The glorious sport of hockey is back in Washington, DC! The Capitals invited the Boston Bruins to town on Tuesday night in what was essentially a rookie tune-up/tire-kicking.
How did it go?
Here’s Tuesday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: HOCKEY IS BACK IN DC! And some of these rookies look dang good!
Minus: A loss is a loss is a loss, of course of course of course.
And now, this...
CUPHOLDER PROOF OF LIFE!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/W4jpPXpQy6— Jason Rogers (@HeyJayJRogers) September 19, 2018
Ten more notes on the game:
1. The first preseason home game of 2018 came to Capital One Arena on Tuesday night, and HOCKEY IS BACK IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL! HALLELUJAH! May the red rock rowdily, forevermore, o’er the crowns of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals.
2. Preseason games, as you likely reasoned, are mostly a chance for NHL coaching staffs to see how their rookies and prospects perform in a real, live-ammunition game. For Washington, that especially meant playing rookie Swedish winger Axel Jonsson-Fjallby on a top line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, and trying Nic Dowd and Travis Boyd, both potential 4th-line centers, on the penalty kill. Let’s see what we’ve got!
3. Unfortunately, the Bruins came out of the gate faster in this contest. Rookie Cameron Hughes redirected a Boston shot (assisted by Daniel Winnik!) down and in past Braden Holtby to make this one 1-0 Bruins very early on.
4. But just four minutes later, Washington’s Riley Barber scoffed and said, “Anything you can do, I can do sexier.” Barber smartly redirected an Alexander Alexeyev point shot down and into the back of the net, knotting this contest at 1-1 halfway through the first.
5. The score looked like it would hold until the intermission, but nefarious masterfiend Jakub Lauko, fresh out of the box like sneaky pop tarts, found himself behind the Capitals unwitting defense and sprung loose on a breakaway. He stuffed it past Holtby and in to make it 2-1 Boston at the first break.
6. The second period kicked off with some unmotivated fireworks, as Washington’s Connor Hobbs dropped the gloves to defend the honor of......well, I’m not really sure. It’s the preseason, and the roster is chock-full. But he chucked knucks anyway, and sat down for five minutes.
7. AND HE WASN’T THE ONLY ONE! Fellow Hershey lifer Liam O’Brien followed suit later in the period, and....well, had himself a good ol’ fight. Good-.....good job boys.
8. Meanwhile, Boston took the opportunity to run up the score, riding two goals from Zach Senyshyn. The first came just seconds after Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov made his Capital One Arena debut. Tough break, kid. It was 4-1 Bruins after two periods.
9. The Capitals clawed back part of the way in the final stanza, buoyed by a goal from UNSTOPPABLE SCORING WEAPON Matt Niskanen that made it 4-2. But despite several power play opportunities (a group that did not look particularly effective when featuring Shane Gersich on the PP1 unit), the score held with the addition of an empty-netter, and Boston won the second of two contests, 5-2.
10. One big highlight was the play of Riley Barber for the Capitals. Barber recorded 9 shots on goal, and was visibly better than every other non-starter on the Caps roster. One has to imagine that if Barber, who featured on the power play and at even strength, can show any ability to penalty kill, he will be one of the front-runners for an NHL spot.
On the other hand, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby played fine on the top line, but seemed to struggle with his duties playing the pivot man along the half wall on the defense-to-offense breakout. I spoke with Todd Reirden earlier today, and he told me AJF would need to work on exactly that to get NHL-ready.
I spoke with center Travis Boyd after the game. I asked him about getting some reps in on the PK, and how it might improve his chances to make the roster.
“My first time playing PK in a while, too!” Boyd agreed. “I’m just trying to play the game 200 feet, even in the D zone, and then try to chip in offensively as much as I can. I thought that I did a pretty good job, thought that the whole team got better as the game went on.”
I also asked rookie center Jayson Megna - who played on the wing tonight - about the importance of being willing to take on new and versatile roles on a Todd Reirden team.
“It helps being versatile, it helps you stick anywhere you are. So I think as long as I can prove I can play a few different positions, I think I’ve got a shot,” Megna told me.
All-in-all, not much to report home about from this one. The fourth-line center role is still up in the air, and new rookies will have a chance to prove themselves against the Canadiens later this week.
But - HOCKEY IS BACK, Y’ALL!