Five thoughts on the Capitals’ third preseason game and second preseason trip to Baltimore.
1. Choppy, rough ice. The Baltimore Arena was colder than it was two years ago and there weren’t any puddles forming lakes around the rink. But the ice quickly grew choppy and full of ruts each period, making caution a necessary focus for players.
Passes and shots, rolled and bounced unpredictably all over the rink. Perhaps the best example was when Mike Green was unable to stick handle down center ice during the shootout because the puck started bobbling the moment he tried to pull it back across.
“First five minutes [ice] is well but after it’s kind of, you can’t hold the puck you can’t shoot it and you’re afraid to go to the boards because it’s too dangerous out there,” Alex Ovechkin said. “I think in the third period, the end of the game we start to feel little better. It’s end of the game and you get into the game, you get good sweat and [you want to] win. But first couple periods it was hard to be out there because you know it’s kind of dangerous out there and you see what happen with the glass. It’s kind of scary.”
2. Another scare for Ovechkin. More concerning than the ice was the malfunction with the glass. Part of a stanchion popped off in the first period and then in the second, a pane of glass cracked and came crashing down on Ovechkin. It’s the second close call in two preseason games for the star winger, who was clipped up high by a Winnipeg prospect in the first exhibition contest.
Ovechkin didn’t seem to hit the boards and glass particularly hard, but it cracked and fell on his head. It was likely a sign of a building with aging boards and glass, that doesn’t host hockey often.
“I don’t know. I just try to get the hit and I miss it, I hit the glass and it just crashes,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t know if I’m too strong or glass not that strong.”
3. Wilson’s readiness. Tom Wilson scored the Capitals’ first goal of the night and questionable ice or no, the gritty winger appears to be growing in confidence with each practice and game. Afterward, Coach Adam Oates was asked if the 19-year-old was doing the right things in the preseason to stick around.
“He is for me. That’s something [General Manager] George [McPhee] and I talk about all the time. A couple more games, I think we’ll see good things. Got a nice goal tonight, played good, physical, was moving around a bit better, hit guys. That’s a lot of what we’re going to ask for him.”
More on this tomorrow, but I can’t say Oates’s stance wasn’t expected. Wilson has advanced beyond dominating his peers in the OHL and given the choices available to them at the moment, the NHL seems like a logical fit. His blend of sandpaper and skill is something no team can have enough of.
4. The surprise from Down Under. Troy Brouwer didn’t know anything about the young prospect who took up as the left wing on his line in training camp when Brooks Laich was sidelined by a left hip flexor injury. After two games of skating with Nathan Walker, though, the veteran right wing likes what he’s seen.
“We had a couple practices together, good kid, wants to learn, always asking questions. I really like that because it means he cares and he wants to get better. He’s working hard on the ice, he was the hardest worker on our line and got some extra ice time,” Brouwer said. “He’s really proving himself right now and I think he deserves a really good look.”
Walker scored his second – Jack Hillen’s tally in Belleville, Ontario has been credited to him – goal of the preseason Tuesday night. He also made a nice pass to Wilson in front for the first-round pick’s goal against the Bruins.
5. Day off Wednesday. The new collective bargaining agreement states that players must have two scheduled off days during training camp and Wednesday is the first. When the team resumes practice Thursday morning in Arlington it will be at least one step closer to a complete roster as Mikhail Grabovski will work out with the full team for the first time.