Photo: Susan Walsh/AP
With his strong performance against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Capitals’ first preseason game on Monday, Connor McMichael was once again inserted into the lineup by head coach Todd Reirden, this time against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues Wednesday night. With Lars Eller out with injury, McMichael was tasked with centering the third line, skating with Richard Panik and Carl Hagelin.
With just over six minutes remaining in the opening frame, the brashness of a confident offensive player was on full display. McMichael took the puck off the wall and drove to the goal alone on his forehand side. As he approached the crease, he cut in front of Binnington and put the puck back between his legs to try and lift one in against the grain.
McMichael 😳 #AllCaps @GoLondonKnights pic.twitter.com/QSKdh1CeZa
— Marcus Boutilier (@SportMajor) September 18, 2019
Binnington was able to make the save but it was very close to being a spectacular play against a quality goalie.
The move was another sign of McMichael’s creative mindset, as evidenced by this being an instinctive move as the play developed quickly. They don’t always work, but coaches generally don’t mind players utilizing their skillset 200 feet from their own end, so long as responsibility in your own end comes along with it.
The game was pretty tight-checking, though played at a higher speed than the first game. McMichael’s line was able to generate quality chances throughout the remainder of the game, though Hagelin took two penalties to diminish some momentum the line was gaining. Reirden also had McMichael out on the power play in the first period as well, but the group could not generate any quality chances.
Other Caps Prospects Notables:
In what is likely Damien Riat’s last game before he heads back overseas to fulfill his contractual agreement, the forward was noticeable once again with his speed. The 2016 4th rounder never seems to be stationary and is always looking to get the puck on the move.
Aliaksei Protas did not light up the scoresheet as he did in game one, but he still looked good as he continues to push defenses with his size and speed. A great example was in the third period when he bodied the puck off a defender in the Blues zone, stole the puck and went in on Binnington for a great scoring chance, coming close to tying the game.
Defenseman Martin Fehervary skated with John Carlson for most of the game and showed signs of promise, as well as a few things he needs to work on. A strong skater, Fehervary plays a very heady game, making the smart plays, as he was able to hold his own playing with Carlson. On the Blues first goal, Fehervary rushed the puck but did not make a great play with the puck behind his net, allowing the Blues forward to steal it and ultimately score.
Fehervary also got caught out of position on former Caps prospect Zach Sanford’s goal, as he allowed the Blues forward inside position and Sanford took full advantage, using his size to push off the young defenseman, shelving a shot over the right shoulder of Ilya Samsonov.
Although 2019 2nd round selection Brett Leason had the unfortunate luck of having the first Blues goal go off his skate, he was at least in position on the play. He was on a line with perennial All-Stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and looked good, using his size to his advantage. Leason models his game after Dallas Star Jamie Benn. The hulking forward registered an assist on Radko Gudas’ goal.
Beck Malenstyn continues to have a good showing, as he is a catalyst and brings energy to his shifts. Not afraid to block shots, Malenstyn saw some penalty killing time with Backstrom. Among his four shots on goal, he had a great scoring chance as he took a centering pass from Protas and fired a strong shot on the Blues goalie. He has the potential for a bottom-6 penalty-killing role somewhere down the road for sure.
Ilya Samsonov looked strong in net, though I am sure he’d like to have the Sanford goal back. Coming into the game halfway through the middle frame, cold, he faced a 5-on-3 power play and stoned a couple of Blues shooters, including a mini-break by Taresenko. Finishing with 12 saves on 13 shots, he faced several high-quality scoring chances and made a few nice saves. His rebound control also looked good. With the contract uncertainty of Braden Holtby, many have eyes on Samsonov as being the potential goalie of the future in Washington.
By Marcus Boutilier
Superb analysis, Marcus B!
Day One is grooving on the 2019 Baby Caps. They’ve got some GOOD ones! And ALL of the draftees are competent hockey players
It really is different from many Caps pre-seasons of yore. In the George McPhee days and especially with the pre-1997 Caps, the franchise would usually deliver a good prospect or two (who eventually became mainstays with the big club), and a WHOLE BUNCH of all-out minor league marginals who would embarrass the franchise and bring depression to the fan base.
It’s Stanley Cup or Bust for the 2019-20 Caps. They have about the best top-to-bottom roster efficiency that is possible in the Bettman Salary Cap era. Now it’s all about leadership
Right on, “Day One”! I’ve been impressed with the kids as well.