In the second period of a preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night, Roman Hamrlik reminded those watching in Verizon Center that he can be an offensive catalyst as well as a defenseman who takes care of his own zone.
On the power play, the Capitals defenseman gained control of the puck and pushed further into the offensive zone, sidestepping a check as he moved into a slot. He faked a shot and then sent a nice, flat pass to Mathieu Perreault, who finished with a goal. Granted, it was against only a partial NHL lineup, but Hamrlik’s presence on the power play adds a different look for a team that has long lacked a left-handed defenseman comfortable playing the point with the man advantage.
“It’s a look we haven’t had before, it’s something that we really like, and it was one of the first things I thought of when we got him,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said of having Hamrlik on the power play. “That left-handed guy that could help on the power play, and he’s so smart. He wasn’t [drafted] first overall for nothing.”
Over the past four seasons in Montreal, Hamrlik averaged anywhere from 2:33 on the power play per game (2010-11) to 1:33 (2008-09), and it’s an opportunity that the 37-year-old blueliner still enjoys.
“I think I can still move the puck, make some play and get the shot at the net and get some rebounds,” Hamrlik said.
What impresses some of his teammates is how Hamrlik seems to find a way to get a puck through to the net, regardless of the amount of traffic.
“He seems to get it to the net nine times out of 10. Not often does it get blocked,” Brooks Laich said. “He’s composed with the puck, he’s a veteran guy back there and he can really control the play and shoot the puck….I think he’s been an underrated addition to our power play.”
Who Hamrlik will be paired with at the start of the season may still be a little uncertain, but through the preseason he’s already shown an instant chemistry with Dennis Wideman. In two exhibition games, Hamrlik and Wideman have played more than 20 minutes each and looked as though they have been paired together for much longer than a few days.
“Right now they just seem to have good chemistry,” Boudreau said. “Initially, we thought Hamrlik would be good for Wides, who could be somewhat of a rover sometimes. They seem to hit it off fairly well, so we went ‘Yay.’”
This isn’t to say that Hamrlik couldn’t see time with other defensive partners — say, Mike Green — but if he and Wideman were to become a pair (and assuming the unit of Karl Alzner and John Carlson isn’t going to be broken up any time soon), it would allow Green and Jeff Schultz to fall back into their most familiar setup. Hamrlik and Wideman are also two of the more chatty defensemen on the roster, which has helped them mesh quickly.
“Last night, I don’t think Columbus had a really good team out there, but we tried to focus on our game and really get to know each other in the game,” Hamrlik said. “It’s early to say, how we’d do [as a pair in the regular season], but we’re moving the puck pretty well. He sees the ice and reads the play very well. It’s all about the position and how you read the play, if you can work together. So far so good.”