Four exhibition games down and three more to go as the Capitals continue to experiment with line combinations and audition players for their final roster spot this preseason. Here are a few of my takeaways from Washington’s 3-1 preseason win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, who, it must be noted, did not dress anything near a complete NHL roster.
— Michal Neuvirth might not sit atop the Capitals’ depth chart in net, but that hasn’t stopped him from looking sharp in the preseason. Last week, Neuvirth told me how excited he was to get in another preseason game after being weighed down in Baltimore because his pads were soaked with water.
Neuvirth made 22 saves against Columbus on Monday night, appearing poised and confident. Tomas Vokoun might be in Washington, but Neuvirth is making it clear that he wants game time, too, and is prepared to earn it.
“This is not a surprise, Michal Neuvirth playing good,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “There was a reason he played in the playoffs for us and down the stretch” last season.
— Monday night’s game was a pretty nice showing by Chris Bourque. Boudreau didn’t want to single out any member of the Bourque-Cody Eakin-Mathieu Perreault line last night, but I will. While each had his strongest showing of the preseason, it was Bourque who stood out the most.
Bourque’s setup pass for Eakin’s goal was arguably the best part of the play that led to the tally and showed his ability to create offensive chances. He played 17 minutes and 52 seconds, finishing with three assists along with three shots on goal. Despite the solid outing, though, it’s still hard to say he surpassed his competition last night.
— Could the Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik be the third defensive pairing? While everyone from General Manager George McPhee to Boudreau has mentioned Hamrlik’s name alongside Mike Green’s in the weeks leading up to this season, through two preseason games the 37-year-old blueliner has looked quite at home next to Wideman.
“The two games they’ve played together, they’ve been very good,” said Boudreau, who initially put them together last week to create stability with a young preseason lineup in Columbus.
Pairing Hamrlik and Wideman is certainly an intriguing option, and it would allow Green to play with longtime defensive partner Jeff Schultz, which could benefit both of them. I’ll have more on Hamrlik later on today, so keep an eye out for that.
— Dmitry Orlov, stopping coaches’ hearts all preseason long. The 20-year-old blueliner is talented — there’s no question about that — but he can make those watching go from excited and enthusiastic to worrying about how he’ll get back into the defensive zone.
“I know what he can do, he’s just a risk-and-reward player,” Boudreau said. “One minute you’re going ‘Wow,’ and the next minute you’re going, ‘Whoa.’ The skill level on him. ... He’s young. It’s only his second preseason game ever in the NHL. He’s gonna learn like all the other guys do.”