Saturday, October 2, 2010

Satisfied Saturday Following the Caps 5 - BlueJackets 3 Preseason Game

Well last night's preseason match up at Verizon Center with the Columbus BlueJackets was the most physical game I've seen the Capitals play in the past four seasons. The game featured a fight between Tyler Sloan and Nathan Guenin at 2:00 of the first period, then later in the game there were several "dust-ups" between the two teams that did not end up with fighting majors being issued but with coincidental minors and other penalties being issued. Interestingly, despite being actively involved in the game and having making his presence felt, the Capitals designated "muscle" DJ King finished the evening without any penalty minutes; and in an even stranger coincidence Tyler Sloan finished the evening with 3 minors and a major for 11:00 of penalty minutes, while Capitals Captain Alexander Ovechkin finished with 2 minors and 4:00 of penalty time in the "sin bin". Overall the Caps received 10:00 penalties and the Blue Jackets 7, though to be fair there were at least 2 blatant penalties committed by Columbus that went unnoticed by the Referees - it's preseason for everyone... As to the scoring 2 of the 3 goals for Columbus came off of the sticks of former Capitals properties - one each for Chris Clark and Kyle Wilson. All of Washington's scoring came off the sticks of players who were regular members of the Capitals last season. The only involvement in scoring by those players on the Caps Roster Bubble came in the form of assists by Marcus Johansson and Matheiu Perrault, each of whom had one (1) assist on the night.

Even though the "bubble guys" only had two assists for the evening, I felt they all played well and nobody had a bad game. Despite being on the ice and participating in the scoring of one of the Capitals regular strength goals, Perrault was also on the ice for one of Columbus' regular strength tallies so he finished the night even in the plus/minus category; the diminutive centerman skated between a variety of different line-mates during his 17 shifts and generally looked comfortable with them all including a couple of shifts between Mike Knuble and Alex Ovechkin. Number 85 also had a good night in the face-off circle going 67% and winning 8 of the 12 draws he had. Nineteen year-old Marcus Johansson also had a solid night last evening as well. Johansson, wearing the Capitals Number 90 Sweater, played 14:26 on 22 shifts during which he tallied an assist, ended the evening at +2, and had a takeaway. However, the young Swede's troubles in the faceoff circle continued and he was 0 for 10 in draws on the evening. As I noted after the last pre-season game, he really needs to improve this area of his game and the AHL is probably the best place for him to do that, even if that's not what he wants to hear. The other areas of his game are quite good and his role in Eric Fehr's first score of the evening was nothing but impressive. Jay Beagle and Andrew Gordon both had solid, though generally unremarkable evenings. In both Beagle and A.Gordon's cases even though they didn't make any game changing plays, they did play consistently strong hockey and played very responsible games. Beagle had 14:10 TOI (including 4:20 on the PK) in 18 shifts while A. Gordon had 12:10 TOI in 15 shifts. The final person I consider "on the bubble" who dressed last evening was Matt Hendricks, whose night was cut short - 1 shift, 00:16 TOI by a totally cheap hit, that in my opinion should be reviewed by the league, from Nate Guenin. Guenin's hit on Hendricks is what led Tyler Sloan to drop the gloves with him and I say kudos to Sloan for that. Sloan and Guenin "duked it out" while Hendricks lay on the ice. From where I sit, it looked to me like Guenin at least three quarters clothes-lined Hendricks instead of missing an open ice hit that he did not properly set-up. I also didn't see the meeting between these two teams but noted when I checked that Guenin did not play in that game so he probably just trying to send a message that the Blue Jackets had no intention of letting Hendricks skate freely and light them up for another hat trick. That said, it was a hit that should have been penalized and wasn't and it should get reviewed as it was either a hit to the head or as close as you can get without doing so. So ranking last night's performances by the bubble guys I show: 1) Marcus Johansson; 2) Jay Beagle; 3) Matheiu Perrault; 4) Andrew Gordon; INCOMPLETE) Matt Hendricks. I put Beagle # 2 because he basically was played in a manner as I see him actually being used in the regular season if he makes the roster and he played 4:20 on the Penalty Kill Unit without being on the ice for a Columbus goal - in fact last evening the penalty killing unit for the Capitals looked very strong. I'm a big Perrault fan however last evening he was on the ice for two of the three Columbus goals including the shorthanded tally by Kyle Wilson. During Wilson's goal it sure seemed like he knew both Perrault and Michal Neuvirth's Achilles heels which isn't surprising since he spent the last two seasons playing with them in Hershey. I suspect we'll see Hendricks again in Sunday's contest as he is now said to be fine, according to the game recap on the Caps site: "Hendricks did not return to the game, but he is said to be fine. Boudreau said afterwards that had it been a regular season contest, Hendricks would have returned to action."

As for the Caps regulars, last night I noticed starting in warm-ups these were guys with a purpose. I'm not saying they aren't having fun, it's clear when they play they are having fun, but they all have very intense looks on their faces - right now they are 5-0 on the preseason with one more preseason game to play; the looks on their faces during warm-ups and during the games say that even if they played a perfect 103 - 0 between now and June 2011, they won't be really happy until they win their 104th game in a row and get to raise a Stanley Cup. No I'm not saying I expect them to do that, what I am saying is this team has a look of a team with a purpose and that purpose is to win the league championship. It's something that really makes me as a Caps fan happy, especially with folks around town talking like the playoffs are obviously just going to happen. The team I saw play last night doesn't look like a group of guys who are taking anything for granted this season. Everyone who played last evening was clearly ready for the regular season, and they all understand that there are no "gimme points" in the NHL. As I mentioned last nights was a physical game and even two time MVP and team Captain Alex Ovechkin got into it. Ovechkin intervened on behalf of Mike Knuble when the Caps’ captain perceived that his linemate had been the victim of a borderline hit from Columbus defenseman Nick Holden. Ovechkin’s efforts earned him a double-minor for roughing. The only half smile I saw all game came when Mike Green stepped between DJ King and former Capitals Captain Chris Clark early in the third period. Green had a wry grin as he said something to his former Captain which I imagine was some variant of: "Hey Chris since we're still sort of friends, trust me you don't want any of that, especially in a preseason game."

Of the guys who didn't play last evening I expect we'll see Tomas Fleischmann on the ice Sunday along with a few others who didn't play against Columbus including Semyon Varlamov, Matt Bradley, Brian Fahey, David Steckel and if he's at full strength Matt Hendricks. The following Capitals did not skate at this morning's practice: Backstrom, Carlson, Green, Varlamov and Hendricks.

In other news around the league, former Capitals goaltender, and 2010 Masterson Trophy winner, Jose Theodore has signed a 1 year $1.1M contract with the Minnesota Wild. To me that's happy news, I'm still rooting for Theodore who I fell has a couple more good seasons left in him and is a really good human being.

Well next up the final Capitals pre-season tomorrow afternoon at Verizon Center against the Nashville Predators. I am truly wondering what the lineup will look like as it appears as of this evening the Capitals are still carrying 29 players on the roster.


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