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Summer Camp Ends

Well, I hope you got your mid-summer hockey fix this week. I know I did.

Here are a couple of quick thoughts on today's scrimmage:

*The story of the session was Nicklas Backstrom. After a quiet start to camp, the 19-year-old center seemed to get better with each scrimmage. He clearly was at his best this afternoon, weaving his way through the other team, making drop passes between his skates and setting up Francois Bouchard with a deft pass from the corner.

"This was his best [performance], without a doubt," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said of Backstrom. Hanlon also downplayed Backstrom's apparent slow start this week, adding, "The kid has played in world championships and in the Swedish Elite League. This is a summer evaluation camp. I'm sure he's not in the room with a sense of urgency. It's not like someone who was drafted in a late round and is playing junior hockey."

*In case you were wondering what happened to defenseman Joe Finley, he left the game with a strained groin. Nothing too serious, GM George McPhee said.

*Defenseman Karl Alzner, who was drafted No. 5 overall last month, also continued to impress. He was steady and calm under pressure. He rarely missed with his outlet pass and wasn't afraid to throw his body around.

(Here's a funny story about Alzner. Today, Al Koken and I were standing near the locker room when I spotted Alzner in the hallway. He was holding a glass filled with some sort of a health shake. It was bright pink. He looked at it, sniffed it, then held his breath and slammed it. I have no idea what was in that thing. But I'm glad I didn't have to drink it.)

That's it for now. Make sure to check out my story on Bouchard in tomorrow's Post.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  July 14, 2007; 6:08 PM ET
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Next: Poor Buffalo (and Other Small Market Teams) ...


Story in Sunday post???? I just bought a Sunday post n no caps story.

Damm you early edition!!

Posted by: LIVINIT | July 14, 2007 6:54 PM | Report abuse

i was just gonna ask about bouchard today, but i guess ill wait till tomorrow

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2007 6:55 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing like an impromptu, unnecessary, slamming/pounding of a good sized drink to make a quick impression and get those around you fired up or at least entertained

Posted by: Dave B | July 14, 2007 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Never buy it when the sun's still shining. ;)

Another thing about Backstrom -- isn't this the first time he has played on the smaller ice? I heard him in an interview the other night saying that he was new to playing on the smaller rink and that everything seemed to happen faster because of it. Maybe it just took him a few days to get used to it.

Posted by: norske | July 14, 2007 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, my first comment was meant for LIVINIT but others jumped in between.

Posted by: norske | July 14, 2007 7:00 PM | Report abuse

don't get too excited. it's a really short story on Bouchard.

Posted by: Tarik | July 14, 2007 7:04 PM | Report abuse

I snapped a pic of you pounding away at your laptop during the first period. Wondering if there's a address I can send it to. I don't see one anywhere in your stories or anything.

It's nothing great, but if you are interested...

Posted by: Tarik | July 14, 2007 7:11 PM | Report abuse

so then ill ask, how did he do today, sounds like he scored again

Posted by: Anonymous | July 14, 2007 7:12 PM | Report abuse

I too was impressed with Backstrom. That pass to Bouchard for the goal was simply beautiful. But how about that Hasek-esque save by Varlamov?

Posted by: Brad | July 14, 2007 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Bouchard scored twice today. Both on cross rink passes from Backstrom. The first was a thing of beauty. The second had backstrom curling out of the same corner, this time in his defensive zone, and hitting bouchard in stride on the far boards by the red line. Bouchard then quickly fired a shot along the ice into an empty net.

Backstrom's vision is really impressive. On both passes the guy barely had a chance to look up before firing hard accurate passes. It's a combination of knowing where people are on the ice and always having the puck in a position to make a play.

I can't wait to see Backstrom play after he's had a few weeks of camp to familiarize himself with his linemates and the systems.

Posted by: Mike | July 14, 2007 8:24 PM | Report abuse

That's great news about Backstrom, I didn't make it to any scrimmages this week but could anyone say Backstrom could take over the 2nd line role next season?

Posted by: Chris | July 14, 2007 8:32 PM | Report abuse

I think that is his spot to lose. Looking at the depth chart, there really isn't anyone there who should play in that role. Gordon has his role locked up, I think. Sutherby is destined to be a bottom 6 guy I think. Laich isn't the playmaker Backstrom is. Neither is Klepis. What other center is there?

