The Capitals’ regular season is drawing closer, as the preseason is now one-third complete after their 5-4 loss against the Devils at Capital One Arena on Wednesday night.
Here are a few takeaways from the action at Capital One Arena:
Lapierre shows his stuff once again
It’s hard not to be impressed by the kid.
The 19-year-old tallied another two assists in his second-ever preseason game, as his blend of speed and skill made life difficult for the Devils to defend him.
He drew a penalty early in the second period and then, as the period wound down, sprung T.J. Oshie for a breakaway goal. That makes four assists in two games for him so far this preseason, as the youngster is making a case he belongs in the NHL sooner rather than later. Of the Capitals' six goals this preseason, Lapierre has assisted on four of them.
The odds of him cracking the NHL lineup on Opening Night are, as one might imagine, small. But Lapierre has certainly put himself on the radar with his play so far this training camp and preseason.
A top line?
The Capitals had Anthony Mantha, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin on the top line during the game, which could be an indication of things to come once the regular season starts.
The trio combined for no points on the night at five-on-five, in the first time they’ve ever seen extensive time together. Last season, those three skated just 34 seconds at five-on-five as Mantha joined a line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie after being acquired from the Red Wings.
If those three end up skating together in the regular season, that’d mean a mix of Tom Wilson, Daniel Sprong, Conor Sheary and Oshie to fill out the second and third line wings — assuming Carl Hagelin and Garnet Hathaway are wingers for center Nic Dowd — with center Lars Eller in the middle six with one more center slot to fill.
The Capitals’ lineup has a lot left to decide with Backstrom’s absence, but they might have already decided their top line to begin the year.
Kempny back in action
The Capitals got back smooth-skating left-handed defenseman Michal Kempny on Wednesday after he suffered a torn Achilles injury last fall. But it wasn’t a banner night for Kempny, who has played just five NHL games since March 2020.
He had a bad turnover in the second period that led to a Jack Hughes walk-in goal, as he and defensive partner Vincent Iorio (playing in his first-ever NHL game) gave up too many quality scoring chances for the Capitals’ liking.
Kempny has undergone some serious injuries to his left leg in recent years, including a torn hamstring, a torn Achilles, then lastly a sprained MCL as he attempted a comeback in Hershey with the Bears last spring.
He’ll be an important defender to follow over the next few games to see if he can shake the rust off.
Powerplay gets new faces
Truthfully, there was only one face new to the powerplay (Mantha), but absent Backstrom, the Capitals have had to do some reshuffling on the man advantage.
Ovechkin was in his usual spot on the left faceoff dot, Oshie was in his spot between the faceoff dots and John Carlson was at the point. But Kuznetsov manned the half wall and Mantha was below the goal line in a net front role, as the Capitals look to replace, as best they can, one of the finest passers in the league.
There, of course, won’t be any schematic change, but how they adjust absent Backstrom, for as long as that may be, is one of the year’s biggest storylines for the Capitals.