It reads like a second-rate sitcom pitch. Two defensemen get thrown together on the eve of the Stanley Cup playoffs and wind up turning in sterling performances. Oh, and one's more than a decade older than the other.
"Why'd you have to bring that up?" asks Tom Poti (born in 1977) after practice at Kettler IcePlex.
Sorry, Tom. We can't help but notice the ages on the roster.
Poti, who signed a two-year contract extension with the Capitals during training camp, lead all Capitals defensemen in plus-minus during the playoffs last season. The native of Worcester, Mass. posted a plus-9, tied for the second-highest among all playoff defensemen (Only Chicago's Brian Campbell, with a plus-11, posted a higher number). Poti's defensive partner, John Carlson, nearly matched him, posting a plus-6.
Earlier this week, during the Capitals' Media Day, head coach Bruce Boudreau indicated that the duo would start the season paired together, something that suits both just fine.
"We work pretty good together," Poti says of the pairing. "We both skate well and move the puck well. We both like to jump in the play."
"It's going great," says Carlson (born in 1990). "We played together the majority of the time [in the playoffs], and I got used to him. I really can't say enough about him."
Knowing that others have praised Poti's ability to lead by example, I asked Carlson to elaborate. "He's a great veteran. I've learned a lot not just by talking to him, but just by watching him play the position."
This season, the spotlight will be brighter than ever on the Capitals back end, particularly the defense and goaltending, which is seen by many as a fatal flaw in the team's run for a Stanley Cup.
"I actually think we're pretty underrated [as a unit]," Carlson says. "We've got two of the best goaltenders around. It doesn't matter what their ages are. As a group, we have to overcome that adversity."
-One other piece of information to pass along: Boudreau said today that he hoped that goalie Semyon Varlamov, who was placed on injured reserve yesterday, could return to practice early next week, but stressed he had no definitive timetable for the Russian's return.
"We hope that by Tuesday he will be practicing fully with us," said Boudreau, who called Varlamov's undisclosed injury "discouraging, because he was in such better shape this year."
The Capitals open the regular season tomorrow night at the Atlanta Thrashers.