|It's like...they cover the ice...with their minds...|
But as we all know, the Capitals recovered admirably. Washington earned the top seed in the east and then proceeded to win their Quarterfinal series against the Rangers 4-1. At the center of the change, and the center of the success, have been two young defensemen: John Carlson and Karl Alzer, Washington's top pair, dubbed "Carlzner" by fans and media alike.
It is not very often in the NHL that an organization is able to boast a top pairing that is entirely home-grown; that is, drafted and developed entirely by that organization. Washington has that in Carlson and Alzner. In addition to being drafted by the Caps, Carlson and Alzner have played almost their entire professional careers together, first with the Hershey Bears, and now with the Capitals.
Carlson and Alzner are roommates on the road, and they live in the same apartment building. They are best friends. They constantly chirp each other on Twitter. They go to sporting events together. And they play really good defense together. The two young defensemen, ever since they were put on the same pairing, have drawn the opposition's toughest lines every night. They play on the penalty kill, and they are on the ice in the final minute of tight games. That's not a coincidence. They know each other very well because of their history together, and in hockey, chemistry is almost as important as skill level when it comes to picking lines.
These two young gentlemen have in spades, and it shows on the ice. Alzner's stay-at-home, defense-first style is a perfect match for Carlson's attacking, move-the-puck first style; they complement each other beautifully. They always know where the other one is going to be, and they rarely blow coverage. When they do, the other one is often there to cover up. One of my friends Matt told me earlier this year that they "cover the ice with their minds," and I think that sums it up perfectly. They really are a treat to watch, and it will be fun to see just how they continue to mature, because they are only going to get better. That's the scary thing.
After Sunday's 3-1 win, which clinched the Caps a spot in the second round, they spoke with NBC's Pierre McGuire, who, to no one's surprise, was yelling. Check it out.