Over the course of the last few weeks, three of the Washington Capitals' off-season acquisitions have met with the media to talk about what they hope to bring to the team.
For Jeff Halpern, it's a homecoming. Halpern not only made his NHL debut with the Capitals 12 years ago, but he's also a native of Potomac, MD, less than 15 miles away from Washington, DC. He captained the Capitals in the 2005-2006 season, and was Alex Ovechkin's first road roommate, serving as a mentor for Ovechkin as well as English teacher.
With the loss of center Boyd Gordon, Halpern is a good replacement as fourth-line center. Gordon has one of the best faceoff win percentages in the league, but Halpern isn't too shabby on the dot himself, with a 56.9% win percentage last season. Halpern will also eat up much of the time that Gordon had spent on the penalty kill.
When Halpern met Washington media, he knew that was the role he was brought in to cover. "I think those third, fourth line roles, it's important obviously to play well at both ends of the ice, but to be able to contribute and take pressure off the top lines is always important," he said. "Especially in playoffs, those guys, being able to contribute, are important to the success of the team."
Halpern is happy that there was an opening for him to fill in DC. "I've always kind of hoped to come back to Washington," he said.
As for Joel Ward, the Capitals are hoping that he can have the same success in next year's playoffs that he had for Nashville in the 2011 postseason. Ward is likely to play wing on the second or third line, depending on where coach Bruce Boudreau puts fellow right wing Troy Brouwer.
Ward implied that he, like Brouwer, was brought to the Capitals not only for scoring, but for grit. "Guys like myself and Brouwer and some of the other guys they've brought in, it's going to be a wear-and-tear and grind game," Ward told the media last week. "That's what we're looking forward to doing is keeping pucks in our own zone and just grind down the other team."
However, Ward isn't limiting himself and is happy to go wherever Boudreau wants him. "I told [Boudreau] just to slot me in wherever and I'll get the job done."
Roman Hamrlik comes to Washington after leading the Montreal Canadiens in total ice time last season, averaging around 22 minutes per game. But at 37 years old, his role on the Capitals is clear: leadership. Hamrlik has a history of mentoring young defensemen. He was paired with a young Dion Phaneuf during his time in Calgary, and spent last season mentoring P.K. Subban in Montreal.
"When I started when I was 18, I was playing with Rob Ramage as a leader. Now I'm there and try to help the young kids," Hamrlik said. "Hopefully here I can play with Mike Green," he said, looking to be the defensive counterpart to Green's offensive style.
Hamrlik's arrival in DC also should help the powerplay. He often plays on the point during the power play, a position that Alex Ovechkin usually takes up. But Ovechkin is better served playing down low on the man advantage, and Hamrlik is a better option to quarterback the powerplay on the point.
With the new signees, the Capitals have bulked up on special teams and past playoff performances. As for whether or not the moves will pan out, only October (or next spring) will tell.
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