Coach Bruce Boudreau wasn’t especially pleased with what he deemed a “sloppy” performance by the Washington Capitals in their preseason finale Sunday at Verizon Center. With a 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, though, the Capitals can put the preamble behind them and officially turn their attentions to the 2011-12 season.
“It was almost like two teams waiting for the preseason to end and they only brought half their team,” Boudreau said afterward. “I thought it was a sloppy game. I thought it was more like, ‘Let’s not get hurt in this one.’ ”
The contest served as the final tuneup at game speed for those who know they’ve earned a spot in the lineup and another chance for those who don’t have a guaranteed spot on the roster — namely, Mathieu Perreault and Dmitry Orlov — to impress Boudreau and the Washington brass.
The Capitals started quickly, peppering Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford with six shots and hardly allowing the Blackhawks to clear their own zone. Just more than 11 minutes into the first period, a booming slap shot from Mike Green trickled through Crawford’s pads and Perreault was able to knock the puck past the goal line for a 1-0 lead.
Perreault finished as the Capitals’ leading scorer in the preseason with five points. After the game, the undersize center was praised by Boudreau.
“I think our best player all of camp was Perreault,” Boudreau said. “Played with energy every night and I think he was very similar last year, but we’ll sit down tomorrow and discuss all of this.”
Boudreau said the Capitals know their plan for the opening-night roster, which must be set by 3 p.m. Wednesday. It’s likely the team will announce cuts earlier, possibly Monday.
Perreault appears to have beaten out prospects Cody Eakin and Mattias Sjogren in the battle among forwards to start the season in Washington, but the future of Orlov, a defenseman, has not yet been decided.
Orlov, 20, has been something of a revelation over the past month, standing out in rookie camp and training camp and being the last of the defensemen without significant NHL experience to remain in Washington.
While he only played 14 minutes 34 seconds against Chicago and didn’t register a shot on goal, Orlov was a little more mindful of the defensive zone and also threw his weight around a good bit. On one shift against the Blackhawks, Orlov (6 feet, 197 pounds) leveled Jamal Mayers (6-1, 215) and Dan Carcillo (6 feet, 205).
“What we like most about him is when the game is on the line he wants to be out there. That’s important,” General Manager George McPhee said of Orlov on Saturday. “Some guys really embrace that, want to be out there and are looking at the coach to get them out there, and other guys back off a little bit and wouldn’t mind someone else taking on that responsibility. He really enjoys it.”
Brooks Laich, skating at center for a full game for the first time this preseason, made it 2-0 with 3:19 left in the opening period. That shift demonstrated what he can do on a line with Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, who each earned assists on the tally, by creating a play off a strong forecheck.
Thirty seconds later, Marian Hossa scored a power-play goal on a rebound attempt to make it 2-1, the second time in as many exhibition games that the Capitals gave up a goal on the shift immediately following one of their own.
In the final four minutes of the contest, Mike Green notched a power-play goal, the unit’s lone goal in six attempts on the game. Jay Beagle added an empty-net, short-handed tally for the final margin. Washington wrapped up the preseason with two straight wins and a 3-3-1 record.
“No matter what, I think you always want to get preseason done and get the regular season [started], where it means something,” Chimera said. “It’s good to get these things done.”
Capitals note: Two players expected to be in the regular season lineup, Matt Hendricks and Jeff Halpern, did not face the Blackhawks. Hendricks suffered what the team has termed a minor injury on Saturday in practice, but Boudreau isn’t worried about it affecting his availability for the regular season opener Saturday night at home against Carolina. Meanwhile, Halpern was given the day off.