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Report Card From Tonight's Scrimmage

Here are the guys who I felt stood out during today's scrimmage, in no particular order:

Forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Francois Bouchard and Mathieu Perreault; defensemen Karl Alzner, Sami Lepisto and Joe Finley; and goalies Michal Neuvirth and Simeon Varlamov.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  July 11, 2007; 6:40 PM ET
 
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Comments

Looks like all that guys you would expect to stand out. Thanks for all these posts today.

Posted by: GoBucks9 | July 11, 2007 6:58 PM | Report abuse

I know he's planning to go back to North Dakota but if the Caps offered him a deal...would Finley sign?

I assume the Caps wouldn't mind him getting another year in college and continue to develop under Hakstol and the Fighting Sioux's coaching staff...but if he completly blows them away at this rookie camp and they offer him a deal...I wonder.

Posted by: strungout | July 11, 2007 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Eh...I just figured up the total SPC's...I doubt they have enough room under the 50 to get him signed.

Oh well.

He's a neat prospect regardless.

Posted by: strungout | July 11, 2007 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Just got back from the scrimmage. Such a great way to take the edge off of a brutal week at work.

Bouchard looked like a man possessed. He drove the net quite hard and was definitely playing his guts out today. It looked like a freight train was crashing into the low slot. I was quite impressed.

Backstrom definitely has the magic touch - I saw him blaze past the D in ways that I remember Adam Oates doing back in the day. My one and only complaint is that he wasn't playing the body very hard at all. He shied away from hits and from any sort of hard checking along the boards. On the other hand, this is his first taste of North American hockey and this is definitely something that can be improved upon - especially with some mentoring from Nylander and Boumedienne. Also, he's got a boomer of a slap shot. If he gets a little more aggressive by the time preseason rolls around he'll be quite a force.

I think Alzner will see time in Washington this season... He played his position better than any other D-man out there today. Just about every time the puck came his way, it ended up heading right back into the offensive zone. Me likey, a lot.

I also liked Godfrey on the blue line. When he was playing alongside Alzner they looked like a brick wall.

If I had to put money on two players dropping the gloves before the week is over, it'd be Jamie Hunt and Oscar Osala. Oscar knocked Jamie hard enough to take his helmet off. Jamie responded with some pretty hard cross-checking.

I was more impressed with Neuvirth than Varlamov, but they were both impressive and look like they'll crack into the NHL eventually. Both of them are lightning quick. Varlamov seemed to take more chances for the flashy play, but this may be evidence of the difference between Russian and American hockey - flash vs grit. I think he'd be much better off playing for Hershey next year instead of Russia.

My three stars for the day, in no order - Alzner, Bouchard, Neuvirth.

Tarik - Any idea if that older official was alright? He looked a little shaky heading off the ice and didn't return.

Posted by: HolyOlie | July 11, 2007 7:29 PM | Report abuse

I was talking to Godfrey & he was just breaking in new skates that he just got Tues morning. He haadn't been on the ice since the middle of April. Hopefully he shows his stuff as he gets some of the rust off.

Posted by: mr. hockey | July 11, 2007 8:37 PM | Report abuse

re: Finley....the kid always seems to be in the right position at the right time to make the right play, but he whiffs a lot. Sometimes he misses the puck, misses an outlet or misses on a check. If he can learn to finish this kid can become a very good NHL defenseman. He plays well for his size.

Posted by: TopShelf22304 | July 11, 2007 9:27 PM | Report abuse

HolyOlie---->
thanks for the indepth break down.
just a quick ?
was backstrom playing it softer than the rest or just soft. what i mean to ask is were some of the other guys taking it light to, or was every one out there with guns blazing trying to make an impression.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 11, 2007 9:49 PM | Report abuse

HolyOlie---->
thanks for the indepth break down.
just a quick ?
was backstrom playing it softer than the rest or just soft. what i mean to ask is were some of the other guys taking it light to, or was every one out there with guns blazing trying to make an impression.

Posted by: livinit | July 11, 2007 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for all the posts Tarik.. I won't be able to make it to Arlington so it's great to be updated on what's going on.

