Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hendricks stars as Caps open preseason

The Capitals opened their preseason slate last night in Columbus with a 6-2 win. Plenty of potential Bears got a chance to showcase their abilities including Braden Holtby, Andrew Gordon, and Mathieu Perreault.

But Matt Henricks made the biggest argument for a roster spot as he scored 3 goals on 4 shots. He is only in camp on a professional tryout contract so production like that will definitely help his cause for either a spot in Washington or in Hershey.

Of more concern for most following Washington and Hershey is the battle for the 2 center positions. Based on the roster makeup the Caps would much prefer to have Tomas Fleischmann win the 2nd line center spot. With 4 wingers (Semin, Laich, Fehr, Chimera) all penciled in on the 2nd and 3rd lines if Flash were to end up at wing someone would be out of regular minutes. And that just doesn't make sense.

So how did the centers do?

The 4 that played, Flash, Eakin, Perreault, and Johansson, all had solid games. In fact, of the four, only Perry failed to record a point. But according to some write ups (Capitals Insider, Japer's Rink) he played well.

Flash had the best night of the four however as he scored 2 goals and added an assist as his line (alongside Laich and Semin) accounted for 2 goals and 5 assists on the night. Eakin added a goal and MoJo added 2 assists as well.

It seems to be a 3 horse race for the 2 spots and with Flash penciled in at #2 center it would be a surprise to see either Eakin or Keith Aucoin (who didn't play last night) beat out Perry or MoJo for the #3 spot.

Obviously one preseason game is a bit early to start making predictions but considering the dynamics of the situation I think, barring an exceptional performance by someone over the next few weeks, the lines are probably set.

Line 1 ~Ovechkin - Backstrom - Knuble
Line 2 ~ Laich - Fleischmann - Semin
Line 3 ~ Chimera - Johansson - Fehr
Line 4 ~ Bradley - Steckel - B Gordon
extras ~ King, A Gordon/Hendricks

Why is that you ask...

It's simple. MoJo isn't going to come to Hershey (more than likely) so its either Sweden or the NHL. If he goes back to Sweden he really doesn't develop anymore. His main issue is adjusting to the pace and rink size here in North America. So sending him to Sweden is silly unless he is straight beat out for the position, which seems unlikely.

In addition Perry can come and go freely form Hershey. If they need him for 2 games then they can call him up without worrying about waivers. Plus Perry's main problem is probably consistency and size, which he can work on in Hershey too.

If MoJo was a candidate for Hershey I think this would be more of a battle but that doesn't seem likely as he isn't interested in playing there. If that changes then you could see the battle play out longer as he could adjust to the rink size in Hershey for a few months.

Both players will get plenty of time in Washington but to start the year I think MoJo gets the opportunity.

As for the other battles, Gordon and Hendricks are probably fighting for the final spot in Washington. There are others up for the position too, Beagle, Willsie, Pinner, but Gordo and Henricks are the leading candidates.

This is a tough one to call. One, Hendricks, has played regularly in the NHL (60 games the last 2 years with Colorado) but has a lower 'ceiling'. The other, Gordon, has played in only 3 NHL games but could become a regular producer for an NHL team.

Both players have to clear waivers to come to Hershey, which factors in to the decision. I think it actually makes the decision for the Caps. If Gordon shows enough I don't see how he gets sent back to Hershey.

Why risk losing him to a waiver claim like Bourque last year? Honestly the Caps were pretty much done with Bourque when the sent him through waivers last year. Obviously he has talent but they had given him every chance to win a spot and he couldn't do it. Gordon is a different case as they don't want to lose him right now.

So in my highly unprofessional opinion we have likely seen the last of Andrew Gordon in Hershey as well. I think he makes the Caps as the 13th/14th forward and will see time on the 3rd and 4th lines with regularity this season.

But remember it is still early in the preseason with plenty of games to go.


Hershey's training camp starts on Monday the 27th and 9 players were reassigned to Hershey earlier this week:

G Todd Ford
D Patrick Cullity
D Joe Finley
F David de Kostrazza
F Anton Gustafsson
F Jake Hauswirth
F Nikita Kashirsky
F Dmitry Kugryshev
F Ashton Rome

Expect more cuts to be made this weekend as the Caps will want Hershey to have a full (enough) roster for their camp on Monday.

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