Monday, September 21, 2009


Preseason: Capitals 1, Sabres 2

The Capitals' big names look like they need some work to do. In their first look at the preseason, the trio of Nick Backstrom, Mike Knuble and Alex Ovechkin didn't leave much to be desired. In a sloppy game for the returning veterans, the Capitals wasted power play opportunities, had poorly executed breakouts, missed passes and missed shots. Clearly there is some room for improvement as the Caps fall to the Sabres 2-1 in preseason action.

The Capitals were not being dominated in the first half of the game, but the Sabres seemed to be able to pepper Jose Theodore with shots. The Caps frustrations seemed to begin on a couple of power plays that the vets just couldn't convert. John Erskine hit a Sabre with his head down late in the first period and a scrum ensued when Paul Gaustad tried to get at Erskine. The Caps were awarded a 5 minute power play, but they couldn't convert.

"On a lot of their powerplays, they are trying so hard," forward Andrew Gordon said about the Caps top guys on the PP. "There is a lot of skill and they want their abilities to click right away. Some times it doesn’t happen."

It didn't happen tonight for the Caps with the extra man. They went 0 for 5, and only had 6 shots in 13 minutes of power play time.

When asked how long the Caps had worked on the powerplay, head coach Bruce Boudreau deadpanned, "The first time they practiced it was this morning." Asked if they were holding back Boudreau responded, "I don't know if they were holding back, they were trying to be too cute."

One thing that wasn't broken was the Caps penalty kill. They only needed to kill off four penalties but they have yet to allow a power play goal in the preseason. Plus the Caps just couldn't cash in on their chances. Mike Knuble had 3 or 4 good chances in the second period, but shot it wide or Sabre goaltender Patrick Lalime was there with the save.

"You feel like you are thinking a lot, maybe too much," Knuble said. "The pace goes up from training camp scrimmages."

The Sabres took advantage of some defensive miscues to score two goals just 11 seconds apart. The first was a deflection in front, while the second was a bobbling puck that got past Theodore. Besides the defensive lapses, Theo played very well. He was square to the puck on just about every shot and the Sabres didn't have very many second chances to put back a rebound. "What ever he saw he stopped and kept us in the game," Boudreau commented.

It was a night where every one was just a bit off. Mike Green had three give-aways, the most of any skater. Alex Ovechkin had six of his shots blocked by Buffalo. Mike Knuble and Matt Bradley both missed the net with their shots three times.

"This is their first game and that is how they played it as," Boudreau reasoned. "I thought their timing was off. But, that is why you have preseason games."

"[Sometimes] that’s what you need," Knuble summed up, "a [bad] game to humble yourself."

Caps notes:
  • Bruce Boudreau singled out Chris Bourque and Jay Beagle on having good games. He also saw some improvement in Sean Collins from the other night.
  • Keith Aucoin scored the only Capitals' goal. He was cycling with Alex Semin and he walked from the boards and shot it off of either Semin or a Sabre defender. Alex Giroux was also on that line until Boudreau moved Semin up to the number one line.
  • Mike Green and Karl Alzner were on the ice for both goals and both finished the night a minus 2. "I definitely overplayed it," Alzner said of the second Sabre goal. "But they say if you that if you are going to make mistakes, make aggressive ones. So I guess that was an aggressive one."
  • Boudreau expects the veterans to start filling the roster for the rest of preseason, with his roster close to set by the last two games. That leaves little time for players wanting to make the team to make a wowing impression.
Hey, it's only preseason.

Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images

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