Inför matchen mot Anaheim Ducks 00.30

Washington Capitals vann sina sju första matcher vilket är den bäst säsongsinledningen någonsin, men efter det har de förlorat sina två senaste matcher. Laget har lyckats fördela istiden över hela laget, både för forwards och backar. Spelet i powerplay som var ett sorgebarn förra säsongen och i de senaste två slutspelen har fungerat utmärkt. Boxplay spelet som var helt ok inledningsvis har chanserat rejält de senaste matcherna.
Anaheim startade säsongen bra och vann fyra av sina fem första matcher men efter det har de fått grus i maskineriet och förlorat fem av sina sex senast spelade matcher. Natten mot söndag förlorade de mot Columbus Blue Jackets som har varit NHL:s sämsta lag så här långt.

Tekningsövertag

En chans för Washington att bättra på sina tekningssiffror, som har varit ganska usla den här säsongen. Förra året slutade Washington på sjätte plats i NHL:s tekningsliga med 51.9% vunna tekningar. I år har de bara vunnit 47.9% av tekningarna och ligger med det på 27 plats. Anahaim var dåliga på att teka redan förra året då de landade på 26:e plats av de 30 lag i ligan. Hitills i år har de imponerande nog lyckats vara ännu sämre och ligger sist i tekningsligan med den rent bedrövliga procentsatsen 44.9.

Hemmaplansfördel
Det brukar heta att första hemmamatchen efter en roadtrip alltid är lite riskabel. Anledningen till det är att det är lätt att slappna av när man äntligen kommer hem igen och att man vill imponera på hemmapubliken.Vilket i det här gången är mera sant än vanligt med tanke på att Washington har förlorat sina två senaste (borta)matcher. Washington ska dock kunna uttnyttja sina hemaplansfördel den här gången Anaheim spelar nämligen sin femte match på en sju matcher lång bortaturné.

Ta bort Anaheims första kedja ur matchen

Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry och Bobby Ryan har gjort 12 mål på 11 matcher. Vilket med deras mått mätt är ganska mediokert.
Brooks Laich, Joel Ward och en ännu okänd tredjelänk kommer sannolikt att få i uppgift att förhindra att den farliga kedjan får tryck i anfallszonen. Anaheims anfallspel har varit dåligt hitills. De har bara gjort två mål de två senaste matcherna, och har gjort 1.91 mål per match i snitt. Näst sämst i hela NHL.

Anaheims tränare Randy Carlyle anser att ett av problem är att hans spelare letar efter det perfekta skottet och pga det skjuter för lite, och att de har fått för många skott blockerade. Washingtons tränare å andra sidan pratade efter träningen igår om att det vore önskvärt att gå tillbaka till att blockera lite fler skott igen, som det gjorde i de första sju matcherna. Att blocka många skott kan vara att tecken på att spelarna visar rätt inställning och gör allt för att vinna vilket givetvis är positivt. Men ganska ofta betyder många blockerade skott i en match att ett lag har varit tillbakapressat och därför varit tvingade att blockera många skott.

Nicklas Bäckström har gjort flest poäng för Washington 12 poäng på 9 matcher.

Teemu Selänne har gjort flest poäng för Ducks med 10 poäng på 11 matcher.

Det verkar som om John Erskine är redo att  gör sin säsongsdebut i nattens match.
Cody Eakin blev upkallad från Hershey Bears idag och kommer sannolikt att göra sin första NHL-match mot Ducks.

Mike Green är fortfarande utanför laget pga sin skadade fot men var ialla fall på is en stund idag.  D.J. King gick som väntat igenom waivers.

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The Steffen Søberg Situation

A few days ago when this year’s rookie camp started, the Washington Capitals’ 117th pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Norwegian goalie Steffen Søberg, was suddenly missing from the roster. The club released a statement that said that Søberg wouldn’t attend camp this year. They said that he needed time to decide if he would play the upcoming season in Europe or in North America.

Steffen Søberg was picked by the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League in the CHL’s import draft and attended a training camp with the WHL team earlier in the summer. The Broncos’ coach and general manager Mark Lamb said in an interview a couple of days ago that Søberg had some personal problems to deal with back home, but they expected him to return to the team as soon as his problems were resolved. Lamb also said that Steffen Søberg  can’t play anywhere else because his rights belong to the Broncos this season.

Today Søberg gave an interview to the Norwegian news paper Dagbladet.no in which he addressed Lamb’s comments.

“My personal problems are very overblown. My only reason for going home is that I don’t want to be there. I have told them from the beginning that I don’t want to be there. I’m not depressed or anything like that, I just don’t want to be there.”

