Preseason hockey ended on Sunday night as the Washington Capitals closed out their training camp with a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks before 18,405 at the Verizon Center. Michal Neuvirth stopped 28 of 29 shots and also received some help from the posts and crossbar while Mathieu Perreault, Brooks Laich, Mike Green, and Jay Beagle tallied for the Caps. Marian Hossa, who was Chicago’s best player on this night, scored the lone goal for the Hawks.
Here are the highligths, quotes, and analysis from a victory that wasn’t as impressive as Friday night’s win over Buffalo:
– Why was this victory not as impressive as the win against the Sabres? The Caps were not as crisp as they were in that tilt and Chicago also didn’t play their best forward in Jonathan Toews and top two defensemen in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Washington’s head coach certainly agreed with that assessment in his post game comments.
“I don’t know. I thought it was a pretty sloppy game quite frankly. I thought the Buffalo game, other than the three or four turnovers in our zone that gave them chances was an emotional game,” commented Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau when asked if this win was the best performance of the preseason.
– Perreault continued his inspired play and notched another goal to pretty much cement his spot on the roster. He scored because he went to the front of the net and banged home the rebound of a great point shot by Green. What also helps #85’s cause is that he cannot be sent to Hershey without having to clear waivers first. The key to playing time, as always, for the 2006 6th round pick will be consistency. Perreault put on additional muscle this offseason and that should help prevent him from wearing down as quickly as he’s done in the past.
“I think our best player all of camp was Perreault. I think he played with energy every night. I think he was very similar last year but we’ll sit down tomorrow and discuss all of this,” added Boudreau on #85’s training camp and his chances of making the opening night roster.
– Neuvirth was very good in this contest after missing last Friday’s game due to a minor injury. He did get some help from the iron but he also was positionally sound and didn’t give up many rebounds. The only goal he allowed was one he had no chance on as Hossa scored on the power play after a Karl Alzner turnover behind the Washington goal. What compounded #27’s mistake was that his defensive partner, John Carlson, chose to go behind the net and leave the front of the cage open with King Karl already there. It was a mental error by Carlson and as a result #81 was all alone at the left post for an easy marker after the change in possession. If Neuvirth continues to play like he did this evening he will get numerous starts despite the fact that Tomas Vokoun has been declared the team’s number one goalie, which is a good thing for the Capitals.
“I won two games and I am pretty happy with my training camp. Doesn’t really bother me, I am just going to wake up tomorrow and work hard. If I get the call, I will be ready,” said Neuvirth on his preseason and how he will conduct himself going forward.
– Green was super again and completed an outstanding preseason with a goal and an assist in 23:27 of ice time on Sunday. He did take a puck to the hand on a Hawks shot but according to Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner, #52 said he just has a bruise and is okay. His goal came on a 5 on 3 off of a nice feed from Alexander Ovechkin and according to Hawks commentator Eddie Olcyzk, the curl and drag move he made just before releasing the shot gave him a different angle, which put Corey Crawford (32 saves on 35 shots) at a major disadvantage. It was another highly skilled play by the talented defensemen who appears to be in outstanding physical shape for this upcoming regular season.
– The NHL is very focused on limiting shots to the head and Washington had a scary moment when Alexander Semin took a forearm/elbow to the head from Peter LeBlanc. LeBlanc, who was drafted in the 7th round by Chicago in 2006, left his feet slighty on the hit. #28 did have his head down as he had the puck in his skates but there was no need for #72 to hit him up high. I don’t think the young Hawks player intended to hurt Semin, he was just trying to make a big hit, and he doesn’t have a history of bad penalties. However, his lack of skill showed on the play and with hits to the noggin being big no-no’s, I expect the NHL office might make an example of him and levy a suspension. Semin was okay after the hit despite staying down for a minute or so, according to Boudreau, so that was very good news for the Caps.
– Another area of the Caps performance that Boudreau likely was not happy about was the power play. The Capitals went 1 for 6 but the lone tally came late in the game with a two man advantage. On Friday Washington did a nice job with the power play by getting the puck to the top of the point and blasting from there with traffic in front while on Sunday they reverted to overpassing and looking for one timers. Ovechkin was on the point on mulitple occassions in the first period and in one instance he allowed Hossa to get a clean shorthanded breakaway. As I’ve written before, I much prefer the Gr8 on the half wall where he can fire away his laser shot or feed the puck to the point and then surge to the cage for rebound goals. Green, in the postgame on Friday, mentioned that the Caps were not going to show all of their power play secrets yet, so hopefully what we saw on Sunday was not how things will be implemented once the regular season commences.
– Dmitri Orlov looked pretty good in just over 14 minutes of work. The highly skilled defenseman showed that he does not look out of place at all at the NHL level. His talent is excellent and if he continues to progress in his own end he will get more time in Washington sooner, rather than later. The NHL is very much about skating these days with the post lockout rules and the 2009 second round pick is an outstanding skater. I am never against giving a player more time in Hershey to develop though and the Caps have that luxury with the crew of d-men they already have with NHL experience.
– Laich centered Joel Ward and Jason Chimera on the 3rd unit and that line clicked. In addition, #21 was 11-5 on faceoffs. If he can be successful in that slot at center then that allows Boudreau a lot of flexibility in his day to day lineup and gives him a shutdown crew that can also score goals. The success of that line was one of the big bright spots of Sunday’s game.
Notes: Beagle’s goal came shorthanded with the empty net. The hard working and versatile #83 is a lock to make the roster…Chicago was 1 for 5 on the power play…Washington won the faceoff battle 29-24…the Caps next game is their season opener at home on Saturday versus the Carolina Hurricanes at 7 pm.