If you watched Tuesday’s contest between the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins, you would think that it was a regular season game in March. However, this was a preseason game in early October. No standings points were at stake.
“If you came to a typical preseason game tonight, you got your money’s worth,” Caps coach Spencer Carbery said postgame. “Right from the drop of the puck I thought we did a lot of good things throughout the game individually and collectively.”
The Caps coughed up leads of 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3. However, it was a good way to test Washington’s mentality in a tight back and forth game.
“This was sort of our first opportunity, tie game going into the third, show some of that, what winning teams do in those moments,” Carbery said. “Whether it’s puck decisions, whether it’s reads, and I thought we did a lot of good things in a tight game that it sort of felt like there was more at stake than then really was.”
Here are three things that stood out in the Capitals’ 5-4 overtime win against the Bruins.
Connor McMichael Hungry
Connor McMichael was the most noticeable player in Tuesday’s affair. Along with his goal, he had five shots in the first period, through 4:53 of ice time. He was going to the dirty areas in front of the net and being aggressive on the forecheck. Meanwhile, he was also utilized on the penalty kill.
“If you know Connor McMichael, you’ve always seen that about him. He’s confident in his ability and he has swagger and in those moments throughout a game, he wants the puck, he wants to be the guy out there making the play defensively and offensively and you’ve seen him really take that step here,” Carbery said. “It’s the same way he looked to me at a lower level, but now he’s looking like that in the best league in the world.”
McMichael ended the evening with a team-high 10 shots and had 15:14 of ice time. He also had a partial breakaway in overtime but couldn’t convert.
“I think I’m just making a lot more plays that I wouldn’t have been making a couple years ago,” McMichael said after the game. “It’s just like I always say it’s a credit to my confidence right now and I just think that playing with Kuzy and Willy has helped me a lot.”
Poor Transition Defense
Washington’s transition defense was not good, and this led to odd-man rushes for the opposition. Both of Boston’s goals in the first period were on 3-on-2 odd-man breaks and cross ice passes. That trend continued early in the second, and it forced Darcy Kuemper to come up large because of how quickly Boston was moving the puck up the ice.
The odd-man breaks were suppressed later in the game, but it is not a trend that the Caps want to continue heading into the season.
“I felt bad for Kuemper early in the game because you never want as a goalie playing your first preseason action in essentially, call it whatever it is four months, five months, and you throw a couple odd man rushes and grade-a’s, that’s a really tough start to hand him but we were able to settle down after the first,” Carbery said.
Special Teams Special
Special teams came through for Washington in the contest.
The Capitals power play was 2-for-3, with the goals coming from Tom Wilson and John Carlson. As NoVaCaps mentioned in their last takeaway piece, after the 4-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings, the man-advantage unit is moving more and getting more shots to the net. That was the same in Tuesday’s matchup.
The penalty kill was even stronger, going a perfect 4-for-4.
“The kill is picking up from where it left off last year,” Kuemper said postgame. “That was probably the part of our game that we were most happy with at the end of the season. It’s nice to see the guys back out there battling the same way and it was huge being the difference tonight.”
Notable numbers and observations
- The Capitals outshot the Bruins 41-20. They outshot the Bruins 6-1 in overtime.
- Anthony Mantha had a very strong game despite not registering a point. He hit the post a few times, including on a wide-open net. Very good sign.
- Dylan Strome was 58.3% in the faceoff dot.
- Each team had 14 blocked shots.
- The third line of Milano-Strome-Phillips was strong once again.
- Defensive zone coverage and puck management needs some tune ups. Carlson and Sandin had a few bad giveaways in their own zone.
By Jacob Cheris