BALTIMORE | In the 2010 preseason, the Capitals played six games. And while Brooks Laich played five of them, most of the stars (Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, etc) appeared in three or four. That’s pretty normal around the NHL.
But don’t expect that same kind of scenario in 2011.
“Our main guys will probably play more games in this preseason than they’ve played in the past,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Four, five, six games rather than the three or four that they played, maximum, in the past to get ready for the start of the season.”
Boudreau explained that in football and baseball, big-time players usually exit games early. The same doesn’t go for hockey (look, the benches wouldn’t fit expanded rosters, anyway), and Boudreau likes the idea of his guys “getting their pace back,” and hitting opponents.
And he wants to get the band tuned up before the Oct. 8 season opener.
“We got a lot of new guys,” Boudreau pointed out. “Once we start ramping up early next week and getting everybody together, we want to get our team together as quick as we can.”
Among the players to draw unsolicited praise from Boudreau included speedy wing Stan Galiev, tough guy D.J. King and goalie Michal Neuvirth, who played the entire game and stopped 25 of 27 shots. After talking up the effort of younger players, Boudreau was eager to lump his goaltender into that group.
“I thought Michal Neuvirth Is still pretty young, and I thought he was the guy that played very steady for us tonight,” Boudreau said.
Neuvirth could hardly be blamed for either goal the Predators scored. A turnover led to Chris Mueller’s in the second period, and a broken play resulted in Colin Wilson’s in the third.
Younger guys (or “hungrier” in Boudreau’s words) stood out, but the coach pointed out one issue when discussing how impressed he was with feisty right wing Garrett Mitchell.
“I told him after the first period, the one thing about the younger guys is they stayed on too long,” he said. “And that comes with experience, and they were changing when they were tired and then they would get caught out a little too long – rather than changing at the right times. It’s hard to explain, but before they got tired – when they still had energy, when they knew it was the right time.”
Or maybe they were following the lead of captain Alex Ovechkin, who enjoys some longer shifts.
Boudreau had a tough time explaining either of the goals against, because 1st Mariner Arena didn’t come equipped with ramps for coaches to stand on. He said assistant coach Bob Woods pointed to Laich as the guy who it looked like turned the puck over on goal No. 1.
Replays weren’t available, and the game wasn’t televised. But Boudreau was planning on watching the DVD of the game on the ride home, so perhaps Wednesday will bring some more insight.
In a blog post during rookie camp, I wrote that goaltending coach Dave Prior told me Steffen Soberg expressed some hesitation about playing in North America this season back in development camp in June.
Prior and I talked during intermission Tuesday night just so he could set the record straight that he said Soberg showed hesitation about it after returning home following development camp, but still in July. He was right, and I misinterpreted. Here’s the quote from Prior:
“He had some indecision after the camp, regarding it.”
I read that as Soberg talking to Prior while at Kettler but at the completion of camp, but that was not the case. Not a huge difference, and Prior made it clear he wasn’t upset, but it’s worth mentioning to give everyone the full story.
Soberg is reportedly staying in Europe this year, according to a newspaper in his native Norway, though that is a concern more for the young goalie and the team that owns his rights, the Swift Current Broncos, than the Caps. He was their fourth-round pick in June’s draft.