OFB receives terrific feedback at times from individuals with privileged perches — true hockey insiders. One such friend of OFB (let’s call him the Keen-Eyed Observer) occasionally passes on some excellent observations on both the NHL and the CHL, and with his permission, we’re going to share some of them, while honoroing his request for anonymity, as they are too good to keep to ourselves.
- KEO is liking Boyd Gordon’s play right now — his lateral movement and skating agility are assets on the PK, and his hockey smarts allow him to work the passing lanes defensively. The KEO is feeling better about Gordon than he has in the past, and thinks that Gordon might not just be a proficient PK specialist, but may turn out to be excellent in that role.
- The Caps’ PK, in general, needs to change its scheme to be more aggressive. It’s set up, right now, not to cause turnovers, but to provide Olie or Johnson the opportunity to see the shots coming. Words like “patient” and “inactive” are generally not ones you want applied to your kill, and they do to the Caps’.
- ’06 draftee Matheiu Perreault is playing extraordinarily well, and looked good in the ADT CAN/RUS challenge. An offensively brilliant player, great hands and hockey sense, but still gets knocked over by a slight breeze. He’s one of those beautiful soft-cradling stick-handlers — you don’t hear the clap of the stick as the puck arrives and it looks like he’s never actually touching the puck to make it move. Doesn’t look intimidated by physical play, though he’s careful about choosing his spots. Does work hard in the corners, but isn’t going to take a lot of hits to make plays.
- Francois Bouchard has high-end offensive talent, but also is a good two-way player. Hasn’t seen him much, but he looks like a top 6 forward in the making. Bouchard is the second-best faceoff guy on his team, and does the little things, like taking a hit to make a play. He’s close to being ready for the pro game, with his talent, his maturity, and thinking of the game being at pro-level. He might be in a Caps’ sweater sooner rather than later — he’s not “a project.” An exciting prospect who isn’t getting much hype right now.
- Quick thoughts on a recent Hershey game: Hunt is looking good — his skating, passing and willingness to work to gain the zone are impressive. A serious near NHL-ready prospect.- Fehr needs to get better at receiving passes and executing the breakout.- Nycholat looks good, as well. He would probably be better off in another organization — he deserves a chance at some NHL ice time. Maybe not in D.C., but some slow defensive corps could use him — maybe a team that wears orange and black, for instance.
- Still not ready to call Erskine a success just yet, but there’s no denying he has done a good job in a few games. His lack of mobility can still be exploited, but so far he’s covered his weaknesses adequately — the poke check against Carolina, for example. It will never be a relaxed experience watching him defend against a speedy forward, but Erskine has played a few strong games. Not sure how long he can keep it up, but Big John is playing brilliantly simple and nasty hockey right now, and his effect on Eminger has been well worth his contract.Erskine has Eminger playing with a renewed confidence — Eminger’s passes all of a sudden have 20 mph more heat behind them and he’s hitting the tape with more regularity, and for perhaps the first time in his career he didn’t look nervous making the turn back to his own corner to retrieve the puck.Everything about Eminger has looked better the past two games . . . just collecting the puck behind the goal you can see his eyes glued up ice rather than on the bouncing grenade on his stick.
- The earlier criticism of Pother for turning back on the PP and restarting the breakout is unwarranted, for the most part. He knows what to do in those situations, and when he turns back, it’s because the forwards haven’t given him a clear option. Now there is less patience. Lately, any open stick will get the pass, regardless of if they are in position to make a play. This causes unprepared dumps, which lead to the PK unit clearing quickly. At even strength, the Caps have shown improvement in that area — the D is turning back now when they might have tried to force something earlier. This also causes the forwards to work harder. The D needs to use the forwards for more give-and-goes, as well, to gain the line.
- The PP in general is frustrating. As discussed, far too often the unprepared dump-in is the only play a forward will have. If the forwards work harder on trying to get open — in the Caps’ defensive zone and the neutral zone, not just the offensive zone — things will pick up on the PP.