After a number of lackluster performances, the Capitals finally looked like their championship selves on Tuesday in a 4-0 blanking of St. Louis. Not only was it Washington’s first win of the preseason, but their first period goal gave the Caps their first lead of the preseason.
Here are five Caps who impressed in a very physical win over the Blues.
Copley got the full game in what is expected to be his final appearance of the preseason and boy did he deliver. He was absolutely brilliant with a shutout, 42-save performance including not one, but two phenomenal highlight reel saves.
In the first period, both Caps defensemen got caught in the corner leaving all of the real estate in front of Copley wide open. After a quick pass, the netminder suddenly faced a 2-on-0, but he came up with the big save to rob Jordan Kyrou as he stretched out the glove.
Copley followed that up with another big save in the second period to deny Ryan O’Reilly. He first denied O’Reilly with the pad, but looked helpless on the rebound. O’Reilly tried to backhand the puck over Copley, but he kicked up his heel in desperation and somehow kicked the puck out.
Backup goalie was one of the few question marks facing the Caps this season. Copley came into camps as the man to beat, but he still had to earn the job or the Caps would look elsewhere for other options. He earned the job on Tuesday. Copley is going to be the backup and if he can continue to play like he did Tuesday, he’s going to be just fine.
One of the hardest parts of adjusting to the NHL is the speed of the game. That’s a lesson Gersich seemed to take to heart with his goal on Tuesday.
Riley Barber carried the puck into the offensive zone, but lost it on a sweep check from Colton Parayko. A trailing Gersich wasted no time in firing the loose puck on net where it beat Jake Allen to the top corner.
After getting in five games at the end of last season, there was some buzz surrounding Gersich heading into camp. Up until Tuesday, however, he was having a very quiet preseason. In St. Louis he looked like he was playing with more confidence and had a much more noticeable performance and impact because of it.
Tuesday’s game was a feisty one. The Blues played a physical game that got downright nasty in the third period. While today’s NHL continues to get faster and more skilled, this game felt like an old-school slobber knocker.
That suited O’Brien just fine.
In the second period a puck trickled behind Copley and he laid back to cover it up. Pat Maroon skated in and gave Copley a jab to the back with his stick despite the fact that the puck was covered. A few minutes later, O’Brien made Maroon answer for it and the two dropped gloves in what can only be described as a heavyweight bought.
O’Brien gets extra points for that glove toss.
As the game went on and devolved, the Blues were determined to get the Caps out from in front of the net at any cost, but O’Brien was able to take the physical punishment and doled out about as much as he took.
It was an old-school style game and the old-school O’Brien fit right in.
Todd Reirden came out and said he needed to see more from Bowey and wanted him to play to his strengths. Specifically, he wanted him to be more physical in the defensive zone and more assertive in the offensive zone. Bowey checked both of those boxes on Tuesday.
Bowey was noticeably more physical in his own end. While that may have resulted in an ill-advised interference in the second period, it at least showed he was taking his head coach’s words to heart.
That was also evident in the offensive zone where Bowey was much more involved. He finished the game with three shots on goal and scored Washington’s third goal on the night, tipping in a pass from Ovechkin through goalie Chad Johnson.
Did he look like a top-four defenseman? No, but he showed there is an extra gear to his game we have not really seen yet and one he will have to reach if he hopes to take on the bigger role he hopes to have this season.
After a lower-body injury kept him out the first few days of camp, Carlson finally made his preseason debut Tuesday and it looked like there was no rust to his game at all.
The veteran defenseman had an impact on both ends, as he recorded two blocked shots and two takeaways. His defensive positioning was great and he even stopped a St. Louis breakaway by cutting off the breakout pass.
Offensively, Carlson had four total shot attempts, two of which went on net. He also set up a goal by Nathan Walker with the quick hands to send the puck back through the crease behind Jake Allen for the tap-in.
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