Backstrom is just so smooth and in control all the time. The two scrimmages I went to are really the first time I've seen him play (other than highlights) and I was very impressed. He has it. Vision, composure, speed, responsibility, etc. He may need to add 10 pounds to help him dig tough pucks out of the corner, but other than that he looks ready.

He has played in the Swedish Elite League for 2 years and done well. So there isn't any reason to think he won't be able to translate his game to the NHL.

Posted by: Mike | July 14, 2007 8:52 PM | Report abuse

I wouldnt get too excited about Backstrom just yet.. I mean i believe he will be a good center for us for a long time but he is playing against alot of guys you will never see in a Caps sweater.

Posted by: Comebackkono3 | July 14, 2007 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Tarik - I agree with your assessment on Karl Alzner. Everything written about him is spot on. He looked great this week. GMGM did a great job in selecting him and I would love nothing more than to see Alzner in a Caps jersey THIS fall!

Posted by: Reston | July 14, 2007 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Tarik - I agree with your assessment on Karl Alzner. Everything written about him is spot on. He looked great this week. GMGM did a great job in selecting him and I would love nothing more than to see Alzner in a Caps jersey THIS fall!

Posted by: Reston | July 14, 2007 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Great to hear more about Bouchard. I was very impressed with him at the two games I attended, and it sounds as though the two that I missed were his most impressive. He seems to click well with Backstrom. If he stands up the same way against real NHL talent in training camp and perhaps exhibition play, I wonder if he'd have a shot at being the RW on a Backstrom-Semin line.

Also great to hear that Nicklas is finding his groove and that the "average" play in the first day's scrimmage may have been just him finding his footing and being a little jittery after all.

Bring on September.

Posted by: HolyOlie | July 14, 2007 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Finally made it over to Kettler today with the kids in tow. Tarik, was looking for you but missed you. Saw Smokin Al Koken though - I still miss the days when he and Mike Fornes called the games. Guess I just dated myself.

Some observations in no particular order...Bouchard really looked strong - I expect we'll see quite a bit of him in the years to come. Perrault seemed to be playing with a lot of energy. Jamie Hunt looked more like a forward than a D-man - had a beautiful semi-breakaway goal against Neuwirth. Who is Crowder, #74? He wasn't on the roster they handed out - he missed badly on a wide-open net - had the goalie down (I think it was McChesney at that point) but shot it too lazily. Or McC made a great save - maybe a little of both. Lynes also missed badly at one point - had the left side of the net empty and put it wide. A couple of minor scrums today and a few decent hits - I guess they stepped it up being the last day of camp. Alzner did look good, Finley is huge.

It was great to get a hockey fix in July - will look forward to this camp every summer now. Can't wait for the season!

Posted by: alpca3877 | July 14, 2007 11:43 PM | Report abuse

Dovgan is mean!!!! Didn't make too many mistakes either. We could use that...

Posted by: me | July 15, 2007 3:11 AM | Report abuse

you can send emails to thanks.

Posted by: Tarik | July 15, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

How do our 'goalies of the future' look?
Any1 took notes?

Posted by: Victor | July 15, 2007 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Tarik - I am interested in Backstrom has been working out or bulking up for the transition to the NHL. I believe he said that he was planning on it... any sight, or can you ask him the next time you see him? Thanks

Posted by: Kev | July 15, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

I thought Satuday's scrimmage was great. However, don't put Backstrom in the Hall of Fame just yet. While the hitting was generally light, the other players knew not to lay a finger on him for fear of being waived. Brashear will definitely be dropping the gloves early on in his defense. Still, Backstrom will be an upgrade at center. I was also impressed with Bouchard, Perrault, Hunt, and Glass, who looked very impressive scoring a goal on his 18th birthday yesterday. Glass reminds me of Chris Clark with his talent and toughness, but he's probably a year away.

Posted by: LookingForScottStevens | July 15, 2007 6:05 PM | Report abuse

I agree with everyone's assessment of Alzner. He had some poise out there. Never looked panicked or flustered, but also not lazy. Hopefully it'll translate to the NHL.

One other thing I noticed about Bouchard that hasn't really been touched on. He has a bit of that get-under-the-opposing-teams-skin. A bit like we saw with Darcy Verot but with some skills.

Posted by: slappy | July 15, 2007 8:17 PM | Report abuse

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