Oneal

Posted by: Oneal | July 11, 2007 11:52 PM | Report abuse

I was very (unpleasantly) surprised by Backstrom's laziness and complete lack of effort today, especially in his own zone. Several times he could have fought for the puck and instead he just gave the opposing forwards tons of time and space. He might be getting ahead of himself thinking that the second line center spot is guaranteed to him. If he keeps playing like that he's not going to crack the roster.

Impressed Alzner, Finley, Werner, and DeSimone.

Posted by: me | July 12, 2007 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Backstrom stood out? Kidding me? He stood out because he didn't work hard at all. Didn't go chasing the puck, was content to sit back and let others dictate the play. He looks way too soft for this NHL.

Posted by: TJ | July 12, 2007 1:04 AM | Report abuse

Backstrom stood out? Kidding me? He stood out because he didn't work hard at all. Didn't go chasing the puck, was content to sit back and let others dictate the play. He looks way too soft for this NHL.

Posted by: TJ | July 12, 2007 1:04 AM | Report abuse

Stayed for about half the scrimmage.

Alzner looked poised, Finley looked HUGE. He does play well for his size. Dovgan threw some decent hits as did Ruth. Bouchard and Lacroix played hard tonight.
Backstrom looked timid out there. I hope he doesn't think he can go at half speed because he has his roster spot guaranteed.

Posted by: Jules | July 12, 2007 1:08 AM | Report abuse

Stayed for about half the scrimmage.

Alzner looked poised, Finley looked HUGE. He does play well for his size. Dovgan threw some decent hits as did Ruth. Bouchard and Lacroix played hard tonight.
Backstrom looked timid out there. I hope he doesn't think he can go at half speed because he has his roster spot guaranteed.

Posted by: Jules | July 12, 2007 1:08 AM | Report abuse

It's quite interesting that according to Russian ice hockey federation's website Varlamov has a two years left in his contract with Lokomotiv.

http://www.online-translator.com/url/tran_url.asp?lang=en&direction=re&template=General&transliterate=&autotranslate=on&url=http://www.fhr.ru/clubs/c4.html

Posted by: Tomppav | July 12, 2007 2:40 AM | Report abuse

Tomppav:
That's correct. The entry level deal we gave him today (well, yesterday, now), however, allows him to return to Russia and play out that contract before it kicks in. The most he's likely to get in the NHL this season is 10 games into the season (the max before it's considered an eccrued season for a contract of this type) before he is 'sent down,' where -- due to the way this contract is written -- he can 'choose' to play in the AHL or return to Russia and play out his contract with Lokomotiv. He's probably not ready to play in the NHL, however, and most likely we'll return him to Russia, and wait until that contract expires before bringing him back. In essence, unless he REALLY stands out in camp, this contract is intended to take effect after his Lokomotiv contract ends.

Posted by: I like Laich and Fehr is Fair | July 12, 2007 4:16 AM | Report abuse

Anonymous: was backstrom playing it softer than the rest or just soft.

I hold Backstrom to a higher standard than most of the rest of the guys, but overall, yes he was playing softer than the rest. He made several nice moves when he had the puck, but didn't really go hard after it when he didn't. He had hustle and I don't think I'd call it laziness - he'd get his butt to the area where the puck was, but was hesitant about challenging for possession.

Granted, he's a 19 year-old in a new country and a new league playing with and against North Americans for the first time. He might just be jittery and/or nervous. Time will tell whether or not that's the case. It almost looked like he was trying to figure out the etiquette of puck possession in NHL-style hockey. He needs to figure out that there is no such thing and that he needs to start throwing his body around.

Personally, I look at it as one scrimmage game in one practice session a full two months before pre-season begins. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now, but if he's still doing this when exhibition play starts, I'll be very worried about his readiness.

Posted by: HolyOlie | July 12, 2007 7:57 AM | Report abuse

DOUG SHEARER HAS BEEN HIRED BY THE ANAHEIM DUCKS.....I GUESS THEY KNOW A GREAT EQUIPMENT GUY WHEN THEY SEE ONE!!!!

IT WAS SUCH A GREAT JOB BY TEDDY, GEORGE AND "THE BOYS IN THE KNOW" WITH THE CAPS.

GOOD LUCK TO SLUGGO!!!!!!!

