From the outside looking in, there wasn’t much on the line in the Capitals’ preseason game on Friday against the St. Louis Blues. Washington’s 4-0 loss won't hurt them in the standings, it won't hurt their playoff or Stanley Cup hopes.
But for many of the players, especially several of the defensive prospects, Friday’s game mattered a whole lot. That's what made it so disappointing.
“We didn’t have a lot of skin in the game there,” Barry Trotz told reporters following the loss.
Assuming the Capitals keep seven defensemen on their roster this season, there are two open spots on the blue line that players are competing for. Friday’s game offered Lucas Johansen, Christian Djoos, Aaron Ness and Tyler Lewington, who played with veterans John Carlson and Taylor Chorney, a chance to take the lead in the roster competition.
But they, along with the rest of the team, ultimately fell flat.
“It's one of those things where you come out flat in first two periods, you can't really expect to win a hockey game,” Ness said. “Your goalie's trying to make so many saves … it’s kind of unexcusable [sic] to do that to them in the first two.”
It was a rough game and a missed opportunity.
When asked if any of the defensemen had separated themselves, Trotz slowly shook his head and said, “No, not really.”
When asked if that was disappointing, he said, “Depending which way you look at it, I guess. Some guys have separated themselves in a positive way a little bit more than others and some more of a negative way. They'll figure it out. It plays out, we're just watching. I'm not too happy with our effort tonight. … I thought [the] group that was in Montreal was pretty solid. They came to play. Tonight we just didn't.”
That’s a damning statement considering Montreal’s game featured other defensemen competing for a spot such as Madison Bowey, Connor Hobbs, Jyrki Jokipakka, Jonas Siegenthaler and Colby Williams.
Clearly Wednesday's squad left an impression on Trotz. Friday's team left a much different, more disappointing one.
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