I just had to satisfy my curiosity last night, so I ran up to Hershey after work and caught the game against the Falcons. (Hershey's only an hour and 15 or so from me.) Not something I'd do under normal circumstances, but I wanted a look at Brian Pothier and a couple of others and weekend schedules weren't playing nice, so Wednesday it is.
Overall, Hershey looked pretty sloppy. Not a lot of energy in either the team or the building, and it was pretty obvious that they weren't really into it. They didn't deserve to take more than one point out of that, but then the Falcons were pretty horrid and sure didn't deserve two. (The more I see of the shootout, the less I like it as a game-decider.)
Obligatory Stat Line: After 3 games in Hershey, he has 2 PIM's, no G, no A, and an even +/-. He was +1 last night.
Pothier, though ... well, WOW. He stuck out like a sore thumb to me, because he and Kronwall were easily the best Dmen on that ice for either team. It's pretty obvious that he's NHL-caliber playing in the minors. Positionally sound, smart, patient, and composed, he seemed to slow things down when he had the puck, and he'd wait for the right clear instead of taking the first clear available.
He skated quite a bit of ice time, at even strength, on the PP, and on the PK. Woods put him in in all situations, including the final five of regulation and again in OT. While he didn't initiate a lot of hits, he didn't shy away from them, either, and took a couple of solid hits with no apparent trouble. He did take a coincidental roughing minor in a scrum at the Falcons' crease, though I think that was more them falling over than real roughing. Probably the best moment, though, was late in the third behind the Hershey goal line, when a Falcon forward lined Pothier up and came at him full-speed. "Best defense no be there" - Pothier disappeared with the puck and, unable to stop, the Falcon slammed full force into the boards and went down. (He got right back up.)
As good as he looked, though, I think he could benefit from a couple more games in Hershey. A lot of his looking good is that it's plainly obvious that his defensive game is NHL-caliber in the AHL. His timing with his teammates was a tad off, somewhere between NHL and AHL and not really either. I don't think you'll fix that at the AHL level, but what he could fix is puck battles along the boards. He lost a lot of them - he seemed almost tentative to me, though I'm not sure whether that was caution or physical strength. Maybe as he gets a comfort level, he'll be more aggressive. He also got beat a couple of times, although a quick backcheck (once sprawling) saved him and managed to stymie his man anyway. A better team would have made him pay for that one, I think.
Could he benefit the Caps when he's ready? Holy moly yes. Is he ready now? Not quite. Will he be ready for the playoffs? I wouldn't bet against it. I liked what I saw from him, a lot, and when he's back up to speed, I look forward to seeing him in red.
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