It sounds like the Broncos coach expects you to come back?

“Yeah, maybe he is hoping for that, but deep down inside I think he knows that I’m not coming back. I just don’t feel like I’m ready to move that far away on my own just yet.”

Søberg has asked the club to release him from his contract so that he can start playing for another team. In the meantime he is training with his old club Manglerud Star in Norway.

You are not afraid that this will burn all your bridges to the NHL?

”It won’t ruin anything for me. They have told me that they don’t view me as a bad prospect if I choose to play outside of North America, but they would have preferred that I play in North America. I’m not at all ruling out that I will play over there sometime in the future, but right now I just don’t want to be there. I think it’s better that someone that really does want to be there gets my spot instead.”

A timeline of The Steffen Søberg situation

May 5, 2011: Søberg talked to the Norwegian paper Nettavisen.no about the possibility of being drafted by the NHL. Steffen said that there is a possibility that he will get drafted but that is not something that he takes for granted. Because of an incredible performance at the U-18 World Championship in Germany, several Canadian junior teams have started to become interested in picking Søberg in the import draft. “I think it’s a bit far to move all the way to Canada. I’m going to think about for a bit but I think I will stay in Europe,” said Søberg. He also talked about his need to train with a real goalie coach which is something that his Norwegian team doesn’t have.

June 11, 2011: Hockeysverige.se reports that Swedish Elite League champion Färjestad are interested in recruiting the Norwegian goalie for their newly formed junior team.

June 12, 2011: In yet another interview with Nettavisen.no, Søberg confirms that Färjestad has showed interest in him and that he is very excited about the possibility to work with renowned goalie coach Erik Granqvist. Granqvist has worked with goalies such as Henrik Nilsson (Calgary Flames), Alexander Salák (Chicago Blackhawks), and Jonas Gustavsson (Toronto Maple Leafs ). “They want me to be the number one goalie on their J20-team and as third goalie for the big club. I can’t imagine anything better than to train with Färjestad’s SEL team. I always had to train myself so to speak. I have participated in goaltender camps but only once a year. I think that a goalie coach will help me improve my game a lot. I think a coach that is specialized on goalies will help me a lot, not just with the technical aspects of my games but with the mental aspect as well. Just to have someone to talk to after a game that knows what it’s all about would be huge for me.”

June 25, 2011: The Washington Capitals picked Søberg in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Right after the draft Capitals goalie coach Dave Prior says that they would prefer Søberg to play in North America.

June 29, 2011 The Swift Current Broncos picked Søberg number six in the CHL import draft.

July 15, 2011: At the Capitals development camp, Søberg talked about playing overseas:
“That was something that Washington wanted me to do. I also had some offers from Sweden and stuff that would’ve been easier for me, not moving that far away,” he said. “But I think it’s gonna be great. Dave Prior [says] that’s the best place to develop as a goalie, so I trust that,” Søberg told the Washington Times.

So what to make of this?
If you are a representative or a fan of the Swift Current Broncos, you have a good reason to feel very disappointed in this situation. The team wasted a high draft pick on a player that at the time of the draft seemed committed to coming over, but it is clear now that that is not the case. It is of course impossible to say at this time how much the loss of Søberg will hurt the team. Also unknown as of now is if the Broncos will play hard ball and prevent Søberg from suiting up for another team or if they will release him from his obligations.

From a Washington Capitals perspective on the other hand, I see no reason to be overly worried about this situation. It’s unfortunate that Søberg didn’t make up his mind earlier though so the Broncos didn’t waste a pick on him. Looking at this from the outside, it sounds like he wanted to play for Färjestad all along, but that opportunity is most likely not available any longer since Färjestad picked up Swiss goalie Luca Boltshauser to fill that position. With the hockey season already started in a lot of European countries, it could be difficult for Søberg to find a opening. But I think that he is viewed as being interesting and promising enough for some team to take him on even if most teams already are set.

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Nicklas Bäckström playing golf and drinking beer

Nicklas Bäckström playing golf in Gothenburg on August 25 with a bunch of rich people.

Nicklas Bäckström and Henrik Zetterberg.

Nicklas Bäckström and Henrik Zetterberg.

Nicklas drinking beer. This pic will come in handy after bad games.

Nicklas drinking beer. This pic will come in handy after bad games.

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Nicklas Bäckström has arena named after him in Valbo

On Sunday afternoon Nicklas Bäckström returned to Valbo, the small town just outside of Gävle where he grew up. Nicky visited Valbo to have the town’s hockey arena named after him. The new name of the arena is Nickback arena, the same name as the Bäckström family company.