Posted by: SOMEONEWHOKNOWS | July 12, 2007 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Give Backstrom a break. This is his first taste of North American hockey and he knows every eye at kettler was on him. Come back on Saturday and I'm sure you'll see a different player. As for his style of play, get used to it. That's how Swedes play. They're much more controlled on the ice. Bengt Gustaffson used to look like he was floating when he was just letting the play come to him. If you're expecting Backstrom to go at it like Ovechkin, it's never going to happen. Backstrom will get more aggressive, but think more Nylander and less Forsberg.

Posted by: b.orr4 | July 12, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Tarik, I want to hear more about your interviews with the kids - did you get a chance to speak with many of them after the game?

Posted by: On Ice | July 12, 2007 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I def agree with Bobby, i've played with plenty of swedes in my 20+ years in the game and 95% of them play like Nylander not Forsberg. Forsberg is a freak, I wouldn't expect to see many more of his kind any time soon coming out of Sweden. So lets give the kid a break in his first scrimmage in a brand new country, he prob just needs to crack open a cold one relax and just do his thing. He'll be fine.

Prob not gonna get a chance to get over there this week, but have heard a lot about the french kid Bouchard. Any chance he cracks the lineup this year and actually turns into the sniper he is in the QMJHL?

Posted by: Esmydee13 | July 12, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

b.orr4 you're spot on about Backstrom. This is a player who relies on vision and hockey sense, on brains not brawn. You will NEVER see him throw his weight around. If that's what people are expecting of him than they're gonna be badly disappointed. What you're gonna see him do is being in the right spot at the right time and dishing the puck to people, make his teammates look good. He really is a playmaker, in every sense of the word, not a banger. Those Forsberg-comparisons are definitely wrong.
So while I think he is premier talent I also think he will have a rather hard time adjusting to North American hockey in general and Hanlon's grit-first, defense-first system, much like Tomas Fleischmann. His skill set - passing, on-ice vision, hockey sense, patience with the puck - is perfectly fitted for the larger european ice, while his weaknesses - pyhsical play, especially along the boards, defensive awareness - will be exposed on the smaller ice. No way he will be the impact-player Ovechkin and Semin were in their respective first year over from Europe.
In the long run he's gonna become a star in this league but I don't see him starring just yet.

Posted by: Scai | July 12, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Don't forget Semin played over 50 games in 03-04, and while he showed flashes of his skill he wasn't an overwhelming presence on the ice. I wouldn't lump Semin with Ovehckin in terms of their 1st exposure to NHL play. Ultimately, making assumptions or setting expectations of a player based on one scrimage is a tad premature. Let's see what happens as the off season progresses and he gets more acclimated to the US, the NHL, and his new teammates.

Posted by: Jeff | July 12, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I'm not making assumptions based on a scrimmage but on Backstrom's international play at the World Championships of the last two years and the World Junior Championships of the same time frame.
I just think that Capsfans should hedge their expectations concerning Backstrom.

Posted by: Scai | July 12, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

As long as Backstrom is better than Beech/Klepis, then the second line is improved.

Its true about Semin, he was knocked all over the ice his rookie year, something that improved dramatically over the lockout.

Posted by: Stormblue | July 12, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

played well yesterday or not, go to the nhl.com poll and vote for backstrom

Posted by: Anonymous | July 12, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Tarik could you check and see if Pokulok is cleared for contact as from various accounts he didn't appear to play in yesterdays scrimmage.

Posted by: usiel | July 12, 2007 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Wait and see with Backstrom, he is a shy kid and he take his time to settle, we´ve seen the same thing when he´s playing with Team Sweden, but he´s getting there.
If he not feels comfortable he wont play good.

When playing with his former team in the Swedish elite leauge he´s been a magic player for 2 seasons now...

I think he will dominate the Stanley Cup play offs, the caps will get there this year, wont they?

Posted by: Peter | July 12, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

No way he will be the impact-player Ovechkin and Semin were in their respective first year over from Europe.

Just for the record, Semin was by no means an impact player his first year here.

52 games - 10G/12A/22P/-2

Posted by: Yosh | July 12, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Tarik and especially HolyOlie, thanks for the recaps!

Posted by: Vlad | July 12, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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