Caps Sweep Home and Home with Carolina
Alexander Ovechkin had two goals, including one on a penalty shot, and an added an assist as the Washington Capitals defeated Carolina, 5-2, before 13,266 at the Verizon Center on Thursday night in the Caps preseason home opener. Despite the fact that this was a preseason game the Great #8 didn’t fail to entertain adding numerous body checks, several of which were on Carolina defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, to go along with his three point night. The win completed a home and home preseason sweep of the Hurricanes by the Caps (Washington won 4-1 on Wednesday night in Raleigh).
The Caps came out slow giving up 15 shots in the first period, including two power play goals, as the Hurricanes raced to a 2-0 lead. The Carolina goals were the result of some big rebounds given up by rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth but after that he shut the door and made 24 saves on the night.
“I thought [Neuvirth] was a little shaky at the beginning and then just settled right in…the other team worked really hard and its difficult sometimes, there isn’t a lot of Carolina Hurricanes on the forward list out there…so they’re working hard and we’re taking it easy a bit because human nature says we don’t even know half of their guys…but we stayed the course and eventually played a little better as the game went on,” said Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau.
The #1 star of the game was given to Christopher Bourque, son of Hall of Fame defensemen Ray Bourque, who had a goal and an assist but was a big factor in the first four Caps goals (it was his pass that set up Ovechkin’s initial near breakaway that led to the penalty shot that tied the game at two in the second period). Bourque, who is 22 years old and was taken in the 2nd round of the 2004 NHL entry draft by the Caps, is improving.
“I thought he was good…the little guy looks like he found that step and I’ve asked him to find that extra step and he looks pretty quick…one thing about Chris is he’s always competed hard his whole life and he does that and I thought he was very solid tonight,” said Boudreau about Bourque.
Michal Nylander, with two goals, also turned in a strong game coming off missing the second half of last season and the playoffs due to shoulder surgery. Washington needs a good year from Nylander, especially when they are paying him $5M for this season. When asked about #92’s shoulder and if there are any doubts about him being recovered Boudreau said, “No, it’s good….Nyles should have gotten one of [Viktor Kozlov’s] assists last night so in my mind he has four points in two games…you know he had 89 points or something the year before he got hurt..he’s got a lot of pride and is fighting his way saying I’m gonna show everyone how good I am again.”
There was more encouraging news on the night as team captain Chris Clark played 14:29 of ice time providing two assists and got into a scrap with Canes defensemen Tim Conboy in the third period. Clark missed almost all of last season with numerous injuries.
“It was fun, a little bit of everything tonight, some checking…everything was there for me tonight to test,” said Clark on the game and then on the fight with Conboy he added, “you have to get into one eventually so we’ll start now.”
I asked Chris Clark about the heightened expectations this team will face and if as a leader he is talking to the team about what to expect, especially given that he has experience going to the Stanley Cup Finals as a member of the 2004 Calgary Flames team that lost to Tampa Bay in Game 7.
“We pretty much have our whole team back and we didn’t win the last game of last year but it feels like it since the season ended up on such a high note. The guys are trying to remember that run and thought about it all summer so it is something we are just trying to continue,” started Clark, “There is a lot of expectation, you know it is great, we haven’t had that the last three years here. It is something and it is fun because we have to live up to those expectations…we have the team to do it…once the season starts, once the grind gets going, guys will figure it out. You know we have a lot of guys who have won, Feds (Sergei Fedorov) has won two cups, so he is the guy who should be talking about it but it is something definitely that will be coming up later on.”
Despite the fact that Carolina fielded a mostly minor league roster tonight the Caps appear to be off and running. The team is fun to watch because of its offensive minded and up tempo philosophy.
Other Notes: Defensemen Mike Green logged 25:51 of ice time and had 1 assist in the game. Tom Poti played 20:14 of ice time that included a great defensive shift where the Caps killed all 73 seconds of a two man advantage for Carolina. Caps Goalie Darren Machesney stopped the only three shots he faced in the third period but got the win since Washington scored three times in the final period. Boyd Gordon was 11-6 on faceoffs for Washington. Ovechkin had four official hits and eight shots on goal. Despite being outshot 15-9 in the first period Washington outshot Carolina 30-29 overall. The Caps play their next three preseason games on the road: Saturday at Boston, Monday at New Jersey, and Wednesday at Philadelphia. The Hershey Bears, Washington’s AHL farm team, opens training camp on Friday (September 26th).