The Washington Capitals continued their 2022 preseason schedule Saturday night with a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus. The Capitals started seven veteran forwards and three veteran defensemen, as the team continues to move closer to their actual opening night lineup.
Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette indicated that the final two preseason games will be more or less dress rehearsals for opening night. If that’s the case, tonight’s tilt was most likely the final game for prospects to present their case. Here’s a breakdown of how each of the prospects fared in the fourth preseason game.
LINES AND PAIRS
Charlie Lindgren started in goal for the Capitals. Here are the lines and pairs for the 4th preseason game:
Marcus Johansson – Connor McMichael – Garrett Pilon
Anthony Mantha – Aliaksei Protas – Garnet Hathaway
Connor Sheary – Hendrix Lapierre – Connor Brown
Beck Malenstyn – Nic Dowd – Brett Leason
Dmitry Orlov – Vincent Iorio
Erik Gustafsson – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Gabriel Carlsson – Matt Irwin
Henrik Bergstrom and and Dylan McIlrath were the healthy scratches. Elvis Merzlikins got the start between the pipes for the Jackets.
Connor McMichael – McMichael had a very good first shift, but other than that a relatively quiet first period. He didn’t see an open Pilon on a rush early in the second period and was on the ice for the Jackets second goal. Otherwise a relatively quiet game for McMichael. He had 2 shots and was a -1 in 14:30 of time on ice. The top line combination appeared to be a good one on paper, but never really seemed to generate any solid push, as McMichael ended up with the lowest xGF% of all Capitals forwards. Because McMichael is waivers-exempt, he is moving towards the odd-man out in the battle for the highly-coveted forwards roster battle. Hopefully he will see action in the final two preseason games, as he still needs that standout game.
Hendrix Lapierre – Recorded a shot in the first frame but other than that he was relatively quiet in the opening period. Early in the second period he started a nice two-pass scoring chance that was denied by Merzlikins. He also made a nice move to generate a scoring chance around the goal late in the second frame. He was also solid on the Caps second power play unit and generated chances on the man advantage. His game picked up in the third period. He generated two bombs from just inside the blue line early in the third period but missed the net on the first and the second was saved by the Jackets’ netminder. He also had a nice chance late in the third period. He is still getting pushed off pucks on occasion, but that will improve with time, particularly with a year of puck-battling in the AHL. He remains behind Aliaksei Protas on the center depth chart. He had one shot on goal in 13:33 of ice time.
Garrett Pilon – Pilon was aggressive on both ends from the start, and generated two chances early in the first period. He continued to battle for the puck at both ends in the middle frame and generated good puck movement and a few chances on the power play. Again, the line combination didn’t seem to work very well. Pilon had two shots on goal in 17:31 of ice time.
Beck Malenstyn – Malenstyn continued demonstrating his physical checking game, but more notably, he was solid on the penalty kills again tonight. He was excellent at pressuring the puck and caused more than one turnover. To no surprise, Malenstyn led all Caps in hits with 4. He had no shots on goal in 12:48 of ice time.
Bret Leason – Another relatively quiet showing for Leason, at the start of this one. His game picked up as the game progressed, ultimately recording 4 shots on goal (tied for team high) in just 12:15 of ice time. Otherwise nothing much to report one way or the other for Leason. The 4th line of Malenstyn, Dowd and Leason was an interesting one by Laviolette, but I’m not sure it worked, although they all had xGF% well above 65%.
Aliaksei Protas – Protas was solid from the start, and scored just seven minutes into the contest on a Capitals 6-on-5 delayed penalty, slamming home a rebound. He also had a solid short-handed opportunity late in the first frame. He was solid on the backcheck and forecheck at the center position, for the entire game. He had three shots in 15:03 of total time on ice. Protas is NHL-ready, it’s just a question of how the Capitals would fit him on the roster, even as a 14th forward. His best attribute may be that he is waivers-exempt, which could mean another yo-yo season for The Viper. He will see NHL games.
Vincent Iorio – No initial nerves for Iorio in this one. He got off to a good start, was solid in the d-zone, throughout. He continues to be aggressive in the offensive zone, but did turn the puck over on one early possession in the Blue Jackets zone. He was credited by the NHL site for a -1 on the Jackets first goal but he wasn’t on the ice. Made two nice stops on Jackets rushes early in the middle frame, but was beat by his man around the goal for a scoring chance that was denied by Lindgren. He continues to get better each game. He will most likely be heading to Hershey, but it would be nice to see him play in one of the dress rehearsal games next week.
Gabriel Carlsson – Carlsson was beat around the goal for the Blue Jackets first goal. Carlsson seemed to play fairly well with Irwin, although he was out of position on occasion. That may still a result of a new system for him. He does still show occasional offensive flash, and had the team’s best expected goals for percentage.
SUMMARY AND STANDOUTS
Prospect standouts included: Aliaksei Protas, Vincent Iorio, Garett Pilon.
The Capitals are now done with the road portion of their preseason schedule. They will wrap the preseason next week hosting the Red Wings on Wednesday and the Blue Jackets on Saturday.
By Jon Sorensen