NickBack Arena.  Photo: Ulric Jansson / Sveriges Radio

NickBack Arena. . Photo: Ulric Jansson / Sveriges Radio

Nicklas talked to Swedish Radio station SR. “I think it’s a good thing to give back. I was incredibly happy when Valbo called me up and asked if this was something I was interested in doing. For me it felt like a no-brainer. With a new and better gym, the club’s young players can train under better conditions. Hopefully with the improved conditions there will come other talented players from Valbo in the future. They will have better conditions to train in, and [they] can develop into better hockey players.”

There is a long line to the table where Nicklas Bäckström signs autographs. Photo:  Ulric Jansson / Sveriges Radio

There is a long line to the table where Nicklas Bäckström signs autographs. Photo: Ulric Jansson / Sveriges Radio

Nicklas Bäckström and  Per Persson. Photo: Ulric Jansson / Sveriges Radio

Nicklas Bäckström and Per Persson. Photo: Ulric Jansson / Sveriges Radio

Per Persson from Valbo HC  says that: “It’s a dream come true. Nicklas is the biggest star ever to have come from Valbo, so to be associated with him feels like a dream come true.” Valbo HC hopes that more kids will give hockey a try and that more sponsors will be drawn to invest more money in the club.

For Nicklas, the most important thing is his feelings towards his first club.”I’m a Valbo boy so Valbo will always have a special place in my heart.”

 

Nicklas Bäckström.

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Sveriges U20-lag slår Finland med 8-4

Sveriges U20-lag slog Finland med 8-4, det var de båda lagens andra möte på bara några dagar, i den första matchen slog Sverige Finland med 7-1. Finland  inleder matchen starkast, och etablerar bra tryck i den svenska offensiva zonen under de första fyra minuterna, men det är ändå Sverige som får med sig den första utvisningen i matchen, den blir dock resultatlös.

I mitten av första perioden tar Patrik Nemeth en utvisning, detta kommer inte direkt som någon större överraskning (han hade redan tagit 14 utvisningsminuter på de tre inledande matcherna). Det som däremot var en överraskning är att det visade sig bli hans hans enda utvisning i matchen. Det var dock inte Finland som gjorde mål utan det var  Sverige som tog ledningen.  Joakim Nordström utnyttjar sin fina skridskoåkning och gör sitt andra mål i numerärtunderläge i turneringen.

Förspelet till Finlands 1-1 mål är det vackraste i matchen. Domaren har armen uppe för en utvisning på Jonas Brodin  men innan den hinner verkställas så gör  Mikka Salomäki ett enkelt tip-in mål efter underbart passningsspel från Armia och Makinen.

Markus Granlund tar en onödig utvisning. Resultat? Jonas Brodin kan bomba in ett vackert  PP mål från blålinjen. Sveriges power play har för övrigt varit utmärkt under hela turneringen.

Båda lagen tappar pucken alldeles för lätt i mittzonen under den första perioden, Johan Larsson gör det med 7 sekunder kvar av perioden men Johan Gustafsson i det svenska kassen räddar honom med en fin parad i slutsekunden.

I inledningen av den andra perioden gör Gibson en riktigt bra plockhandskräddning på Brodin. Men annars är det mest avslut långt utifrån och ryckigt spel med många avblåsningar. Sverige gör två mål i andra perioden båda i PP och Finland gör ett. Finlands mål kommer till direkt efter en tekning.  Lika bra som Sverige har varit på att göra mål i PP har Finland varit dåliga. Före sitt PP mål i andra perioden hade de bara gjort mål på 2 av 17 chanser.

Sverige dominerar den andra perioden men slappnar av lite i slutet vilket ger Finland en bra 2-1 chans med två minuter kvar men Gustafsson är bra med på den. Med en minut kvar så har Granlund en bra chans på mål men Gustafsson är omutlig

3.30 in i den sista perioden kommer Johan Sunström av bänken efter ett byte och får ett friläge och sätter 5-2 målet.  Efter det så känns matchen definitivt avgjord.

Sverige vinner till slut med 8-4. Sverige har vunnit tre av fyra matcher i turneringen. Imorgon klockan 19.00 spelar Sverige sin sista match mot USA.

 Övriga tankar från matchen

Rasmus Bengtsson var väldigt skottvillig i matchen och hade ett par bra bra chanser från blålinjen.

Jag är inget stort fan av Viktor Rask och den här matchen gör ingenting för att ändra på det. Det jag kommer ihåg av honom i den här matchen är två förlorade sargdueller och att han såg väldigt letargisk ut när det såg ut som han skulle kunnat bli helt ren med målvakten men istället kommer en finsk spelare i kapp och snor åt sig pucken och det som först ser ut som ett gyllene läge rinner ut i ingenting.

