The Washington Capitals dropped their preseason finale, 4-2, in the dying minutes of the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night. Adam Fantilli scored the game-winning goal with about three minutes to play in the third.
Here are three things that stood out:
Strong o-zone puck cycles
The Capitals did a good job of getting into the offensive zone cleanly and cycling the puck. Furthermore, the Caps did a really good job of firing pucks on net, instead of waiting for the perfect shot. They weren’t the most high-quality, but they were good shots. There were a few rebounds that Elvis Merzlikins coughed up, but no one was able to capitalize.
Passes were very crisp both north-south and east-west, and players were not standing still. The Caps also did a good job of keeping plays alive at the blue line, one of which led to John Carlson’s goal. Nic Dowd was able to stay with the puck after losing possession, and then fed it over to the far side to Carlson and he whistled it home past Merzlikins.
“I think what you’re going to come to find out and I’m starting to find out as the new head coach of this team is the offensive concepts that we’re bringing in and that we’re talking about, we’re dialed,” Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery said. “We’ve got a good grasp on them very early in training camp here, all through.”
Washington’s best shift was with about six minutes left in the middle frame. Carlson was able to hold the line and the Caps had a few quality scoring chances, but couldn’t convert.
Hits, hits and more hits
This game had a regular season feel to it. It was very very physical. The best hit of the game came from T.J. Oshie, where he rocked 2023 third-overall pick Adam Fantilli. Erik Gudbrandson took exception to that hit and it led to 4-on-4 play.
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— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 8, 2023
Meanwhile, Tom Wilson wanted to drop the gloves with Boone Jenner after he made contact with Darcy Kuemper, but the officials separated them quickly.
Oshie and Beck Malenstyn each had three hits which led the team.
The hit counter was 15-14 in favor of Columbus.
More odd-man rushes given up
You can tell that Carbery is getting frustrated with the amount of odd-man rushes given up, and we aren’t even in the regular season yet.
The Blue Jackets first goal of the game was because of a 2-on-1. The Caps’ coaching staff has already had numerous conversations with the players about making smarter reads, but the message still has not been delivered.
“We have to get that cleaned up. It is not a recipe for success in the National Hockey League if you continue to give up odd-man rushes,” Carbery said. “We have to get that cleaned up from a read and puck play standpoint and a structure standpoint.”
Notable numbers and observations
- Alex Alexeyev had a few nice defensive plays breaking up scoring chances with his stick positioning.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov was flying on Saturday. He was making terrific plays and created two high quality chances. One was a behind the net pass to Connor McMichael, who unfortunately missed the net. Then early in the third, he had a long stretch pass to send Rasmus Sandin on a breakaway.
- Sonny Milano, Matthew Phillips and Dylan Strome continue to be a very dynamic line. Milano had a few good chances.
- The Capitals were 0-for-3 on the power play, but it had its looks.
- The Caps outshot the Jackets 27-25.
The Capitals begin the regular season on Friday, Oct. 13 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
By Jacob Cheris