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What we learned from the Capitals' preseason

What we learned from the Capitals' preseason

The preseason is (mercifully) over. After a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, the next time the Capitals take the ice it will be for the regular season opener on Thursday in Ottawa.

With only two wins in seven preseason contests, there are some nervous Caps fans in Washington. But all preseason results should be taken with a grain of salt, especially the records. The Colorado Avalanche won six of their preseason games last year and finished the regular season as, by far, the worst team in the NHL.


That doesn't mean that everything that happens in the preseason is irrelevant, however. Here are some things that we did learn from the Caps' preseason:

The defense is in trouble

The Caps scored only 12 goals in seven preseason games, but it’s too early to worry about the offense. Players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky are going to show up when the games start to matter. The same cannot be said for the defense, howeer.

Heading into the preseason, the Caps defense looked approximately like this:

Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
??? - John Carlson
Brooks Orpik - ???
Taylor Chorney

The hope was that enough players would distinguish themselves in the preseason to fill out the roster. The competition has been whittled down to Aaron Ness, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey, but really none of those players have “wowed.” Bowey has played fairly well, but Ness and Djoos have both struggled. Both players would have to pass through waivers if the Caps choose to send them to the AHL and whether the team would risk losing either player remains to be seen, but the fact that it is even a matter of discussion is not a good sign.

After trying several different players alongside Carlson, Orpik was moved into the top four for the final preseason game which is an indication of just how dissatisfied Barry Trotz has been with what he’s seen.

Heading into the preseason the Caps were in need of a top-four defenseman and the third pairing looked like a major quesetion mark. Now that the prseason is over, the Caps look like they are in need of a top-four defenseman and the third pairing looks like a major quesetion mark.

Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will be split

Lines change frequently in the preseason, but one thing that has been consistent is that Ovechkin and Backstrom have not been playing on the same line. Even with the offense was struggling, Trotz did not move these two back together. That doesn’t mean they will never play on the same line this season, but at least to start you will see Backstrom centering a line without the Great 8 on the wing.

Tom Wilson needs to dial it back

Wilson was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit he delivered to Samuel Blais on Sunday in his second game after returning from a two-game suspension. Wilson was suspended for a hit he delivered to St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas in an earlier preseason contest. Following the league’s decision, Wilson stated that he would not change his game.

Well, he needs to.

While the initial suspension was for only two preseason games, it was still significant in that he will now be considered a repeat offender by the league.
The Capitals need Wilson to produce more offensively this season and that’s hard to do if he is in the penalty box or serving a suspension. If it wants to remain a physical player, fine, but he has to be more careful. He is not going to get the benefit of the doubt from referees or the Department of Player Safety.

Whether Wilson gets another call from the Department of Player Safety for Sunday's hit remains to be seen, but the fact that he could not even get out of the preseason without a suspension and an ejection should be a signal to him that he needs to reel it in.


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NHL Power Rankings: A heck of a race is developing in the Metropolitan Division


NHL Power Rankings: A heck of a race is developing in the Metropolitan Division

Four points separate first place from second place in the Pacific Division. Four points separate first place from second place in the Central. Three points separate first place from second place in the Atlantic. In the Metropolitan Division, however, five points separate first place from…sixth place.

About a third of the way into the season, one division stands out with a traffic jam atop the standings. The Columbus Blue Jackets sit in first place with 39 points, the New York Rangers are in sixth with 34 and in between are the Washington Capitals (37), New Jersey Devils (36), New York Islanders (35) and Pittsburgh Penguins (35).

No other division in the NHL comes close to how crowded things are in the Metro.


Given the way Washington started the season, the fact that they have been able to climb all the way back into second place by early December is a testament to just how good they have been of late.

The good news for the Caps is that, because of how tight the division is they were able to climb the standings fairly quickly even after a tough start. The bad news is that now there is little margin for error.

Washington enjoyed sitting atop the division for a handful of minutes on Friday before Columbus retook the top spot. The Devils have been one of the biggest surprises of the season, but three losses in four games has dropped them from first place to third. The Rangers have won seven of their last 10 games and that has them sitting only in sixth.

Having so many teams battling for supremacy of the division should make for a compelling race all season long. The only thing is no team better get down for too long. Otherwise, there are five other teams ready to leave you in the dust.

The Capitals have won eight of their last ten games to climb to second place in the division. Where did they climb in this week’s Power Rankings? Find out here.

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Game 31: Capitals at Islanders Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 31: Capitals at Islanders Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Islanders will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Islanders game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).


The Capitals (18-11-1) take on the Islanders (16-10-3) Monday, December 11 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Brooklyn.


The Capitals-Islanders game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Capitals GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington following the game for Caps Extra, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Islanders
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


The Capitals-Islanders game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).


Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Alex Chiasson
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Christian Djoos - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: T.J. Oshie (upper-body injury), Taylor Chorney


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.