Tonight was Boris Valabik's second NHL game. He played fewer minutes than in his debut because the game was much closer, and wasn't on the ice for any goals against or for. He played 11:50, had two hits and one giveaway. Kept his shifts extremely short.
At warmups I got the money shot, Valabik next to Toby Enstrom. Throw in a little Ilya Kovalchuk for comparison's sake. Love it.
Chris Thorburn can chat and blow bubbles at the same time. He's been playing great lately, by the way.
Valabik played with Mark Popovic this game, and as expected, this pairing was much more effective. Joel Kwiatkowski was a scratch.
The Capitals were obviously told to try to get under Valabik's skin, as they went after him on the very first shift. (Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau would be familiar with Valabik from his time coaching the AHL Hershey Bears.) Alexander Ovechkin got things going by hitting Valabik on Shift #1. The Caps were successful, drawing Valabik off the ice with an unsportsmanlike early in the first period.
During this early period of the game, Valabik fell down two or three times. I could tell what was wrong though. The first few shifts of a game with a new team (including new equipment manager)? I recognize those falls. I've taken those falls. His skates were too sharp. Didn't know where his edges were.
You could see him testing his skates out during the next TV timeout. Probably just dulled them up a bit and he was good to go the rest of the game.
Valabik showed more physicality in this game, which showed more confidence. Again he was very good defending the rush, using his body to shield the player or pokechecking the puck away. He showed an interesting technique around the net -- hit the player to separate him from the puck instead of using body position or a stick check. Unorthodox but it worked. He also made a kick save to keep the puck out of the net at one point.
Bad points included shanking on an outlet pass, though given he was aiming up the middle, it's just as well. Again he treated the puck like a hot potato, getting rid of it as soon as he got it instead of looking around for the best option. He also puts a little too much mustard on his short passes and surprises his teammates with them. It's all they can do to catch the things, leaving them a bit handcuffed.
The Thrashers lost the game 5-3, following a late surge by the Caps. Below, assistant coach Steve Weeks mapped out a strategy during the timeout.
Caps celebrate Ovechkin's 60th goal.