Sunday night was the Capitals’ last preseason game before their home opener Saturday against Carolina, and the Caps managed a 4-1 win against a Chicago roster that left off several of the Blackhawks’ best players.
Some notes on the final game and where it takes the Capitals going into the regular season:
–Boudreau said overall he felt the game was ‘pretty sloppy.’ The power play, after a solid performance Monday, certainly seemed to regress, with the Capitals going 1-6 on Sunday and the one tally coming on a 2-man advantage. We’ll see what adjustments the team makes (if any) before Saturday. “We didn’t play like Stanley Cup champions all preseason,” Boudreau said after Sunday’s game, but added, “We got through it. I think they’re in shape, they’re game- ready, and we don’t have any major injuries or suspensions.”
–Brooks Laich tried his hand at center between Jason Chimera and Joel Ward on Sunday. Laich got a goal early in the game with Ward and Chimera assisting, though Laich followed it up with a penalty that gave Chicago exchanged for a goal on its power play opportunity. Laich finished+2; his linemates finished +1. Laich also had a 69% faceoff percentage and took 16 total, five more than Nicklas Backstrom. Overall, Laich seemed comfortable, although Boudreau had a longer answer as to whether this is the strongest Laich has looked in the preseason: “I would say this game…I thought he played pretty good in the last game against Buffalo, but you could see he was starting to ramp it up. Definitely better than the first two that he played.”
–Out of all the buzz surrounding weight, conditioning, and who really cares about playing well, it’s beyond a doubt clear that Michal Neuvirth, the guy who innocently suffered the biggest loss over the summer – a starting job—came ready to play. Monday and Sunday, he was a brick wall, and let in only one goal per game. Boudreau was so pleased that he called Neuvirth a “number 1A” goalie on the roster and said he’d be playing a lot of hockey this season. Tomas Vokoun is still the undisputed #1, though, according to the coach.
–Saving the best for last: watching guys crack the NHL roster thanks to stellar training camp and preseason performances is always exciting, and this year’s two most likely candidates didn’t disappoint. Jay Beagle topped off a hardworking preseason with this tally Sunday in which, despite it being an empty netter, he had to fight for ice every stride he took.
But the real hero of the preseason was Mathieu Perreault, who finished with 5 points, tied for highest on the team with Troy Brouwer. It’s not secret that Perreault has been on OFB’s radar for awhile, and to hear the hardworking centerman get called by Boudreau the “best player” in camp is definitely a welcome quote to add to OFB pixels. Perreault missed out on a regular roster spot last season in part due to the emergence of rookie Marcus Johansson, who spent much of this preseason playing on the top line between Alex Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer. Ironically, Boudreau ended up moving Perreault to that position at one point in Sunday’s game, explaining afterwards, “He was creating things … so we wanted to see if Matty could handle playing with those guys, ’cause sometimes it’s intimidating.” Boudreau said the key for Perreault is still finding consistency. It’s looking more and more like he will find it as a full-fledged member of the Capitals this season.