Caps fall in Philly despite solid Samsonov performance


Ilya Samsonov put together a strong performance Saturday, but it was not enough in a 3-1 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Saturday's preseason contest featured a little bit of everything with goals, fights, breakaways and even a partial power outage that forced the second period to end early. Here are some observations from the game.

Another tough performance for Kempny

Michal Kempny remained noticeably rusty in his second appearance in the preseason. Considering the number of mistakes he made Wednesday, Saturday was actually an improvement, but clearly he is not at the level he needs to be yet for the Caps to feel comfortable with him assuming a full-time role in the lineup.

The passes were off and the reactions were a step slow. On Friday, Kempny noted that he wanted to read the game better and that he was still learning the system as his absence last year did not allow him to adjust to Peter Laviolette or Kevin McCarthy's defensive system yet. That remains a work in progress.

The good news is that Kempny did not seem to shy away from contact at all and it did not seem to slow him down or affect him. For now, making sure he stays healthy and that he is able to walk away from these games still feeling OK is the top priority. But we are now halfway through the preseason and after each game it becomes more and more important for Kempny to get his reads and reactions down. Even though he has played in two preseason games already, I would not be surprised to see him play in at least two of the last three preseason games as well.


A solid night for Samsonov

Samsonov got the start and went the distance on Saturday, turning aside 28 out of 31 shots.

The elite athleticism was on full display, but so was the overcommitment that has plagued his play at times and draws him out of position.

Samsonov's best save came in the second period as he denied Cam Atkinson not once, but twice on a breakaway. Atkinson skated in and went with the backhand, then tried to beat Samsonov with the forehand on the rebound. Samsonov did not know where the puck was after making the initial save. Had he overcommitted, Samsonov would have slid out of position and Atkinson would have been able to score the easy rebound. Instead, he kept his position and Atkinson's shot hit off of Samsonov's glove.

On the other side of the coin, in the third period Samsonov came so far out to challenge Oskar Lindblom at the side of the net, that he left the net open for an easy tap-in for Atkinson once Lindblom found him in the slot. Those are the kind of plays he has to cut out of his game.

Aliaksei Protas was the Caps' best player

Protas scored Washington's lone goal and was the team's most noticeable player on the ice and not just because he is 6-foot-6.

Protas may be big but what makes him effective is not that he throws his body around, it's how he uses his reach. He uses this to win puck battles and protect the puck. He is very effective playing the slot both on the screen and picking up rebounds which is exactly how he scored his goal. In the third period, he saw pressure coming from the defense and actually managed to hold the puck away from his body in an open spot. He somehow fired what looked like an awkward shot, but managed a decent opportunity from the only spot he was going to be able to get a shot off.

Protas finished the game with one goal, three shots on goal, one minor penalty and, one of the few low points of his night, one win on five faceoffs.

Get ready for the cross-check penalties

Cross-checking is a point of emphasis for officials this season and we got a taste of that on Sunday with two fairly soft cross-check calls. While this game did not come close to the Caps-Devils preseason faceoff debacle from a few years ago which was an endless parade to the penalty box, fans should still prepare themselves to see a lot of these penalties through the rest of the preseason and the first month or two of the regular season until the players adjust.