It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for the Washington Capitals against the Boston Bruins. An odd goal and a handful of odd-man breaks had the Bruins in charge early, but a surge in the final 40 minutes, a strong game from Vitek Vanecek and an overtime winner from Anthony Mantha gave the Capitals their first win of the preseason, 4-3.
There were a lot of names that stood out, but Evgeny Kuznetsov led the charge. The 29-year-old has been impressive through training camp so far and that has translated to game action. He cycled the puck well and made smart passes while transitioning well and moving the puck effectively. His speed, vision and playmaking on the fly helped him generate several high-danger chances, find the right plays and maintain momentum in the offensive zone.
The follow up 🦅 pic.twitter.com/9VtC31rNKf
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 7, 2021
An all-around effort at both ends for No. 92 led to keep the puck in the offensive zone and ultimately crash the net for a rebound goal. Fifty-six seconds later, he’d find Tom Wilson all alone up the ice for a beautiful breakaway goal.
Kuznetsov ended up leading all forwards in TOI (21:27), shots on goal (4) and face-off win percentage (58).
Overall, Kuznetsov, Wilson and Alex Ovechkin had solid chemistry, and that looks like a combination that could stick.
Another player that generated a lot of pressure: Connor McMichael. The 20-year-old is still making a run for a roster spot and is mainly competing with Hendrix Lapierre to fill Nicklas Backstrom’s void. He made the most of what may be his last preseason game since Lapierre seems likely to swap in for McMichael in a similar-looking lineup on Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
McMichael was putting in a huge effort on the forecheck, using his speed and hockey IQ to get to the high-scoring areas. He got to the front of the net, made some good plays and generated a lot of momentum alongside T.J. Oshie and Conor Sheary. He still needs to improve in the face-off dot, as well as on the backcheck. In 12:17, McMichael was a minus-2 and registered two shots and a hit, while winning just three of 10 draws.
READ MORE ON WHN: McMichael, Lapierre Maintain Healthy Dynamic While Competing For Spot On Capitals Roster
On defense, Trevor van Riemsdyk really made the most of his opportunity on that top pairing. He was aware on the ice, stayed with his man and didn’t miss many of his assignments. TVR was also effective in moving the puck out of harm’s way and moving it up ice. He was tied for the lead among defensemen in shots (3) and also got some great looks offensively while picking up two takeaways and two blocks in 16:06 minutes on the ice.
Michal Kempny looks like he’s also getting more comfortable with each game as he eases back into action following a number of left-leg injuries and a lengthy road to recovery. His reads and defensive awareness improved significantly, and it looks like he’s skating well to boot.
However, there are areas that the blue line needs to clean up. The Capitals surrendered several odd-man breaks, and a couple of missed assignments and failure to stay with players in front led to scoring chances and a surefire rebound goal for Taylor Hall, who easily got around John Carlson to cut to the front.
Washington did have a strong last line of defense, though, in Vanecek. The Czech netminder was tremendous in net. He came up huge with a few highlight-reel saves, including two where he absolutely robbed Brad Marchand and an in-tight semi-breakaway for David Pastrnak. He stayed with the play and did a great job of keeping track of the puck. Vanecek stopped 33 of 36 shots (.917 SV%) to lead the Capitals to victory.
🚫 VV 🚫 pic.twitter.com/yVCy9xLrSa
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 6, 2021
Regardless, with the season opener quickly approaching, Vanecek sure is making quite the case to be the starter on Oct. 13. Ilya Samsonov is still recovering, but even so, Vanecek has looked sharp through the exhibitions.
More Ice Chips:
- Daniel Sprong was flying out there and tied Kuznetsov for the team lead in shots (4).
- Carlson led all Washington skaters in TOI (23:25).
- The power play was 0-for-5 before Oshie converted on a smart play by Ovechkin late in the third. The PP1 started to find some momentum late and did generate several chances, and the key was patience.
- Oshie picked up a goal and assist, and Ovechkin had two helpers of his own.
- Mantha’s OT winner was his first goal of the preseason. He also generated a lot of speed and executed smart plays.