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A Caps team already without Eller and Niskanen loses Graovac in first period against Toronto

A Caps team already without Eller and Niskanen loses Graovac in first period against Toronto

The Capitals came into Tuesday's game a bit shorthanded with Lars Eller out due to an illness and Matt Niskanen on LTIR. They lost yet another player in the first period as Tyler Graovac out for the rest of the night due to an upper-body injury.

Graovac took two hits from Leafs forward Matt Martin that may have led to the injury. 

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Martin gave Graovac a two-handed shove in the back that knocked Graovac to the ice. You can see after the play Graovac doubles back to have a quick word with Martin after the hit.

Graovac took another hit from Martin on his next shift.

This time, Graovac appears to see Martin coming and leans into the check, but took the full brunt of the hit on his left shoulder. He can be seen favoring his left arm/shoulder later before exiting down the tunnel.

Graovac was in Tuesday's lineup centering the third line in place of the sick Eller.

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4 players who impressed in Capitals preseason loss in Québec City

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Instagram.com/@Capitals

4 players who impressed in Capitals preseason loss in Québec City

Thursday’s game in Quebec City got off to a rough start for the Capitals. Washington gave up 13 shots on goal before they finally got their first late in the first period. Even worse, they yielded the first four goals in what would end up being a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

But it wasn’t all bad.

After going down 4-0 at the start of the second, the Caps finally woke up with two goals of their own and put together a much better effort from that point on.

Here are the players who really impressed from Thursday’s loss.

Connor Hobbs

If there’s one thing Hobbs is known for, it is his monster slap shot. Because of that, his wrist shot is often overlooked, but he is very adept at both and, something that impressed me when he was playing junior hockey for the Regina Pats, he always seems to know when to use which shot.

On the power play, Brett Connolly fed Hobbs at the top of the face-off circle and he had nothing but room in front of him. Rather than rush a slap shot, Hobbs showed some patience, lined up his shot, and fired the wrister to beat goalie Charlie Lindgren.

No one was particularly sterling defensively in a game in which Washington gave up five goals, but in the third period, Hobbs was able to poke check the puck away from a streaking Matthew Peca to prevent a scoring opportunity.

Jayson Megna

Megna is the only Caps player to appear in all three of the team’s preseason games and he may be playing his way at least into the conversation for sticking around in Washington. Where he stands out the most is on the penalty kill. Todd Reirden wants the team to be more aggressive with a man down, and Megna really seems to have embraced that philosophy. He had a great shorthanded opportunity in the second period and had another scoring chance later in the frame in which he hit the post.

The reality is that Megna remains a longshot to make the roster, there are just too many bodies competing for too few spots, but Megna has shown at the very least that it is too early to count him out.

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby

On Tuesday, Jonsson-Fjallby played alongside Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie which gave many hope for a big offensive performance. He was largely unnoticeable in that game, however, managing only one shot on goal and did not seem all that comfortable until the third period. He was much more comfortable on Thursday and had a much more noticeable impact on the game.

Jonsson-Fjallby’s best asset is his speed and that was on display in Quebec City, especially on the penalty kill.

In the third period, Jonsson-Fjallby pressured Lindgren into a quick pass as the netminder retrieved the puck behind the goal line. He then chased down the puck carrier, stole the puck and fired a quick backhander for the shorthanded chance. Later in the third period, Jonsson-Fjally pounced on a lazy pass to launch himself on a shorthanded breakaway.

Jonsson-Fjallby is most likely not going to be a top-six NHL player, but he still has NHL speed and Thursday’s game showed how he can make his mark in the NHL as a very effective and dangerous penalty killer.

Alex Ovechkin

The Great 8 has literally nothing to prove in the preseason. Nothing. But for the last few years, every season has started with a discussion about whether or not this season will mark the beginning of Ovechkin’s decline.

In his preseason debut, Ovechkin got his first shot on goal in the second period and it ended up in the back of the net. Ovechkin’s one-timer looked as dangerous as ever as he cranked one from the office for the power play tally.

Ovechkin is going to face a lot of goalies who are a lot tougher to beat than Lindgren this season, but that one-timer looks like it is already in midseason form.

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Brooks Orpik is the Caps’ ultimate role model for ‘how to be a true professional'

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USA Today

Brooks Orpik is the Caps’ ultimate role model for ‘how to be a true professional'

When training camp began, all eyes were on the stars like Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie and Braden Holtby. The eyes of all the young defensemen, however, were on Brooks Orpik.

Orpik, who will turn 38 on Wednesday, now enters his 17th professional season and fifth with the Washington Capitals. Once a staple on the top four, Orpik has seen his minutes and his on-ice role decrease with age. His role off the ice, however, remains as large as ever.

“All defensemen can come to him, all players will come to him on any number of issues and he's there for them,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “But more often than not, some of the players don't go to him and they just watch him and try to replicate some of the things he's doing.”

The impact that has on the locker room was enough that the Caps sought to re-sign Orpik even after trading him in the offseason.

Orpik and his $5.5 million cap hit was sent to the Colorado Avalanche as part of the Philipp Grubauer trade. Once the Avalanche bought Orpik out of his contract, the Caps jumped at the chance to re-sign him.

Why re-sign a player you just traded and risk the ire of the NHL? Because the impact he has on the team is worth it, especially for the younger players.

This year’s blue line for Washington will feature youngsters like Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey, who will both be in their second NHL seasons. Training camp also features several other young defensemen vying for a possible call-up like Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs.

Giving those players a chance to work with Orpik and see what it takes to be a true professional at the NHL level is invaluable.

“He's a true pro,” Bowey said. “I think anytime you have a guy like that in your locker room to look up to, it makes everyone's job a lot easier. I know he's a guy that I've leaned on a lot in my young career so far and is a guy that I'll continue to lean on. The way his presence is on the room, it's definitely recognizable and something that we all noticed.”

For his part, Orpik was adamant in that he does not feel his role has changed at all and is not approaching this season any differently. He is preparing this season to be a player, not a mentor.

But then again, he shouldn’t change anything because it is in how he trains, how he prepares, how he carries himself that he has become a role model.

“I remember when I was a younger guy, [Darius Kasparaitis] was there my first year,” Orpik said. “You catch yourself kind of just staring at these guys, watching these guys. I'm not naive, I know guys are constantly watching you.”

If he is going to be a mentor, he is determined to make sure it is going to be by example.

Said Reirden, “He's a great role model for how to be a true professional.”
 

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