 inches of snow over the next 24 hrs. If the Caps aren't there already I doubt the airport will be ready plus they have like 1 plow in the entire state of North Carolina.

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 25, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

come on now... they preped the roads in Raleigh 4 days ago for this storm... I live in Raleigh, but have a flight from PHL to RDU at 7am... hoping I get in..... Just need to get in and then get out to Tampa at 8pm so I can get to Ft. Myers to coach my 9-10 year old travel team this week

Posted by: UMWHockey | December 25, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

HAHA, man they won't get snowed out. Don't forget, the Caps travel to Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, etc in the winter and they get much more snowfall than anywhere in N.C. Merrrrrrry Christmas!!!!!!!!

Posted by: LloydChristmas | December 26, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Trade Green and Varly for a Def DMan and a veteran goalie

Btw - Hey kcbrichmond, we can blame that 2009 Stanley Cup series 100% on Green

Posted by: Nats1924 | December 26, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

hey Nats,

you sound like Feinstein... if you're gonna suggest a trade like that, NAME a veteral goalie.

Which veteran goalie do you have in mind? If you do, is he gonna fit in the salary cap??

Posted by: joek443 | December 26, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

veteral = veteran

Posted by: joek443 | December 26, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

@Nats1924 |

trade Green? Thats fair crazy...he is probably the most important player to our team. And a veteran goalie would just mask the problems this team is trying to work through.

Give it time people...the Pens game was a good sign. They are slowly but surly figuring it out.

Posted by: capscoach | December 26, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

They are slowly but surly figuring it out.

Posted by: capscoach | December 26, 2010 12:39 PM

@capscoach:

Nice Freudian slip you have on there--did you get it at Victoria's Secret™ or Frederick's of Hollywood®? (hahahaha)

I kid you, of course: "Surly" is quite right--our Caps have shown lots of grit and meanness the last few games--in spite of the injury parade.

Posted by: Rhino40 | December 27, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

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