Hockeyville Homecoming – For a handful of players, Saturday night’s Kraft Hockeyville contest at Yardmen Arena in Belleville, Ont. marked a bit of a homecoming. Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer played 48 games for the OHL Belleville Bulls from 2008-10, and four members of the Jets’ Saturday night contingent wore a Bulls sweater at some point during their respective junior careers.
Grubauer came on in relief of Caps starter Braden Holtby and earned the win, allowing one goal in about 35 minutes of work and then stopping all four shots he faced in the shootout.
Jets goalie Edward Pasquale – who went all the way in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Caps in Belleville last night – preceded Grubauer as the Bulls’ goalie, playing in Belleville from 2006-08. Pasquale also did a stint with the Wellington Dukes, a Junior A team located just a shade south of Belleville.
Winnipeg winger Eric Tangradi plyed the entirety of his junior career – three seasons – for the Bulls. Tangradi was with the Bulls from 2006-09 and he led them in scoring in 2008-09. Along with Pasquale, he was also a member of the Bulls’ 2007-08 team that competed for the Memorial Cup, eventually won by the Spokane Chiefs that year.
Jets winger Austen Brassard – the team’s fifth-round pick (149th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, has been a member of the Bulls for the last four seasons.
Additionally, Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian hails from Massena in far upstate New York, about three hours northeast of Belleville. Bogosian played his junior hockey in Peterborough, which is about 90 minutes west of Belleville.
First Impressions – Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt and left wing Nathan Walker each recorded primary assists in their first ever NHL preseason games. Along with defenseman Connor Carrick and forwards Tom Wilson and Chandler Stephenson, Schmidt and Walker were among five Caps playing in an NHL preseason tilt for the first time.
Caps coach Adam Oates was complimentary on their performance after the game.
“I was very impressed,” said Oates of the performance of his young players in Saturday’s game. “The pace of the first period was incredible. I was very shocked. I thought the guys handled it well. They handled the nerves and the physical play. They handled it well.”
Playing on a line with fellow rookie Chandler Stephenson and veteran Troy Brouwer, Walker and his mates were effective throughout the night. They consistently created offensive chances and nearly gave the Caps a lead late in regulation with a pretty passing play off the rush. Pasquale’s save on Stephenson thwarted that bid.
“It was good,” said Walker after the game. “To be honest with you, it was one of the most fun games of hockey I’ve played in a real long time. The tempo was high. You make a little bad play, and no one really gets angry with you; they just tell you what you should have done which is what I think you need when you’re trying to develop as a hockey player. Instead of them just yelling at you, they’re telling you what you need to do and putting you in the right spot.”
Schmidt and Carrick showed a great deal of offensive wherewithal and puck-moving skills and both seemed especially at home in the attack zone.
“The first period was a little bit of a feel out, kind of getting my feet wet a little bit. Overall I thought it went pretty well. It was a good atmosphere with all the fans here and all our guys. We played hard and it was a lot of fun. We went out there and came back in the third period and that’s all you can ask for.”
Relative Radio Silence – Caps radio play-by-play voice John Walton had to wait a long time to dust off his goal call. Since Mike Ribeiro’s game-winning overtime goal in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the Caps and Rangers last May, Walton had called 10-plus periods of Caps hockey without having a chance to call a goal.
Washington was shutout in each of its last two playoff games against New York last spring, and when Walton called the annual rookie game against Philadelphia last Monday, the Caps were blanked 1-0.
After a scoreless first in Belleville and another 13-plus minutes without a goal, Caps defenseman Jack Hillen finally gave Walton something to get excited about. When Hillen scored at 13:07 of the second period last night, it gave Walton his first chance to raise the decibel level in a span of 213 minutes and 7 seconds.
A Man Down – The Jets brought a full complement of 20 players to Belleville for Saturday’s game, but veteran forward Chris Thorburn did not suit up for the game, leaving Winnipeg with just 17 skaters, one shy of the maximum number allowed for a game.
After the game, Jets coach Claude Noel said that Thorburn tweaked an upper body injury on Saturday morning and did not play as a result.