The Capitals dropped to 2-0-2 in the preseason Friday with a 5-4 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at Verizon Center. No, that is not a typo — every Caps preseason game has gone to a shootout.
Jonathan Toews recorded the only goal in the tiebreak for Chicago after the teams traded tallies for three periods. For the Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, Eric Fehr and Alex Ovechkin (on a power play) recorded goals.
This marks the midpoint of Washington’s exhibition slate; for the first time, there was a speed and flow to the game that resembled something closer to normal NHL action. Keep in mind that the Hershey Bears open training camp on Monday, so another round of cuts is coming soon.
Five thoughts on the Capitals shootout loss to the Blackhawks.
1. Tom Wilson, goal scorer and fighter. The big right wing prospect continues to make a strong and increasingly confident impression every time he’s on the ice. He scored his second goal of the preseason in the second period on a nice play in front of the net off of a feed from Andre Burakovsky behind the net. Before the middle stanza came to a close, Wilson took exception to a hip check from Blackhawks forward Kyle Beach and the two dropped gloves.
If Wilson can continue to progress and stand out in the second half of the preseason, when exhibition games feature more complete NHL lineups, he could force the Capitals into a tough decision as to whether to keep him in Washington. Earlier this week, Coach Adam Oates said he would like Wilson to remain with the Capitals and he’s not alone in thinking that.
“He’s tough, man. He’s 100 percent going to be great player. You can see he score the goal, make big hits, fight that kind of piece what we missing,” Ovechkin said. “I hope he gonna stay here. He’s a good teammate, fun guy in locker room, support everybody. He’s still young but if he’s going to stay here he’s going to learn a lot and he’s going to be growing fast.”
2. Welcome to the preseason, Ovi. Alex Ovechkin admitted he was more focused on not getting hurt in the preseason opener in Belleville, Ontario, after a high stick scraped across his face and over his left eye. In Baltimore, choppy ice conditions and falling glass were a concern.
But Friday night, in his third preseason appearance, Ovechkin started to look like himself. He recorded a goal on the power play, had seven shots and four hits. Being back on NHL ice should provide Ovechkin the opportunity to reconnect with his linemates and work on preparation rather than worry about the conditions. It’s possible Ovechkin plays two of the final four exhibition contests.
3. About that Chimera-Fehr-Ward line. While having Fehr at center is an experiment, there’s something about that group that – at least in the preseason – seems to click. It’s likely because all three have played with each other at one time or another as wingers on a unit, but never all three together.
Late in the second period it was their ability to work together that created Fehr’s goal. Joel Ward had the puck along the far boards, found Jason Chimera heading in front and the resident speedster waited just long enough for Fehr to slip past the defense before passing the puck over for a quick wrister.
“I knew very well Chimmer was waiting for me to get behind the D and he was going to pass it across. He and I have played a lot together and Wardo I’ve played with a little bit too,” Fehr said. “We’re starting to get a little more chemistry I thought our line was more effective tonight than [in Philadelphia].”
Whether this combination will be reality in the regular season remains to be determined, but it’s interesting to watch.
4. Fehr at center. That line’s fate likely rests with the Fehr-at-center experiment. He went 7-for-14 in the circle today and even beat Toews a few times.
“He was whining about it but he did fine in the circle,” Oates quipped. “Winning against Jonathan Toews is a good one.”
Oates said earlier in the day that Fehr would likely spend the rest of the preseason at center, just to give him time to acclimate and give the option a long look. Even if it’s a bust, Fehr should be able to adapt back to wing fairly easily since that’s where he’s played his entire career.
5. Praise for Carrick. Defensive prospect Connor Carrick skated with Karl Alzner tonight and while the Blackhawks had only about a half dozen regulars in the lineup he still had to face a lot of speed. Oates was pleased with the young blueliner’s composure and admitted the decision on where Carrick, who is AHL eligible, should play next year is growing more difficult.
“I thought he played great tonight,” Oates said. “His poise, he’s another guy we’ve evaluated through camp and his poise has been excellent.”