The team once again focused on puck moving drills. These drills have helped me see a difference from past teams as the players are really moving the puck quickly without hesitation. Many of the drills simulate the transition game from getting the puck moving quickly out of the defensive zone and immediately on the offensive attack. They practiced moving the puck from the defenseman either up the middle to the center breaking towards the neutral zone, or along the boards to the wing who then looked for the center up the middle on the breakout. Here are the drills practiced today:
- One on one ice length trying to get a shot on goal.
- Two on one same as above.
- Two on three battle for the puck. The puck was dumped into the zone toward the end boards and two offensive players were forechecking and battling three defenders trying to obtain possession of the puck.
- Three on three same as above.
- A five on two drill where the defenseman had there hands full and were under intense pressure.
- A five on five drill once again simulating the quick transition game from the defensive zone to offensive zone.
- And one of my favourite drills was what I'll call the five on five stickless drill. The puck started in the corner where the offensive player had control of the puck. The defensive players had to use the butt end of their stick as their hockey blade. The object was for the defensive players to protect their goalie and get the puck out of the zone while basically playing without stick blades.
- At the end of the drills they competed in a four on four scrimmage.
Today was more structured from a player/player standpoint as guys were playing together as defensive partners and in line combinations. This may have been to get the guys more comfortable with linemates for the pre-season games coming up. Still missing from practice was Jiri Novotny. I haven't heard or read any official announcement on his status but I am anxious to see him get to camp and show what he may provide to the team. Adam Foote, Fredrik Modin and Joel Bouchard were also absent from todays session.
I really liked the look of some of the line combo's today:
Glencross-Fedorov-Brule, Chimera-Brassard-Voracek, Starkov-Peca-Dorsett, Goertzen-MacKenzie-Shelley and Jarman-Dupuis-Marquardt
Russell-Tollefsen, Methot-Wharton, Campbell-Hendrikx and Sipotz-Redlihs
I have nothing but good things to say about all of these players. They all played well in both the drills and the scrimmage and played their roles. The skilled guys used their skills and the grinders used their grit. But I have to give props to Brassard today as I believe he stood out. He was very skilled with the puck and made some great passes to his teammates. That line looked great with a combination of speed and skill. It was nice to see Brassard and Voracek get over the first day emotions and show us what kind of players they are going to be for us in the future.
Nash-Zherdev-Vyborny, Legein-Beech-Fritsche, Lindstrom-Platt-Pineault, Boll-Malhotra-Sestito, Szwez-Murray-Pohl
Klesla-Hejda, Westcott-Hainsey, Maenpaa-Brookbank, Plekhanov-Landry and Smith-Wright
After the rough start and looking through all of the dazzle of the star line, I give props to Platt and Lindstrom who both played well today. I'm sure their familiarity with each other helped but they took it to another level today showing their skill and intensity. Both of the first two defensive pairs listed above looked very comfortable together and could be projected as two of the opening night pairings. I would be remiss if I didn't talk a little about Zherdev. This kid oozes with mad skills. It appears, for two days anyway, that he is making a consciencious effort to buy into the system. If he continues on this path and this line stays together, it could be one of the most dynamic lines in the league. There was plenty of dialog going on today between the three of them and it was great to see. Practice your faceoffs though please.
A couple players took a few dings during practice today. Fedorov took a puck in the groin while screening for a shot from the blueline. He was down for the count for a minute or so. The entire crowd kind of winced. Once he got back by the bench I could see Hitch say something to him and Fedorov smiled as best he could. He was fine once he got his wind back. Tollefsen took a stick to the face/head. He came to the bench gingerly but was ready by the time he was up for his next drill. Platt checked Boll hard during one of the five on five drills and Boll stayed down temporarily. He got up and finished practice with no problems.
One last thing I would like to comment on is the perception from some that Hitch doesn't like young players. I saw on several occassions yesterday and today how false that statement is. Hitch has interrupted drills several times to give special instructions to many of the younger players and not just the "potential stars". Today he was schooling Hendrikx and Landry on where and why he wanted them in a certain position during a drill. It looks to me that Hitch enjoys working with the young guys otherwise why would he waste his time instructing guys like Hendrikx or Landry when most likely they're not going to be anywhere close to making the team.
Tomorrow afternoon is the first pre-season game against the Nashville Predators at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Team is scheduled to play in the game. The White Team will practice in the morning.