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Capitals Postgame: Bottom Six Battles; Is The Penalty Kill A Problem?



Washington Capitals coach Spencer Carbery speaks to players during a break in play during the third period of the team's NHL preseason hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

It wasn’t the Washington Capitals’ best performance, but it is the preseason after all.

Saturday’s matchup with the Detroit Red Wings — one that pitted many of Detroit’s regulars against many of Washington’s bubble players — was anything but a sure bet for the Capitals, even with a BetMGM Ohio bonus code.

Few, if any conclusions were drawn in the Red Wings’ 5-2 win, but there were a handful of items to take away, especially as the Capitals continue to piece together their opening night roster.

Phillips Impresses In Bottom Six Battle

There are quite a few opportunities up for grabs as the Capitals look to round out their bottom six lines — head coach Spencer Carbery said as much on Friday.

The Capitals trotted out many contenders in Saturday’s game, but none impressed more than Matthew Phillips. The 25-year-old forward tallied an assist in the second period, as well as a goal of his own later in the period.

Phillips, who joined the Capitals organization this offseason via free agency, has little left to prove in the AHL after finishing second in goals league-wide last season, as well as fifth-best in total points. But so far, Phillips’ NHL opportunities have been few and far between, resulting in his departure from the Calgary Flames organization.

With the Capitals, it’s all about fit.

“For me, It’s this: you see the creativity, the intelligence, the puck skills — where does that fit?” Carbery said last week. “Whether that’s a top six and whether he could find that, or if he isn’t playing top six, is he able to use those in a third, fourth line role and still be effective?”

Throughout training camp, Phillips has primarily lined up at wing, but he possesses a little bit of versatility to be able to line up at center as well.

Capitals’ Struggle Big Time When Down A Man

After Thursday’s win over Detroit, Carbery noted that the team needed to improve against 6-on-5 situations. Given the team’s success (or lack thereof) on Saturday, it’s more than just against the empty net.

Obviously the Capitals didn’t trot out their best Saturday — like they did on Thursday with Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson and others — but the team’s response to playing a man down left much to be desired. The unit surrendered two goals, allowing the Red Wings to jump ahead early.

Scott Allen, who oversees the team’s penalty kill from behind the bench, remains, as does much of last season’s squad. Jumping to conclusions during the preseason is often inaccurate, but it looks like the unit may have some strides to go before returning to one of the league’s better groups.

Jared Serre covers the Washington Capitals for Washington Hockey Now. He is a graduate of West Virginia University.