The Capitals fell 5-2 to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday in their second preseason game and first on the road. Here is the post-game analysis:
How it happened: The Caps simply could not stay out of the penalty box and it cost them early. Montreal scored twice on the power play in the opening period and never looked back. The Caps were not able to keep up any consistent offensive pressure as the penalties continued undercutting their efforts. The Caps took a young lineup to Montreal and it showed as the team was frequently caught out of position which the Canadiens exploited.
What it means: Tuesday's game will be the last of the preseason for some of the youngsters on the roster. The first round of cuts are expected to come Thursday or Friday and the team's next preseason game is not until Saturday night. That will leave some players wondering if they have shown enough to stick around a few more days before being shipped back to their respective junior/minor leagues.
Welcome back Karl: Karl Alzner returned to game action for the first time since undergoing sports hernia surgery in the offseason. Considering the team held Alzner out of the skate test on Friday as a precaution, the fact that he was ready to play by Tuesday shows how comfortable the team feels about his recovery. Alzner registered 18:08 of ice time, three hits, one shot and was a minus-1.
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Sanford impresses in debut: The Caps signed prospect Zach Sanford to an entry-level deal over the summer and pegged him as someone who could potentially make the roster. Sanford proved the team's faith in him was well-founded with a strong performance. Though his night was not without it's mistakes, Sanford looked very comfortable in his first real taste of NHL action and registered a late power play goal. Sanford has shown himself to be a smart player away from the puck and that was evident on his goal as he set up a perfect screen and deflected the shot in.
Penalty parade: The Caps took eight minor penalties in the game including three in the first period. Montreal was able to make Washington pay with two power play goals and the Caps were never able to establish real sustained pressure. The team had only four shots after the first period and nine total after the second.
Associate coach Todd Reirden addressed the penalties after Monday's preseason opener saying, "In the beginning of the year, every NHL season, the referees always call way more penalties on stick infractions. That's something right away I was able to address with the team after the game because, that's just moving your feet and working away from the puck."
Clearly the team did not get the message.
Dangerous hit on Hobbs: Andrew Shaw was one of the biggest acquisitions of the offseason for Montreal, but he may already find himself in hot water with the league after he sent Connor Hobbs face-first into the boards in the second period. After getting hauled down by Jay Beagle, Shaw retaliated by boarding the 19-year-old Hobbs with a dangerous looking hit. Hobbs was hit square in the numbers and flew into the boards.
Fortunately, Hobbs was not seriously hurt and was able to stay in the game. The ever-feisty Nathan Walker immediately came to his teammate's defense and dropped the gloves. He may have been overmatched by the veteran Shaw, who tried to pump up the crowd during the fight, but the kind of toughness Walker showed will carry a lot of weight in the locker room and with the coaches.
Shaw was assessed a five-minute major for the hit, a five-minute major for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct.
Watch out for Radulov: With lineups full of prospects and AHLers, mismatches can happen in the preseason and some players take advantage. Alexander Radulov did just that on Tuesday as he was quickly able to establish himself as the best player on the ice. The Russian veteran deflected a shot from Greg Pateryn in the first period for a power play tally that opened the scoring. He also registered an assist on Nathan Beaulieu's goal later in the first and finished with HOW MANY!!!!!!! shots on goal for the game. For a team desperate for an offensive spark, they may have one now in Radulov, provided he can keep his head on straight (something that has been a problem for Radulov in the past).
Look ahead: The Caps will return to action on Saturday as they take on the New York Islanders. The game will not be at the Islanders' normal home at the Barclays Center, however. Instead, the game will be played at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. Bridgeport is the home of New York's AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
With no game between now and Saturday, the Caps' roster will likely look a bit different as the team is expected to make its first cuts this week. Plus, with more players trickling in from the World Cup, Saturday's lineup could have more star power. The Caps may even have their coach back if the World Cup is decided in two games. Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday and Game 3, if needed, will take place on Saturday night. So Saturday's game may be our first look this season at Barry Trotz behind the bench.
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