Om man tittar enbart på statistiken så ser det ut som Finlands målvakt Chris Gibson har haft en helt bedrövlig turnering, men det stämmer verkligen inte. Han har bitvis varit riktigt bra men det räcker inte till när hans medspelare lämnar honom helt åt sitt öde under långa perioder av matcherna. Gibsons plockhandske har sett helt fantastisk ut och han har och han har även bitvis varit bra på att suga åt sig returerna, men och det här är ett stort men, hans arbete längst med isen har varit väldigt suspekt.

 

Joachim Nermark  hade en av matchens bästa tacklingar, när han proppade en finländare på blålinjen.

Man kunde se att Mika Zibanejad inte riktigt var sig själv, men trots att han varit sjuk i veckan och missat en match så bjöd han ändå på några fantastiska dragningar, och total dominerade isen i två-tre byten.  Han körde även över Gibson vid ett tillfälle och sprutade ner honom med snö vid ett annat.

Marchens bästa spelare var Johan Larsson med 1 mål och 2 assist, Johan Sudström med 2 mål och 3 assist och Joakim Nordström med två mål.

Målskyttar

1-0 Joakim Nordström (Bäckman, Brodin) SH

1-1 Mikka Salomäki (Armia, Makinen)

2-1 Jonas Brodin (Rakell, Sundström) PP

3-1 Johan Larsson (Rensfeldt, Sundström)

3-2 Teemu Pulkkinen (Määttä, Granlund) PP

4-2 Max Friberg (Zibanejad, Klingberg) PP

5-2 Johan Sundström (Larsson, Nemeth)

6-2 Johan Larsson (Sundström)

7-2 Joakim Nordström (Thorell, Vesterholm)

7-3 Otto Paajanen (Granlund)

8-3 Johan Sundström (Larsson, Friberg)

8-4 Markus Granlund (Pulkkinen)

 

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“I think it’s good that [Boudreau] remains on the job. It was us players that failed.”

Nicklas Backstrom recently talked to Expressen’s Gunnar Nordström. Here is a translation of the interview.

Nicklas Bäckström is home in Gävle again and has a new plan in place on how to become better prepared for the upcoming season. Former skater Sebastian Falk is his new summer coach for the off season training. 

“I felt that it was time to try something new, but I am very grateful for all the work Anders Bergström has done for me, helping me prepare for the season these last couple of years.  With Sebastian’s help I’m trying to improve my first strides to become a little bit faster. I’m also trying to improve my overall smoothness as a skater.”

What went wrong in this year’s Stanley Cup playoff? You were one of the favorites to win it all but instead you lost in four straight games against Tampa Bay in the quarterfinals.

“We had a hard time adjusting to their game plan. It’s as simple as that. They played smart and at the same time we underperformed.”

You changed your style of play in the middle of the season and became a more defensive-minded team. Did that have an impact on your playoff performance?  

“Yeah, a little bit. We might need to be a bit more aggressive in the playoffs. I think it was important that we tightened up our defense but at the same time it can’t affect the offense like it did this year when you consider what type of team we have.”

Nicklas Bäckström in a Brynäs jersey. Photo: Mikael Sjöberg

Nicklas Bäckström in a Brynäs jersey. Photo: Mikael Sjöberg

”The thumb is no excuse”

How disappointed are you with your own performance in the playoffs?

”To be completely honest I can’t use the thumb as an excuse. I belong to the group of players that needs to be better, that’s just the way it is.”

How’s your thumb now?

“The injury is healed and the feeling in the thumb is back to normal again. I don’t even think about it anymore.”

There were a lot of  rumors flying around that the coach Bruce Boudreau would get fired?

“I think it’s good that he remains on the job. It was us players that failed.”

”Playing for the national team is a great honor”

You’ve got some new players – including Joel Ward from Nashville and Troy Brouwer from Chicago.

“I think it’s really great that some new things are happening with the team. I’ve been part of the team for four years now, it’s time for us to put all the pieces together in the playoffs. The whole team needs to think the same way and we need to work together as a team.
Ward was incredibly good for Nashville in the playoffs and Brouwer has won the Stanley Cup with Chicago. I think they will contribute a great deal for us.”

Henrik Zetterberg said recently that he will play at the World Championships if Detroit has an early exit in the playoffs next year.

“My feelings about this are the same as it always been – if I’m healthy, I’m going. That the tournament will be played at home for the next two years makes it even more special.  It’s an great honor to play for the national team, so for me it’s a given to play when I can.”

******

Nicklas Bäckström playing with the Icebreakers against Västerås in August 2010.

