My first blog here so before I start talking about what I saw at rookie camp today I will tell a little about myself. I have been following hockey my whole life and before. When my mom went to labor with me at a game against Quebec in the old USAir Arena and decided to wait until the game was decided before going to the hospital my destiny of being a Caps fan was sealed. I starting playing before my 5th birthday and continued to play through college. I played defense and some goalie growing up and have helped coach both defense and goalies while in college for my high school team. I played Club D-III in college on a team that made Nationals my senior year.
Ok now what my blogs are going to be about. They are going to be about the stuff that I see at practices and in games that might be missed or overlooked by the more mainstream bloggers and media. Some of the stuff I will talk about will be stuff other notice but the hope is some stuff isn’t being talking about elsewhere. For instance I noticed today on 3 on 2 drills after a breakout the Caps’ D were both collapsing to the strong side leaving the weak side forward open. The forwards tried to get the puck to that far guy but were only successful 1 time in about 7 that I noticed this happen. The one time the pass connected though lead to a 2 on 1 goal with Garrett Ross making a great pass that Cody Eakin tapped in. I noticed the same thing later on 5 on 5s but the Caps had the far wing back to cover leading to a few times where two forwards were racing to the puck with the D trying to catch up.
I have never seen this before and I hope that this was just something for rookie camp that will not make its way to the regular camp or games and this will lead us to give up a lot of odd man rushes and not only odd man rushes but ones that have a forward back instead of a defenseman.
Now I will go into some of the other things I saw at the rookie camp.
First before the practice started the two goalies were doing some skating drills. While I didn’t have a stopwatch going but Brandon Anderson was the much smoother and faster looking skater and also didn’t seem to wear down toward the end of the 36 or so second skating routine. Philipp Grubauer did look to wear out toward the end of that and also at the end of the practice during skating drills he was much as you would expect, much slower then the regular skaters often so slow he would do one less rep then the skaters. Anderson on the other hand, especially on the longer skates, was almost keeping up with the skaters and only when they were doing the quick back and fourths, which are much harder in goalie pads, did he stand out as slower then the regular skaters.
The lines and parings were as follows:
Gray: De Kastrozza-Sjogren-Mitchell
D-pairs (rotated because of only 7 D but here were how they ran drills)
To me this makes it seem like Eakin may have the current lead over Sjogren in the battle for the Caps last roster spot. I say this because he was with Galiev who also has an outside shot at making the team while Sjogren was on what looked more like a second line in comparison.
Eakin probably is the better choice anyway. Both player did real well protecting the puck along the boards and both were great at taking the puck away with the stick but Sjogren did not seem as physical along the boards as Eakin was in drills along the wall. Eakin also has great hands in front of the net in deflection drills. I really think that Eakin is a better fit for the 3rd/4th lines where Sjogren looks skill wise like he is more of a 2nd/3rd line player and the Caps really need a 4th line guy right now. I think both can be good in the NHL this year but I feel like Sjogren would be better as a call up getting used to the North American game in the AHL and can be called up if/when a top 9 forward goes down. The one thing that can change that is faceoffs. There were no live faceoffs today so I could not compare the two there but if Sjogren can fill the Boyd Gordon type hole better that could give him a slight edge in the battle but this as expected could be the biggest battle of camp.
One other player I really heard a lot about going into today was Dmitry Orlov. The first thing I noticed was that he was the first skater on the ice. Now he just went to the bench and was soon joined by fellow Russian Stanislav Galiev to watch the end of the goalie skate and the ice resurfacing but I think it shows a lot that he was out there and ready before anyone else. There were times in 1 on 1 drills where the two seemed to just be having fun playing keep away from each other instead of working on being physical along the walls. However the rest of the practice Orlov was clearing there to work. The thing that stood out to me was that most of what I have heard about Orlov was how great he was offensively. While he was confident with the puck and made crisp passes he didn’t seem to want to carry the puck and lead the rush as Green does for the Caps. The other thing that I noticed was how strong he was defensively. He was physical with guys in front of the net and was great with his stick on the 2 on 1s.
One last player I noticed was Dustin Stevenson. I would like to see him get a look at the regular camp. He was the most physical person on the ice. I want to see if it was just because he is going against small rookies or if he can do that against bigger guys. He won’t make the Caps anytime soon but I think he could be good in a year or two. In the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League he was 3rd in defensive scoring and 8th in the league in penalty minutes. He is a guy who won’t get a lot of press and will never be a big name guy but he could be what many wished Jeff Schultz was. Big and physical. He is 6’5” and was knocking guys around today including taking out the entire line of water bottles on the bench with a hit.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. As this is my first blog I would be happy to hear any criticism or suggestions. If there is anything you would like to be discussed in future blogs I will do my best to address those items as well.