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Thumbs up, thumbs down: Nathan Walker impresses in preseason opener

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Thumbs up, thumbs down: Nathan Walker impresses in preseason opener

The Capitals struck first Monday, but were shutdown the rest of the game in a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Here are the players who stood out for Washington.

Thumbs up

Nathan Walker:
The young Aussie made the most of his opportunity on Monday with the Capitals’ lone goal on the night. Walker streaked up the ice along the boards, passed it to Lars Eller then crossed to the front of the net. He was in good position for the rebound and showed quick hands to get the puck and shoot it past goalie Keith Kinkaid for the shorthanded goal. It was a pure effort play and showed the exact type of spark the team is looking for in a fourth line winger. There were various times throughout the game when a Devil would try to muscle Walker out of the play and he would respond with a few shoves and slashes of his own. He did not back down from any challenge.

Braden Holtby: If you were worried Holtby’s rough postseason would follow him to the fall, that does not appear to be the case. The Caps netminder looked smooth as he turned aside 18 of 19 shots. The only goal came on a long distance slap shot through a screen. Granted, it’s a preseason game against a quasi NHL roster, but a solid performance for Holtby nonetheless.

Alex Chiasson: A player on a PTO cannot afford to have a quiet night. The team has every reason to want to play their prospects or other players already signed to a contract. Chiasson had a solid game, was in good position throughout the night and used his body well. His lone penalty of the night was a goal-saving slash on Kyle Palmieri so you can’t really hold it against him. He played like a dependable veteran player who the team could rely on as a bottom-six forward.

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Thumbs down

The refs: I understand that the NHL wants to emphasize slashing penalties and faceoff violations, but this game was absurd. I cannot remember if I have ever seen a penalty called for a faceoff violation ever. There were three in this game alone. Add in another six slashing penalties and you’ve got yourself a long night. In total, there were 20 penalties called. No one is expecting that to carry over into the regular season, but this felt unnecessary and made all the more frustrating by the multiple times in which play was whistled prematurely when the wrong team had possession of the puck.

Lars Eller: Eller assisted on the Capitals’ lone goal of the game, but he also had an unnecessary boarding penalty in the first period that brought the ire of the Devils players. He took two penalties for the game and, while the refs were certainly trigger happy with the whistles, considering the penalty issues he had at the beginning of last season this is not a pattern the team will want to see again.

Chandler Stephenson: Stephenson has 13 games of NHL experience under his belt meaning he should have a leg up over some of the younger players competing for a roster spot. And yet, Stephenson was essentially a non-factor on the night. He took two penalties in the first period and finished without a single shot attempt.

Christian Djoos: Djoos is in a battle to make the roster and he had essentially no impact on this game. He established himself as a playmaker in Hershey, but finished with a very pedestrian night in which he managed only one shot on goal despite over five minutes of power play time. He will need to do better than that to make the roster.

MORE CAPITALS: NATIONALS SLUGGER DANIEL MURPHY VISITS CAPS PRACTICE

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JJ vs. the fans bold predictions: A big night for Tom Wilson?

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USA TODAY Sports

JJ vs. the fans bold predictions: A big night for Tom Wilson?

In the very first edition of JJ vs. the fans bold predictions, no one got a single prediction right. Well, there’s nowhere to go but up!

The Caps hit the road on Friday to take on the Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Washington Plus). Let’s check out our predictions.

RELATED: MADISON BOWEY IS ALREADY LOOKING MUCH IMPROVED

Fan predictions:

For those who don't know, a Gordie Howe hat trick is a goal, an assist and a fight all in one game. Tom Wilson gets the promotion to the top line tonight and Wade is expecting big things. I am not so bullish on it. I think adjusting to a new line and a new side, Wilson has moved from right wing to left, will take Wilson some time.

The Caps face former defenseman Mike Green and Garrett thinks he is going to get one past Braden Holtby. This is pretty bold considering Green has yet to record a single point in five games against his former squad.

The Capitals’ defense has had its problems of late and it has certainly dragged down the penalty kill. Remember how hot the penalty kill was to start the season? Now the Caps rank 19th in the league at 78.6-percent. Still, two power play goals is a lot considering Detroit ranks 24th in the NHL with a success rate of only 14.8-percent.

MORE CAPITALS: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-RED WINGS

JJ’s predictions:

The Caps will allow more than two goals

Washington’s defense is not as bad as they looked against Philadelphia, but it isn't as good as they looked against Toronto either. One thing that helped against the Maple Leafs was that the game was at home. Barry Trotz could get the favorable matchups for his rookie defensemen as his team had the second change. That won’t be true on Friday in Detroit. The defense will struggle as a result.

John Carlson will play more than he did against Toronto

See above. Carlson logged a hefty 27:33 on Tuesday and that was with the Caps getting the second change. The Caps will rely even more on him on the road.

Washington will get at least two goals form players not named Ovechkin, Oshie and Backstrom

Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom have 17 of the Caps’ 22 goals this season. Perhaps the big three will have another big night, but eventually the team will need someone else to step up and score. Whether because the team emphasizes it or through just dumb luck, the Caps are going to record a few points from a few of their other players on Friday.

Want to see your tweet among the fan predictions for the next game? Tweet your prediction to @JJReganNBCS every game day! Remember, we don’t just want to know who will win or the score, we want to see specifics. Be bold!

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In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

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USA TODAY Sports

In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

Madison Bowey’s second game went a lot better than his first and it’s not just because the Caps allowed only two goals as opposed to eight.

Despite being thrust into a significant role in his first taste of NHL experience, Bowey seemed to settle in a bit in his second contest even as it came against the NHL’s best offense in the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Just everything in the first game felt like it happened so quick, I think,” Bowey said Thursday after the team’s practice. “It was obviously nice to come back in Washington and play in the home in front of the home crowd, get a practice in on Monday before the game Tuesday with the team. Just all the little factors that went into it definitely helped and I think it definitely felt a lot smoother out there on the ice.”

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Playing at home definitely has its benefits for the coaching staff as they try to protect the rookie defensemen. Home teams get the chance to change after the visiting team allowing the coaches to pick the matchups they want for Bowey.

More favorable matchups certainly helped him, but Bowey also seemed to play with more confidence and a level of calm that was not there against Philadelphia. For Bowey, the difference was having time to settle in and practice with the team.

“Obviously this team is one of the veteran teams in the league so to be able to practice against top players in the league, it goes a long way,” Bowey said.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS SHOULD NOT TRADE PROSPECT IIYA SAMSONOV

Bowey was called up for a Saturday game in Philadelphia after Matt Niskanen suffered a hand injury Friday in New Jersey. That means he quickly had to join the team and jump into the lineup for his first ever NHL game without any practice with the Caps at all.

Bowey now has two practices and two games under his belt and even a team-building day at FBI training. The effect that has had on his game was noticeable on Tuesday. It should be even more clear on Friday as the team travels to face the Detroit Red Wings.

“I feel myself improving every day,” Bowey said. “It forces you to really work hard and be on your top every day you come to the rink so for me, just having those two practices already have been huge. I feel the development's getting a lot better early.”