Rookie Carlson in middle of playoff frenzy

April, 14, 2010

ARLINGTON, Va. -- If there's one guy in the Capitals' veteran dressing room who might be excused for having some extra butterflies Thursday night, it's rookie defenseman John Carlson.

It's been a whirlwind few months for the talented rear guard. He jumped to Washington's farm team after playing major junior hockey in Canada and helped the Hershey Bears to a Calder Cup. Carson, 20, then helped the United States upend Canada in the World Junior Championship this past January in Saskatchewan before being called up by the Caps and making a distinct impression with his strong play. In 22 NHL games, Carlson is averaging 15:15 a night in ice time, has six points and is plus-11.

"He's been everything that we thought he would be and very well composed," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said Wednesday. "Obviously it's a different animal [Thursday] than he's faced, whether it's the Calder Cup finals or the World Junior Championship, but I think he's going to come through with flying colors."

Carlson, the 28th overall pick in 2008, admitted it's hard to imagine competing for the Stanley Cup.

"I think my teams in the past have accomplished a lot, but this one would definitely be the nicest to have out of all of them," he said Wednesday. "It's going to be exciting and I'm really looking forward to it."

Carlson, who will likely line up with veteran defenseman Tom Poti, said he's never even been inside an NHL building at playoff time. "It's going to be a test and it's going to be fun. But that's what hockey players are supposed to do," he said.

Has he visualized what it will be like when the Verizon Center faithful rock out to start Game 1?

"I don't know about visualizing it. I try not to psyche myself out," Carlson said. "For me at least, if I do a lot of that stuff, it'll psyche myself out. But I just got to go in and play confident, and I think that I'm good enough to play with any of these guys and against any of these teams."

He thinks the experience of winning a junior championship in the hostile environment of the host team might put him in good stead for what will happen in Montreal.

"I think that that might compare, just the whole rivalry between Team Canada and the U.S.," he said. "I'm sure Canadiens fans are going to be great and I'm sure that our fans are going to be just as good. It's going to be intense."

'We've been ready'

Although the Capitals wrapped up their division title, conference crown and Presidents' Trophy fairly quickly, players and coaches insisted Wednesday there won't be any problem getting revved up to playoff mode when the puck drops Thursday night at Verizon Center.

"I don't feel that way. Obviously, we've been ready for the playoffs since a month ago," said Nicklas Backstrom, who returned to practice Wednesday after missing Tuesday's workout when he was ill. "I think we've been working hard on details we have to get better on and hopefully we can show that on Thursday right away."

For the sake of the mob of reporters gathered around his dressing room stall, whatever struck Backstrom hopefully wasn't contagious. "If I would be you guys, I would be standing a little bit further away," Backstrom joked.

Boudreau feels for Anderson

It was a tough morning for Boudreau, whose close friend John Anderson was fired by the Atlanta Thrashers.

"It's a sad day for me and John," Boudreau said. "He's a very close friend. He phoned me at 9 o'clock this morning and let me know. It's a tough business sometimes because I think he did a great job for what he had to work with all year. He kept them competitive and it's unfortunate, but John's a very good coach and he'll land on his feet pretty soon."

The Thrashers also moved GM Don Waddell into the president's office, while Rick Dudley will take over as GM. Anderson's coaching staff was also let go Wednesday.

Scott Burnside

ESPN Senior Writer




You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?