Preseason: Capitals 2, Rangers 3
Five games in eight nights is pushing it, even in NHL standards. So it is understandable if the Caps are a bit inconsistent coming into the last game of a back to back where travel was involved. The Capitals played a lackluster preseason game against the New York Rangers and just came up short 3-2.
"It's back to back for the first time this year," Bruce Boudreau explained after the game. "Here, you are flying into New York, with the traffic and you have to go early. I know it's an excuse, but I thought we hung in there really well. But with a little more fatigue than normal."
The Caps got scoring again from Keith Aucoin and Alex Semin. But it was poor defensive plays that lead to the Caps demise. John Erskine misplayed the puck early in the second period, giving Marion Gaborik a break away on Jose Theodore and beat him 5 hole. The game winner for the Rangers came when David Steckel failed to tie up Chris Higgins' stick in front of the net.
"I didn't know [Higgins] was there," Steckel said to reporters in the locker room after. "It was a mis-communication [with Jurcina]. But those are the kinda things that you have to weed out here in preseason."
The Capitals may have lost the game, but I am sure they don't miss Donald Brashear all that much. Brashear had 4 penalties racking up 14 minutes in sit down time in the penalty box and fought the same guy twice. The first fight Brash loses his balance after he lunges at Brandon Sugden, the second bout was pretty much a draw. No word on whether Sugden will stick around for Sunday's matinee with the Rangers at Verizon Center if Brashear stays in the line up for New York.
The Caps power play was non-existent. another 0 for 5, allowing a short handed goal and nearly another shorty where Alex Ovechkin had to take a penalty. A sort of Dr. Jeckel/Mr. Hyde effort; the Caps' PP has yet to be really worked on by the coaching staff.
"We are working on different stuff," Boudreau said of the inconsistent power play. "[The Rangers] came at us differently than Chicago did. [There is] no change from yesterday, we still haven't practiced it."
The poor special teams' effort aside, players fighting for roster spots played well. With one exception, Alex Giroux. After getting off to a great start in the preseason, Giroux has since cooled. He may be one of those players that does well in the AHL, but struggles in the NHL. Somehow he will have to find ways to score in a Capitals' sweater. His window for making it into the NHL is shrinking.
Aucoin, Jay Beagle and Quintin Laing all had good games and were singled out by Boudreau. Theodore also played well, but was hampered by poor defensive plays.
The Caps will play the Rangers once more Sunday at noon. It will be their last preseason game, and the roster should look as close to the final set-up as it can be. A few players will still get to hang around and get another look at the phone booth.