Nicklas Bäckström playing with the Icebreakers against Västerås in August 2010.

Like last summer, Nicklas along with a long list of other Swedish NHL players will play for Peter Forsberg and Markus Näslund’s charity team the Icebreakers.  As usual, the team is collecting money for sick children. They are playing three games this year, the first one on Wednesday in Umeå, then they play in Norrköping against Vita Hästen. According to Expressen, Vita Hästen has added some NHLers of their own to their team: Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson from Detroit and Nashville’s Patric Hörnqvist Additionally, Michael Nylander is going to play for their team. It will be his first game back since he broke his neck in October 2010. The Icebreakers finish off their schedule with a game against Nyköping on Friday. The game against Vita Hästen will be televised on Swedish TV (TV10 19.00 on Thursday).

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The Swedish Washington Capitals players return to the ice

Many SEL teams had their first practice on ice today. All three Swedish Washington Capitals players hit the ice with three different SEL teams: Marcus Johansson with Färjestad, Mattias Sjögren with Rögle, and Nicklas Bäckström with Brynäs.

Marcus Johansson on ice with Färjestad in his Caps gear. Photo: Erik Mårtensson

Marcus Johansson on ice with Färjestad in his Caps gear. Photo: Erik Mårtensson

Marcus and Färjestad was on the ice for about 80 minutes for today’s practice.

At the end of last summer, Marcus Johansson started to work with Ulf Karlsson, the former coach of the Swedish National track and field team.

”We worked together at the end of last summer and it felt so good that I decided to work with him for the whole summer this year. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of grunt work. But it’s been good for me both mentally and physically.” Marcus told Aftonbladet after today’s practice.

As seen earlier this summer, it it looks like Marcus has put on some more muscle.

Marcus Johansson in Landskrona.

Marcus Johansson in Landskrona.

”Yes, people keep saying that but I don’t think I have put on more than a couple of extra kilos. Besides, I’m still just twenty years old so I’m probably still growing. My goal isn’t to become as big as possible. That’s not my role, that is for other people.”

According to Färjestad’s official site (so take that for what it’s worth), Marcus’ skating already looks to be in game shape, his skating have its usual stride, smooth and fast.  Watch the video below to see him skating.  Marcus told the team’s site that he will continue to train with the team as long as they let him.

Marcus is planning to return to Washington on August 28.
New Cap Mattias Sjögren went on ice with his old team Rögle, and fellow NHL:er Andreas Lilja.”It feels good to be back here again, and it’s really nice to have a team to practice with. They are training hard, so I feel that I will be in top shape when I return to Washington,” Mattias told Helsingborgs Dagblad.  He continued: ”It’s going to be a big challenge for me. There are a lot of good centers on the team, it’s going to be really tough. I was over there after I signed and both the city and the club made a really good impression on me. Everything felt very professional.”

Mattias Sjögren on ice with Rögle. Photo: HD/NST Johan Persson.

Mattias Sjögren on ice with Rögle. Photo: HD/NST Johan Persson.

In Gävle, Brynäs held its first practice in front of just over 100 people. That number may not sound too impressive but the practice was held at the very small practice rink next door to the main arena, Läkerol Arena, where Brynäs play their home games.

”I’m happy that I once again get the opportunity to practice with the team,” says Nicklas to Gefle Dagblad. ”My training has gone well this year and it feels good to be back on the ice again. I’m leaving for the States sometime in September and I’m planning to work out hard here in Gävle until then. That Brynäs lets me train with them means a lot, it’s very beneficial for me.”

Brynäs coach Tommy Johansson had this to say about Bäckström, ”He’s a world class player we are talking about and I think he can be a great inspiration for many of the other players out here on the ice. Nicklas is a really humble person and that is one of the big reasons he has gotten as far as he has.”

Nicklas Bäckström on ice with Brynäs. Photo: Gun Wigh

Nicklas Bäckström on ice with Brynäs. Photo: Gun Wigh

There were a lot of kids in the stands. One of those kids wasn’t too impressed with Nicklas though. Via Anders Sundin’s twitter: ”One kid to another at Brynäs first practice on ice: I want Bäckström’s stick.” ”Not me says the other kid I rather have Järnkrok’s. Bäckis is old.” Nicklas Bäckström born in Nov 1987.

Ouch!

I have to hand it to the kid though, he has good taste when it comes to hockey players.  Calle Järnkrok is totally awesome. Here’s some video from the practice.

Nicklas on ice with Brynäs.

Nicklas on ice with Brynäs.

Mattias Ekholm and Nicklas Bäckström. Photo: @AndersSundin

Mattias Ekholm and Nicklas Bäckström. Photo: @AndersSundin

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