The Washington Capitals downed the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-3 (OT) Saturday night at Capital One Arena in their 6th and final preseason game. Here are the notes for each of the Capitals prospects and how they performed in the final preseason game.
Forwards: Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Borgstrom, Dylan Strome, Lars Eller, Garnet Hathaway, Connor McMichael, Nic Dowd, Connor Brown, Anthony Mantha, Aliaksei Protas, Conor Sheary, Marcus Johansson, Joe Snively and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Defensemen: Nick Jensen, Martin Fehervary, Lucas Johansen, Erik Gustafssson, Matt Irwin, Trevor van Riemsdyk and John Carlson.
Goaltenders: Darcy Kuemper, Charlie Lindgren
OFFENSIVE LINES AND DEFENSIVE PAIRS
The Capitals forward lines and defensive pairs for the sixth and final preseason game.
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Connor Brown
Aliaksei Protas – Dylan Strome – Anthony Mantha
Marcus Johansson, Connor McMichael – Conor Sheary
Joe Snively – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary – John Carlson
Lucas Johansen – Nick Jensen
Erik Gustafsson – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Darcy Kuemper got the start in goal for the Capitals and went the distance. Elvis Merzlikins got the start between the pipes for the Blue Jackets.
Capitals scratches: T.J. Oshie (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (lower body), Matt Irwin and Lars Eller (illness).
Connor McMichael – Another game, another line combination for McMichael, this time centering the third line with Marcus Johansson and Conor Sheary. McMichael was the last line of defense on the Jackets first goal, but he really had little chance stopping Patrik Laine. He did make a careless pass that led to a turnover in the offensive zone later in the first frame. In the end, the game was in no way a deal sealer for McMichael, either way. He played just 8:51 of ice time, had one shot and was a -1.
McMichael is very much on the fence as far as making the opening night roster, but again, he is waivers-exempt, so whatever decision is made by Laviolette and company on Sunday, McMichael will see plenty of NHL action this season. His finish to the preseason flatlined somewhat.
Aliaksei Protas – Protas made it a perfect 6 for 6 in starts for the preseason. Tonight’s line was imposing, with Protas, 6’-6” and Mantha, 6’-5”, bookending Dylan Strome, 6’-3”. Protas once again was up to the task, and worked well with the line. Protas’ backchecking was once again very noticeable in tonight’s tilt, as he broke up multiple passes with his long reach. Protas had a nice chance on a rebound in the middle frame, but Merzlikins made an excellent stop. Protas played 12:14, had three shots and was a +1.
Protas should make the final 23-man roster on Monday. His waivers-exempt status will also be a benefit during the season, particularly when Tom Wilson returns to the lineup.
Joe Snively – Snively saw time on the second power play and first penalty kill, and did ok. He had one fumbled puck that led to a turnover on the Capitals first man advantage. Snively on the 4th line has been a mixed bag, and in the end, it may not be the best spot for him, as it’s mostly a defensive role on the team. The line worked well together in this game, but it’s not maximizing Snively’s skills. Snively played 9:58, including time on both the power play and the penalty kill. He had no shots.
Snively had a rather quiet finish to his training camp, and didn’t really make any major statements in his last two preseason games. However, it’s likely his fate was determined before the final two preseason games. It’s gonna be close. If the Capitals go with 14 forwards and seven defensemen, I think he makes it and Lucas Johansen is waived.
Lucas Johansen – Johansen allowed an early back-door chance for the Jackets, but Kuemper shut the door. He also had a rather careless play in front of the Capitals goal early in the second period, but was bailed out by backchecking forwards. Johansen had 14:17 of time on ice and played a decent game. Nothing that really stood out either way.
Johansen has been given every chance this preseason. Whether he made enough of an impression to earn a depth position remains to be seen. It’s been fairly clear that Gustafsson has earned the 6th defenseman spot. It will likely get down to the decision regarding 14-7 or 13-8. If the Capitals go with 13 forwards and eight defensemen, I think Snively could be the odd man out, and Johansen makes the opening night roster.
SUMMARY AND STANDOUTS
Prospect standouts included: Aliaksei Protas
Expected Goals For Percentage (xGF%) 5v5 – Game 6
Preseason Cumulative xGF% 5v5 – 6 Games
Laviolette said on Saturday that the coaches will get together on Sunday morning to finalize the Capitals 23-man roster, so we could hear about final cuts as soon as some time Sunday afternoon. Final rosters need to be set by 5:00 PM on Monday.
“They’ll be decisions that we have to get together with on Sunday morning,” said Laviolette. “…the training camp factors into it, how they did in the games, what kind of camp they had overall—all of it’s going to factor in—what we need, our needs up here, roles, needs, and so all of that factors into the decision-making.”
We’ve previously discussed the wide array of options facing the Capitals decision-makers (here.) With Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren assured two of the 23 spots, the Capitals could go with 14 forwards and seven defensemen or 13 forwards and eight defensemen for their final roster openings.
By Jon Sorensen