“Around The Boards” – Issue Two

Welcome back for the second installment of KOL’s “Around The Boards” roundtable discussion. We published our first issue this summer and it was a huge success, so we knew we had to do it again. With the preseason underway and the regular season within our grasps, we asked fellow members of the Capitals blogosphere how they feel about the team leading up to October 8, when Washington takes the ice for their first meaningful game in almost six months. The rush towards retribution starts now, but who will lead the charge?

Our panelists:

Emily Bennett (Japers’ Rink)

Chris Gordon (Caps Snaps)

Dave Nichols (Caps News Network)

Let’s start with rookie and training camp. Which Capitals prospect impressed you the most during rookie and/or training camp and has the best chance of spending time in Washington this season?

Nichols: I think this question has two answers.  Marcus Johannson was clearly the best player on the ice at rookie camp and will probably be spending time in a Caps sweater this season.  But the guy that impressed me was Philipp Grubauer.  He was very solid in practices and in the rookie game against Philly. It’s a testament to the scouts that they keep finding goalies that can play.

Gordon: Marcus Johansson continued his progress adjusting to the NHL sized rink and North American play. He possesses tremendous skill and could be a serious weapon for the Capitals. Johansson’s contract includes an “out clause,” so if the Caps send him to Hershey and he’s not pleased, he’ll be back playing in Karlstad, Sweden, in no time.

Bennett: My choice will most likely spend the season far away from the Capitals, but never say never when the iron-willed Cody Eakin is involved.

Consider:

  • Everyone always talks about Eakin’s blazing speed on the ice.  No mention is ever made of any lethal slapshot, or an otherworldly wrister.  Nobody really mentions his shots at all.  Yet somehow he managed to light up the scoreboard 47 times (50 if you count his time in Hershey.)
  • Oh, and that first Hershey goal? Definitely scored on his first shot as a pro.
  • 3,000 kids started the season in September 2009 in the Canadian Hockey League, including a number of blue-chip, sure-fire future NHL stars.  Exactly one was still taking the ice in a meaningful game in mid-June.
  • Further to that, the Hershey “Black Aces” squad had +/- eight Caps prospects skating on the practice rink.  Of those eight, four got into games with the Bears. Of those four, only one got a sweater for a Game Six Finals-clinching roster spot and his name on the Calder Cup.
  • Cody arrived at Team Canada WJC camp in August with little fanfare and a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  He looked around at the fawning attention being paid to a few of the other players and decided he would fix that by simply being the best player on the ice in the scrimmages.  And so he was.
  • And of course, there was the matter of the unassisted game-winning goal in the Caps-Flyers rookie scrimmage, and then all the other juniors being sent back to their teams, and a goal in his first-ever NHL game (I think on his second shot), and add to that iron will a little streak of cussedness and … underestimate Cody Eakin at your peril.
  • By the way, the Swift Current Broncos are fairly sure they will get their captain back soon.  Right?

All that being said, Rink boss JP likes Andrew Gordon.  So there you have it.

Keeping with the “breaking out” theme, which Caps regular is poised to have a break out season?

Nichols: Hard to not say John Carlson here.  Everything the Real American Hero touches seems to turn to gold.  Very much looking forward to watching him and King Karl Alzner play together every night.

Gordon: Eric Fehr notched over 20 goals last season playing just over 12 minutes per night. That was good for 5th in the NHL in goals per minute of 5 on 5 play. If Bruce Boudreau finally gives him legitimate playing time, Fehr could put up some serious numbers.

Bennett: Eric Fehr.  Just ’cause.

While the aforementioned Caps are ready to impress, some are on thin ice (excuse the hockey pun). Which Caps regular is on the proverbial “hot seat” this season?

Nichols: Alexander Semin.  The Enigma needs to play focused every night and reduce his off-the-puck penalties or he’ll find himself with a one-way ticket to a second divison team at the trade deadline.

Gordon: I think head coach Bruce Boudreau has to lead the Capitals deep into the playoffs this year. Despite the Capitals impressive regular season performance the last couple years he has posted just a 1-3 playoff series record with arguably the most talented team in hockey. If the Capitals continue to lose in the playoffs, someone will need to be held responsible.

Bennett: The entire second forward line, as it is presently constituted with Laich/Fleischmann/Semin, sits on the hot seat as the season begins. The loss of secondary scoring from this line was a key factor in the Capitals’ inability to put Montreal away in the first round last April.  And all three men are UFA as of July 1, 2011, which means that the players and the team will be evaluating their future relationships as the season evolves.

The line came under some criticism from Coach Boudreau early in camp as they underperformed in the first scrimmage. But they got off to a decent start in their first preseason game against Columbus, when they skated as the top line in a 6-2 win and finished a combined seven points, +5, with 10 SOG (plus Alex Semin’s 4 PIM.) They will have to keep the hustle in their game, fulfill their defensive responsibilities, and consistently find the back of the net when the games start to count.

Thanks to Emily, Chris and Dave for participating. If any bloggers or fans are interested in contributing to our next discussion, please email Adam at adamvingan@gmail.com.

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