Once again, an "emergency" deadline was thrown at me at work, so I missed the first half of the practice. I only got in about a half hour this time, unfortunately, but I was able to catch some trends.
- The mood was much different today than the last time I was there. Very little joking around, not a lot of talking except as expected during the drills, sincere and hard focus on the hockey. Clearly, the boys got a lashing in the locker room.
- The guys were TIRED when I got there. Drenched in sweat, flushed, working to catch their breath after each drill. Whatever I missed was not easy.
- There were only 16 skaters on the ice with Boods and Grahame as netminders, of course. Missing in action: the obvious characters - Foote, Cumiskey, Wilson; not so obvious characters - Jones, Stewie, O'Reilly, Duchene. I know Stewie got hurt last night, so that worries me. I didn't notice anything happen to Jones or O'Reilly, though, so I'm not sure what that is about. (BTW, Stastny looked fine. He was actually one of the only guys smiling and seemingly enjoying himself out there. hmmmmm, maybe the puck to the head did something after all. lol) And was Duchene getting doghouse treatment? There's a possibility they were all there before I showed up, though.
- Everything I saw focused on passing. Fast, fluid drills that moved one right into the next and all about passing. They did 3-on-0s and 3-on-1s, but the intent was obviously less about the shooting and more on the set up.
- After stretches and official end to practice, Holøs, Shattenkirk and Yip worked on one-timers, slap shots and tip ins for quite a while. Holøs and Shatty would take turns taking the pass, walking the blue line, hitting the slap shot for Yip to tip in. Or they'd take the pass from the corner for a one-timer for Yip to tip in. McLeod, Dupuis, Koci, Van der Gulik, and Liffiton worked on wristshots weaving through the face off circles. (Cruise a circle, take a puck, move into the lane, shoot on net, cruise back out to the other circle, take a puck, etc. They'd repeat the cycle twice - two rounds on each circle - and then the next guy would go. Again, working on passing.)
- During all of that, Hejduk was cruising around, picking up pucks and doing some stick work all non-chalantly, doing some turns on his edges here and there, basically just screwing off. It was like he was just out there cuz he likes to skate and shoot pucks and stuff. He's too cool for words.
- Both Holøs and Shattenkirk were getting a lot of one-on-one...Holøs sought it out. He'd do something wrong and cruise over to ask some questions. I love this guy more and more.
- Boods was taking all of the "play" action while Grahame mainly handled the simple shooting drills. I think this is a pretty clear indication that Budaj will get the start tomorrow. I could be wrong; they may have had reverse roles earlier in the practice. However, as usual, Budaj stayed out there with all the guys while Grahame went home.
Thoughts on players:
- Quincey was terrible even in practice. I do not know what's going on with that guy, but it's gotten to the point of really being a serious issue. He played the 3-on-1s and 2-on-1s poorly, always looked lost, didn't seem to know where to focus, always looking in the wrong spot, got beat constantly. It's not like he wasn't trying. He just didn't seem to know what to do. He's total AHL level right now.
- Speaking of AHL, Liffiton is not AHL. He's NHL all the way. The guy has great vision, is strong at passing and defending, and my god that slap shot.
- Shattenkirk looked timid still. He's great down low, getting his stick in the passing lane around the crease and breaking up plays there. But put him out there with 3 guys barrelling down on him? He seems to shy away from the aggressive play and doesn't ever really commit one way or the other. I'm sure it's adjustment stuff.
- All of the new kids were putting in a lot of effort. I think they know there are spots up for grabs right now and that they can secure themselves a place in the NHL if they put in a good showing while the injuries keep others out of the line up. The youth movement continues to be strong.
- Boods was very strong on the odd-man rushes but struggled with the down-low scrums. Could be cuz he was tired or wasn't putting his all into it. It didn't look good, though.
- Liles continues to be one of - if not the - hardest working players in practice. Not only is he trying his hardest in each drill, he's also very effective. His defensive play was quite impressive today, even more so than his offensive moves. Funny tidbit: he and Koci got into a little shoving deal after one of the plays where Liles was defending in a down low scrum in front of the net. Liles went after him (which was a freaking hilarious sight given the size differential) and pushed him a couple of times and jawed at him. I couldn't ever tell if they were joking around or not because I never saw a clear laugh or relaxing of body language after it. Koci's supposed to be a super nice guy, so I can't imagine it wasn't a tongue-in-cheek kind of thing.
I think that's it. I gotta get back to work anyway, so I'll add more later if I think of it. Enjoy!