The Future on the Blueline Is Bright, and It Is Here

Even though Washington is still stuck in the grips of a crushing Game 7 loss in the opening round of the NHL playoffs, hockey fans here shouldn’t be down in the dumps about everything. How would Caps’ fans feel about a new defensive pairing next year featuring two bluechip young talents?

Well, Head Coach Bruce Boudreau all but confirmed that Karl Alzner and John Carlson will start the year with the big club.

“Karl and [John] were our two best players . . . I would venture to guess that I think they are ready for the NHL full time.”

Gabby’s statements are a ringing endorsement, considering that the rest of the D-pairings, sans Tom Poti, thoroughly underachieved in the postseason. Carlson and Alzner provide a stay at home presence and an offensive threat in one pairing. Even though they are young and will make mistakes, they are Washington’s two  best skaters on the back end.

Together, the two provided pretty impressive stats. While Alzner only played one game, he managed to stay on the positive side of the +/-, something he couldn’t do during the regular season. Carlson was perhaps the team’s best player, with the exceptions of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Varly. He went +6 in the series, with three assists and a goal. Not only that, but he also earned himself the nickname Captain America.

What is most notable about the duo’s play in game 7 was when Boudreau decided to put them on the ice together. Both spent time on the penalty kill, and Carlson was featured on the power play. Not only that, but inside of five minutes remaining last Wednesday night, Boudreau threw Carlson on the ice and double-shifted him. He wasn’t double-shifting Mike Green, he wasn’t double-shifting Jeff Shultz, it was the young rookie Carlson who was getting a shoulder tap to take the ice and remain on it.

Faith is one of the most things a player can earn from his coach, and it sure seems that John Carlson has earned that already from Bruce Boudreau. As has Alzner. Mike Green showed he certainly isn’t a star in the postseason yet, and now he may not even be the team’s best defenseman. Quite a lofty statement, but with Carlson on the team, Green will certainly be challenged for the top spot. And that can only help the Caps. 

While it was only one game, Alzer and Carlson had speed, chemistry and even a bit of a scoring threat while on the ice together. Inevttably they will form the Caps’ top pairing once they have more experience in the NHL. After the last three playoffs disappointments, there obviously needs to be some change on the back end. Bringing these two up for good may just be the centerpiece of that change.

One last thing to remember about Carlson and Alzner is that not only are they good, but they are winners and leaders. Both have won a Calder Cup in Hershey, and Carlson of course delivered gold for the Americans at the most recent the World Juniors. Alzner served as captain for Canada in the World Juniors. There is high-end skill and high-end leadership in this pairing.

Forget Shlutz and Green, bring on Alzner and Carlson. The new era for Washington defenseman starts now, and it starts with the two young guns that were featured in Game 7. Despite the loss, Washington can’t forget that the future is very bright, and bright on the back end.  And while the hockey season ended way too prematurely in Washington, both John Carlson and Karl Alzner are partnered again and playing hockey this spring, up in Hershey. Their pairing there offers a terrific preview of one we’ll see in D.C. come fall.

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This entry was posted in American Hockey League, Calder Cup, Hershey Bears, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Prospects, USA Hockey, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Future on the Blueline Is Bright, and It Is Here

  1. bucknelldad says:

    Amen! Poti is about the only other blue-line worth keeping, since none of the others proved their keep in the playoffs, and also that +/- ratings mean nothing for blueliners on a team with this much offensive talent. Facts are facts — Schultz and Jurcina have size, but neither uses it, and the former is especially slow and plodding. I remain puzzled why Erskine, who shown in the playoffs last year, wasn’t used. As for Green, trade him to a team that might actually see some talent in him, perhaps on a league’s-worst power play. He just plain sucks when it counts. But Alzner and Carlson are tops — great column.

  2. What are you smoking? Even on an average day, Gren is the best skating defensemen on the Capitals. Further what is it with so many DC fans not understanding how long it takes a defenseman to really mature. I agree that Carlson, and probably Alzner both will and should be on the opening day roster. However, Schultz, Green and Poti should and will be there too. That means that between Sha-Mo, Jurcina, Erskine, and possibly thought doubtfully Corvo they’ll need to id two other guys. Add McNiel and possibly Finley in the pipeline and you have some depth in the system. …

    Relax – major changes are not necessary in that end. They just need maturity and to executre. Further the list I gave is big enough that with some good conditioning they already have the size to adjust and play more physically in next years playoffs.

  3. OvieTracker says:

    Despite my overall malaise and lack of interest in the playoffs anymore, I remain optimistic about the Caps’ future because of the presence of Alzner and Carlson in their defensive corps.

    What I’m not so sure about is Mike Green’s mea culpa about his huge role in the Caps first round loss. I’d believe him if I had specific evidence of his remorse, and the only way that’s going to happen is if he proves himself to be an asset and not a liability when the games that really matter are played. He has to show me he’s a playoff caliber defenseman, nothing more, nothing less.

  4. McBride says:

    Anybody have any thoughts on Anton Volchenkov? Might he be in the Capitals’ future?

  5. VanZabDan says:

    “Forget Shlutz and Green” with dumb comments like that you’ll be an intern for life. Both made tremendous improvement this year and are what, 25? You can love Carlson and Alzner (and you should) without bad mouthing the rest of the team. We lost when we should have won and it sucks. However, talentless duds didn’t put up 121 pts. Changes can and should be made but they’ll be at the margins. As for Varly, if you outshoot your opponent almost 2 to 1 in game 6&7 and lose, your goalie probably wasn’t one of your best players.

  6. Hittman says:

    POINT OF FACT: If not for Halak, none of these conversations would be occurring. We drew the shortest straw. Or as Metallica would say, “Shortest straw has been pulled for you,” Mike Green.

    However, it would be nice to dial down the offense just a tad, say from 11 to 9, and seriously consider adding a large, mobile, mean, shot blocking d-man. I’ve been saying it for a long time, and I’m going to keep saying it. The shot block stats were incredibly lopsided all year and especially in the playoffs both last year and this year. Volchenkov would be a fabulous addition. Remember when Detroit traded Coffey (gasp!) for a little more grit in Shanny? Sometimes one large trade is all it takes. With Volchenkov, a trade doesn’t even have to occur. He’s a FA! Send Ovy to his place with a bottle of Stoli and a contract.

  7. I think we actually need two strong, veteran D-men. while keeping Green, Carlson, Alzner, Poti, and maybe Shultz.

    The true fact of the matter is, after watching Montreal dismantle us – every coach should know what to do next time we play – especially if there are minimal changes to personnel next season (I expect that to be the case).

    We need to find a way to stay aggressive offensively while still shutting down (as much as possible) other teams offense. Don’t forget that the D position is as much about moving the puck out of the zone and setting up the break out as it is being camped out in front of the net.

    It’s really about balance and we are just a bit off right now.

    one last thing – the goalie situation is really not a problem in DC – we need to stop worrying about it too much.

  8. Hittman says:

    @ ML

    The goalie problem is a problem. Jose is not going to be re-signed (we can only hope) and the rookies are all that will be left over. I’d like to see Turco get signed to a two year contract at a 2-4 mil per season rate.

  9. Ralph says:

    Do you base your argument that Bruce has faith in Alzner based on one game? The kid has been called up and sent down all season while guys like Sloan get ice time. Bruce has also seemed to make a habit of calling out certain players and Alzner certaintly has heard his named called out by Bruce in post game press conferences.

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