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What Wednesday's lineup could mean for the Caps' opening night roster

What Wednesday's lineup could mean for the Caps' opening night roster

Tonight’s preseason lineup against the Devils figures to be close—really close, in fact—to the one we’ll see on opening night.

Here’s how Coach Barry Trotz will have them lined up at Capital One Arena:

Forwards
Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Connolly
Burakovsky-Backstrom-Oshie
Vrana-Eller-Boyd
Graovac-Beagle-Peluso

Defense
Orlov-Niskanen
Ness-Carlson
Orpik-Bowey

Goalies
Holtby
Grubauer

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Here’s what that lineup tells us:

  • The top two forward lines are probably the combos Trotz is looking at for opening night, given what he's said in recent days.
     
  • The third line is almost there, I’d suspect, with prospect Travis Boyd filling in for Tom Wilson, who is sitting out the first game of a two-game suspension.
     
  • The fourth line is where the real competition is taking place. Jay Beagle is a lock, obviously. The wingers battling for that spot are likely (in no particular order) Nathan Walker, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Anthony Peluso and Devante Smith-Pelly. Does that mean the coaches have seen enough from Walker, Chiasson and DSP? And need to see a little more of Graovac and Peluso? Makes sense to me.
     
  • Trotz on the competition: “We’re getting down to sort of the short strokes in terms of the end here. It could be the last audition for some guys. We’ll what they can bring to the table.”
     
  • Trotz also said it’s possible to keep 23 players—the roster max—but that’s only for certain combinations of players. “It would be really tight,” he joked. “We would have to hold our breath all the time.”
     
  • Personally, Trotz said he prefers a 22-man roster, which allows for just one extra forward and one extra D. “When you have two extra forwards, if you’re that second guy, you’re going, ‘Okay, two guys got to get hurt or two guys have to play bad before I get in’,” he said. “With that one guy, it keeps him, ‘I’m right there. I’m waiting for something to happen.’”
     
  • Trotz also said the team's early roster decisions could be dictated by the cap. “If there’s not much between a certain player and another player, the cap may decide that,” he said.
     
  • The D pairs are probably what Trotz is looking at for opening night. Note that it’s three lefties and three righties—something Trotz says he considers to be more important these days because of the game’s increased pace.
     
  • Wilson (suspended), Chorney, Walker, Chiasson, Smith-Pelly, Djoos, Lewington, Stephenson, Siegenthaler and Copley were in the non-game group. 

 

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Prediction recap: No one saw Tuesday's defensive matchup coming

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Prediction recap: No one saw Tuesday's defensive matchup coming

Well…that certainly did not go the way many thought. With two of the best offenses squaring off against two questionable defenses, the goals were expected to come fast and furious on Tuesday between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. Instead, Braden Holtby and Frederik Andersen allowed only one goal between them on the night with Toronto adding and empty netter for the exclamation point in a 2-0 win over the Caps.

So this was a game that did not go at all the way anyone expected. With that in mind, let’s go over the predictions!

RELATED: WHEN THE OFFENSE WENT SILENT, HERE ARE THE CAPS WHO STOOD OUT ON DEFENSE

Fan predictions:

Wrong

After allowing eight goals to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Caps did a good job stifling one of the NHL’s bright young talents. Matthews only managed one shot on goal for the game.

Wrong

After a strong start for the Caps’ offense, no one was able to get one past, least of all Andre Burakovsky despite four shots on goal and seven total shot attempts.

Push

There was no overtime and I really liked just how bold this prediction was, so I will give it a push.​

JJ’s predictions:

Both teams will combine for at least 10 goals – Wrong

I was close though, only eight goals short.

Evgeny Kuznetsov will score a goal – Wrong

Had Kuznetsov shot the puck before he was caught on the backcheck on his power play opportunity in the second period, I may very well have gotten this one right. But Kuznetsov once again resorted to the bad habit of waiting too long to get the shot off and it turned a great opportunity into a much more manageable one for Andersen.

Toronto will outshoot Washington by at least 10 shots – Wrong

Heading into Tuesday’s game, the Caps had only managed to outshoot their opponents once in six games. Toronto had been held to fewer than 31 shots only once in five games. So what happened? The Caps and Leafs each managed 30 shots on goal. Go figure.

MORE CAPITALS: TYLER GRAOVAC'S GAME ENDED EARLY ON TUESDAY, HERE'S WHY

Scoreboard:

Fans
Correct: 0
Wrong: 2
Push: 1

JJ
Correct: 0
Wrong: 3
Push: 0

Both the fans and I are off to a roaring start. Better luck next game.

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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How Evgeny Kuznetsov could have changed Tuesday's outcome

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How Evgeny Kuznetsov could have changed Tuesday's outcome

With the score tied at 0 in the second period, the Caps had a chance to put the first goal on the board on their second power play of the night. Specifically, Evgeny Kuznetsov had a chance to score the first goal of the game and his first of the season. But with a golden opportunity on his stick, Kuznetsov waited too long to shoot the puck the opportunity was lost. It is an issue that has seemingly plagued Kuznetsov throughout his career and one that may have cost the Caps a chance at two points on Tuesday.

After a scrum in the left corner, the puck was fed over to John Carlson on the right near the blue line. With some room to work with, he advanced to the top of the right circle and then fired a pass cross-ice to Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov had set up shop in Alex Ovechkin’s office in the left faceoff circle and the Leafs evidently forgot about him.

RELATED: WHO STOOD OUT BETWEEN CAPS-LEAFS

With the puck on his stick and no one between him and Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen, Kuznetsov waited. He waited so long in fact that forward Connor Brown was able to backcheck and turned what would have been a very good opportunity into a much easier save for Andersen.

“A guy caught him,” Barry Trotz said after the game. “Just get it off quick. Guys close quick on you defensively.”

Would Kuznetsov have scored if he had fired the shot? Would the Caps have won if he had scored? We don’t know, but Kuznetsov would have had a better chance at scoring had he shot the puck quickly and Washington would have been in a better position to win if they had gotten the first goal on the board.

It was just another moment that made fans watching in Capital One Arena and at home yell in unison, “Kuznetsov, shoot the puck!”

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