Our friend Derek Meluzio at Stack the Pads has a look at some of what to expect between the pipes down in Hershey this season (natch), as well as Q&As with Daren Machesney and former Bear/Cap Freddy Cassivi.
Here's a (rather large) taste of what Derek's got:
The coming season has the makings of one of the biggest goalie stories we have seen in a long time. For the first time since Marc Denis was a rookie, we will have a true blue chip prospect in the mix. In fact, we might have two! I am certainly not downplaying guys like Budaj, Lawson, Sauve, etc. but the truth of the matter is Semen Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth are coming into their first pro North American seasons with high expectations. Perhaps more pressure to perform is on Varlamov but no matter how you look at it both will be coming to play and both will be wanting to make it to the NHL. Will they live up to the hype? We will see, and time will tell. 2008-2009 could be the year of the rookie (Varlamov) or.... it could be a true break out year for another player.
That other player is Daren Machesney. He is a guy who was not quite as highly touted, has been a back-up before, and wasn't really expected to deliver the goods last year... but did. He was kind of looked at as being second fiddle in the depth chart before, but now he is looking at being the #1 goalie in Hershey. Not bad. Assuming the Caps start the season with Theodore and Johnson, Daren will look to be the starting goalie in Hershey and will be the first guy called up when there is an injury in Washington.
Will Washington want Varlamov to learn the North American culture and nurture him in the AHL as the back-up to Machesney first, or will they be looking to throw him into the fire sooner rather than later? Then the real monkeywrench here could be Michal Neuvirth. He has been in North America for a few seasons in juniors already and could very well challenge Varlamov. Seeing who ends up in Hershey and who goes to South Carolina will be interesting. I would not want to be the one making that decision. My personal opinion... I say Machesney starts the season as the #1 guy in Hershey. He will play the majority of the games and will get called up a few times to the NHL during the season when injuries happen. As for the back-up.... I say Varlamov gets the spot and Neuvirth goes to South Carolina. Neuvirth can stand on his own as a pro in the ECHL or AHL and he will be better suited to go to South Carolina. I think they will want Varlamov in Hershey to be brought along under closer eyes. He has the game down, I just think they want him to adapt to the North American culture. I could be wrong. One way or anothe rit will make for an interesting story. Last but not least there is the rumor of trade. Maybe one of the three will get dealt knowing that "three's a crowd" and the Caps could use help in other areas.
Be sure to check out the full post for more, including those Q&As.