Washington’s poor regular season start — zero wins, two losses, 10 goals allowed — has defenseman Karl Alzner feeling out of his element.
“I almost feel like a fish out of water right now,” Alzner told CSN Washington. “I’m too busy trying to be in the right position mentally instead of just being there. I know where to be. I’m over-thinking it.
“I think a lot of guys are probably in the same boat.”
That these words are coming from Alzner says a lot. He’s been relatively error-free through his first two games, posting an even plus-minus rating and committing zero giveaways while averaging over 21 minutes a night.
(A far cry from, say, Marcus Johansson, who has a minus-3 rating through two games and leads the team with three giveaways.)
To be fair, the Caps are in the midst of a big undertaking. They’re switching their style of play to head coach Adam Oates’ preferred style — where the emphasis is on skating, pressure and forcing turnovers — but haven’t had much time to learn it.
A brief training camp and two regular season games seemingly haven’t given Washington enough time to adjust to the new style.
“When you get tired your decision making goes — that’s the first thing,” winger Troy Brouwer explained. “Your brain starts to get lazy and then everything else follows. We’re having a tough time with just being crisp, being sharp.
“Whether that’s just practice, whether that’s out of practice, whether that’s just us not paying attention to details, we gotta crack that and we gotta crack it fast.”
Pheonix Copley, who returned to Washington this season as part of the Kevin Shattenkirk trade with St. Louis, has signed a two-year extension worth $1.3 million, the Caps announced on Wednesday.
The key wrinkle in the deal is that year one is of the two-way variety, while year two is of the one-way.
It’s worth mentioning because Philipp Grubauer — Washington’s current backup to starter Braden Holtby — is currently a restricted free agent, and believed to be have No. 1 potential.
The 25-year-old has capably served under Holtby for the last two years. He’s coming off an excellent campaign — 13-6-2, .926 save percentage, 2.05 GAA — and sounds like he’s ready to make the next step in his career.
“I would like to stay here; Washington is awesome and the whole organization’s been awesome the last couple of years,” Grubauer said, per the Post. “But I’m ready if the opportunity comes to make the next step and try to be a starting goalie somewhere.”
Grubauer was made available to Vegas at the expansion draft, but Golden Knights GM George McPhee opted to take blueliner Nate Schmidt instead. There are still rumblings that Washington might dangle Grubauer in trade talks.
Copley has a very small NHL resume — just two games, both with St. Louis — but fared very well with AHL Hershey last year. In 16 regular-season games he went 11-5-0 with a .931 save percentage and 2.15 GAA and, in the playoffs, went 5-4 with a .933 save percentage and 2.13 GAA.
The Anaheim Ducks might be getting a former Vezina Trophy winner as their backup.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, “there is a lot of expectation of Ryan Miller to Anaheim for approximately $1 million, although I’m not sure if bonuses will be added to that.”
Miller, an unrestricted free agent, has spent the last three years in Vancouver. The Canucks would like to keep him; however, his wife, Noureen DeWulf, is an actress, so Southern California has always been a potential landing spot.
Also, let’s face it, Miller would have a much better shot at winning the Stanley Cup with the Ducks, and that’s something the 36-year-old has never done.
As for the Ducks’ motivations, signing Miller would give them a viable starting option should John Gibson struggle or get hurt again. Recall that Anaheim’s last backup, Jonathan Bernier, had a tough time after he was forced into action in the Western Conference Final.
Related: What does the future hold for Ryan Miller?
Though most signs point to Brian Elliott in goal for Winnipeg next season — see here and here — there are other options out there.
Per the Winnipeg Sun, the Jets have reached out to ex-Flyers netminder Steve Mason during the free agent interview window.
Mason, 29, just wrapped the last of a three-year, $12.3 million deal with a $4.1M average annual cap hit. He’s spent the last four-plus seasons with the Flyers but, over the last two, had been part of a platoon with Michal Neuvirth.
Mason played 58 games to Neuvirth’s 28 this year, but didn’t fare especially well, finishing with a .908 save percentage.
We bring this up because whoever signs in Winnipeg will likely have to concede some starts to Connor Hellebuyck, the one-time goalie of the future that struggled mightily through ’16-17. Hellebuyck is still only 24 and the hope is that last year can be spun as a positive learning experience.
“We went through a growing period and the goaltenders were exactly like that,” head coach Paul Maurice said of Hellebuyck’s campaign, per the Free Press. “Put them back in the net after a tough night, yanked [Hellebuyck] early a bunch of times.”
The Sun reports that Winnipeg was “one of several teams that inquired about Mason,” which isn’t surprising. He’d make for a high-caliber backup and a likely upgrade in a number of markets.
Looks like Noel Acciari will be around Boston for the foreseeable future.
Acciari, who has spent most of his career shuttling between AHL Providence and the NHL, has signed a two-year, one-way deal worth $725,000, the B’s announced on Wednesday.
Acciari’s contract comes after he appeared in 29 games for the Bruins last year, scoring five points. He also appeared in four of the club’s opening-round playoff games against Ottawa, scoring once.
The former Providence standout, who went undrafted, caught on with Boston in ’15-16 and quickly worked his way into the mix at the NHL level.
There’s a pretty decent chance he’ll eclipse the 29 games played last year, especially if the club doesn’t return veteran forwards Dominic Moore and Drew Stafford, both of whom become unrestricted free agents on Saturday.