The Washington Capitals’ preseason finale was far from what anyone expected. It went from being a “show me” game for some guys, from Ilya Samsonov in net to young guys still working to make a case for a spot on a nearly-set roster. Instead, it turned into something entirely different.
Washington’s final exhibition turned into a hard-hititng, gritty (no pun intended) showdown that featured a couple fights, big hits and quick goals that culminated in a 5-3 win for the Capitals.
Here are your takeaways from Friday’s game.
Ovechkin Exits Early With Injury
Alex Ovechkin was only three shifts into the game before suffering a lower-body injury. He went to hit Travis Konecny and fell awkwardly to the ice before skating off under his own power and heading straight down the tunnel. The team announced he wouldn’t return to the game at the end of the first period.
Head coach Peter Laviolette said that Ovechkin would be re-evaluated on the team’s off day on Saturday and see if he’s ready to practice on Sunday. There was a never a plan for him to return to action for the remainder of hte game against Philly.
T.J. Oshie added that it’s always tough to see a teammate go down, but he was confident that the 36-year-old would come back with a vengeance.
“There’s always a concern. We were kind of joking in the room that that Russian blood, he’ll be back soon,” Oshie said. “I don’t know if he even misses a day. He’s a tough guy. It’s always concerning seeing him lay there, but no doubt he’ll be back scoring goals in no time.”
Young Guns Step Up
On the plus side, the Capitals did see some positives from their younger prospects.
Hendrix Lapierre closed out his preseason in a wild one. He started the game as the third-line center between Conor Sheary and T.J. Oshie, and with Ovechkin out, got some time in his place on the first line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson.
This would open options for Laviolette, especially if Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom (hip) are unavailable to start the season.
Overall, Lapierre was solid, but did struggle a bit at times with turnovers, and also had to adjust to the ever-changing, heavy-hitting pace of the game. The 19-year-old also showed flashes of playmaking and pretty passing, and ultimately managed a couple of good looks and opportunities. Lapierre finished with one shot and one takeaway and went 4-for-11 in the dot over 13:44 minutes, including 1:35 on the man advantage.
“I think I did everything in my power,” Lapierre said in regards to making the cut. “Lots of things to work on obviously, but I feel like I played in my style, I played relatively good and at the end, it is not my decision, but if I leave, I am happy with what I’ve done.”
Beck Malenstyn is still a long shot to start the year in D.C. given the circumstances, but he made the most of his last preseason game.
The 6-3, 200-pound forward made the most of every shift, whether it be at 5-on-5 or the penalty kill. He was using his reach and physicality to force turnovers and move the puck out of harm’s way, and he skated with confidence. Malenstyn also generated some big scoring chances and finished the night with two shots, four hits and a block over 14:36 minutes on the ice. He was second behind Lars Eller in shorthanded TOI (2:51).
Right now, it looks like Connor McMichael and Lapierre could be on this team to start the season, with both of them interchanging. And, if Ovechkin does miss more time, then Washington can utilize one of those guys on the wing.
Mantha, Eller Rise To Occasion
With Washington missing its captain, Anthony Mantha and Lars Eller stepped up and took charge.
Eller led all forwards in ice time (20:21) and recorded a goal, an assist and three shots. However, he did struggle greatly in the face-off dot, losing 15 of 22 draws.
Mantha also took charge for Washington. The 6-5, 234-pound forward was a force on the ice for the Capitals and all over the place on the ice. He made himself big in the offensive zone and utilized his speed and reach to generate high-danger chances while picking up his second goal of the preseason and leading the team with five shots.
Turnovers, Face-Offs Plague Capitals
Turnovers continue to be a problem, though, as well as odd-man breaks. Cam Atkinson was able to pick off John Carlson and go on a 2-on-1 break, easily firing it top shelf to even the score. Another misplay — a drop-pass from Kuznetsov that went unanswered) led to Atkinson’s second tally of the game.
Washington also didn’t do well in the face-off dot on Friday. Nic Dowd won just five of 16 draws, and Kuznetsov’s FO% of 43 led the team.
More Ice Chips:
- Kuznetsov picked up two assists and finished the preseason with five points in four games. He was impressive yet again vs. Philly, moving the puck well, making crafty plays and working well on the half wall and at center.
- Martin Fehervary was tied with Mantha for the team lead in shots (5) and also picked up an assist.
- T.J. Oshie dropped the gloves with Garrett Wilson after Wilson had hit Michal Kempny. Re: the play “I like to think that any guy in the locker room would have done the same thing if it was me getting hit.”
- Tom Wilson also received a roughing penalty for going after Joel Farabee, who knocked down Hendrix Lapierre.
- Mantha finished the preseason with two goals and three points in four games.
- Ilya Samsonov said he felt “100 percent” and good in his return to action. He stopped 22 of 25 shots for a .880 save. percentage.
- Dmitry Orlov led all Capitals skaters with 22:20 TOI.