For fans of physically inclined style of hockey, Sunday’s opening Duschesne Cup scrimmage between groups B and C didn’t offer a great deal of glass-slamming action or open-ice thumping, but don’t try telling that to Tomas Fleischmann. Group C’s Trevor Bruess sent the Capitals’ center/left wing to the very bottom of the opposing players’ bench with a beautifully timed, beautifully brutal body check early on in the action, eliciting a collective gasp from the filled stands at KCI. It took Flash some seconds to make his way back from the crumpling and on to the ice, inspiring one member of the media to suggest that the young Czech looked like “a polar bear emerging from an ice hole,” bearing a similar quizzical look about his surroundings.
Otherwise, Sunday’s action was confined to group B’s end of the ice, as C’s line of Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault, and Eric Fehr inflicted heavy damage in the second stanza en route to a 5-0 white-washing. Perreault was a standout performer on the afternoon, notching a goal, an assist, and setting up his linemates for numerous other outstanding scoring opportunities. Andrew Gordon, Keith Aucoin, and Francois Bouchard also offered active and productive shifts for group C, and accounted for the scrimmage’s first tally. Bruce Boudreau credited group C’s waves of forward unit speed, preying upon a relatively young and inexperienced set of B blueliners (excepting Tom Poti and John Erskine). Boudreau counted three breakaways by Chimera alone.
But B, bearing the line of Brooks Laich, Flash, and Alexander Semin, ought to have established more of an offensive threat. On this second day of camp, though, it wasn’t meant to be for B.
(At last year’s camp I wrote about potentially incorporating the names of Capitals’ greats from the past as identifiers for the groups in the Duchesne Cup competition. Team Langway, Team Hunter, Team Kolzig, that kind of thing. Would be so much more interesting — and less awkward a set of identifiers — than the lifeless alphabet approach. Maybe next year.)
On the dasher boards in front of both player benches at Kettler this season there’s a new message carried out in a bright red banner and white lettering: ‘Building America’s Hockey Capital.’ It’s no clever corporate sloganeering, just a faith statement seemingly crafted by this message- and branding-savvy hockey organization. It seemed an accurate and appropriate claim to broadcast on this sunny, still-summer NFL Sunday as an overflow crowd packed the practice facility. The popularity Perreault achieved among the red-clad in Verizon Center last season apparently has carried over to KCI and training camp this fall. Urgings on his behalf could be heard regularly as he quarterbacked an impressive attack during the scrimmage.
Boudreau isn’t being coy about the pairings he’s assembled on camp’s first weekend. He’s admitted that he’s paired John Carlson and Karl Alzner together based on reports and first-hand vewings from Hershey last season, where the pair formed what many American League observers regarded was the best blueline duo on the circuit, as well as the pair’s success briefly in Washington last spring. And so the Chimera-Perreault-Fehr grouping up front could be more than a whim of an experiment as well at this camp.
Andrew Gordon got C’s onslaught started in the first frame off a deft setup from Aucoin. Brian Fahey, who skated with Lake Erie of the American League last season, formed an effective blueline pairing with Joe Finley on Sunday and sent a dribbler through traffic and past Michal Neuvirth to send his squad into the first intermission up 2-0. The first two frames were contested on a running clock, but it didn’t run fast enough for group B in the second stanza. A Chimera breakaway made it 3-0. And on a power play Perreault executed a superb keep-in high in the offensive zone that led to an Eric Fehr tap-in to make it 4-0. Perreault then finished the scoring cleaning up a rebound not long afterward.
It’s the most important audition to date in Perreault’s life. He’s off to a flying start.