Capitals

4 notable players from the Caps preseason opener

Capitals

The Capitals opened the preseason with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. The Sabres tied the game with 65 seconds remaining before winning in the extra frame. Buffalo also won a practice shootout as both teams went seven rounds before the Sabres finally got the edge. 

Here are four notable performances from Sunday's preseason opener.

Zach Fucale

Fucale got the start and put together a solid effort of 30:04 before he was replaced in the second period. He was particularly strong in the first period as he turned aside all 11 shots he faced. He appeared to be moving very well laterally, closing off everything down low as he slid from post to post.

The netminder picked up two strong saves in the first as he stopped a shot from the left from Casey Fitzgerald, then slid over to his right to deny the follow-up shot. He was beaten in the second period by a snipe from Dylan Cozens on the power play as Fucale tried to fight through a screen. Tyson Kozak also dented the goalie on a 3-on-2 after a quick break after an expired Caps power play. Fucale finished the game with 15 saves on 17 shots.

Fucale rose to No. 3 on the depth chart last season over Pheonix Copley. This year, with Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren locked in as No. 1 and 2 on the NHL roster, Fucale will look to retain his spot on No. 3 and fend off the highly-touted college free agent Clay Stevenson in his first pro season.

 

Erik Gustafsson

In his best season with the Chicago Blackhawks, Gustafsson had 17 goals and 43 assists in 2018-19. Of those 60 points, 18 came on the power play. While John Carlson may have the point locked down on the top power-play unit, the point on the second unit is open with the departure of Justin Schultz. Erik Gustafsson played the power play point on Sunday in what was likely an audition for the second unit role and made the most of it.

Just over four minutes into the game, Gustafsson fed Anthony Mantha for the one-timer and power-play goal, the first goal for Washington in the preseason. He would finish with four shots on goal and 2:46 of power play ice time.

Connor McMichael

McMichael did not register a point, but he was all over the ice as head coach Peter Laviolette really allowed McMichael the opportunity to show what he could do in a variety of different roles.

McMichael played primarily winger in the NHL last season but got the chance to play center on Sunday as he played between Alexander Suzdalev and Mantha. McMichael went 70% from the faceoff dot winning seven out of 10.

In addition, McMichael also saw 2:20 of time on the power play and even registered 1:53 on the penalty kill.

McMichael is a player with top-six skill and fans were not all that thrilled to see him average just 10:28 of ice time in his first full season of NHL hockey. He will look to expand his role in his sophomore campaign and Sunday's game showed Laviolette is giving him a chance to earn that, at least early on in the preseason. McMichael looked up to the task for the increased role, despite recording no points and an early tripping penalty.

Joe Snively

This guy is productive in just about every sense. Snively went to the net and deflected in a shot from Vincent Iorio in the third period for a go-ahead goal. He also tallied a goal in the shootout following the game.

After recording seven points in 12 NHL games last season before an injury kept him out of the lineup, Snively looks to pick up right where he left off. There is not much room on the Caps' roster for younger players heading into the season, but Snively certainly seems to be staking a claim early in the preseason.