Hockey Returns to D.C…Finally

In game three of the pre-season, one can’t get too caught up in the little mistakes that would have meant the world last April. This is the time of year to evaluate individuals, particularly prospects and fringe players to see how they perform in live-game situations (for what it’s worth, the Capitals defeated the Bruins, 3-2).

It was an opportunity for players like Marcus Johannson and Cody Eakin to showcase what they can do against NHL-calibur talent, and they didn’t disappoint. Beyond their play, it was a sloppy effort by the Capitals and a disjointed game overall, which is not surprising given that this is the first live NHL action in months for many of the participants.

Overall, the Caps’ performance was somewhat comparable to occassional displays last regular season in which they were fundamentally not sharp but overpowered the opponent with sheer skill. This time they get a free pass. As long as the mistakes and mental lapses don’t bleed over into the regular season we’ll chalk it up to rust.

Other Thoughts:

– D.J. King is sure to be a hit with the red meat crowd. He engaged in a stellar bout with Bruins’ tough guy Shawn Thornton in the first which ended with King dropping Thornton with a left jab. Not a bad way to endear yourself to your new teammates. Make no mistake, King is battling for playing time right now. These games count for him.

– After watching Matthieu Perreault, Eakin and Johannson command the ice it’s clear that the now-shaky center position won’t be a problem for long. Johannson boasts an effortless stride and dazzles with his acceleration. He also had a fantastic long-range pass to spring Alexander Semin for a chance early in the second only to be thwarted by Semin’s pull-up slapshot attempt. One of the more exciting storylines over the coming seasons will be his development.

– Perreault may be a very good NHL player one day too, but let’s not jump to any conclusions after his goal against Bruins netminder Nolan Schaefer. There’s no way Schaefer should have let Perreault’s harmless wrister sneak through him. That said, there wasn’t much he, or anyone in the leage, could have done about Semin’s laser wrist shot top shelf which put the Caps ahead 2-1.

– In related news, Michal Neuvirth, who does factor into the Caps’ 2010-11 plans, let in a weak goal when he was beat glove-side by a Jeremy Reich slapshot. Here’s to hoping he got it out of his system because Semyon Varlamov was a last-minute scratch from tonight’s start due to “general maintaince,” according to head coach Bruce Boudreau. Not exactly what Caps fans want to hear about a goalie whose should-have-been breakout season last year was marred by injuries.

– Players who are going back to the AHL soon: Lawrence Nycholat. He may be a fine AHLer but he looked slow and was frequently out of position as Jeff Schultz’s partner, leading directly to his hooking penalty in the first to prevent a clear breakaway

This game didn’t really tell us anything about the Capitals or the Bruins, especially considering that the Bruins didn’t start any of their best players. It was nice to see the prospects play against grown men, but most of all, it’s just nice to have hockey back at Verizon Center again.

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