It stood to reason that Joe Snively figured the rookie lap was coming. But it still didn’t diminish it.
Snively, from Herndon, Virginia, skated out wearing his red No. 91 sweater and took a few laps during warmups by himself, the customary rookie lap for anyone making their debut. For Snively, it was a bit different.
He trained at MedStar (formerly Kettler) Capitals Iceplex during his youth hockey days and was part of the Little Caps program.
Sunday against the Kings, he skated in his first NHL game for his hometown team with family and friends all watching on. And during pregame warmups, he got a few moments in the spotlight by himself.
“It was an awesome experience,” Snively said. “Had some nerves, but overall, it was really fun.”
And in his first NHL game, Snively found the scoresheet in the first period with an assist on a Connor McMichael goal. It put the team up 1-0.
“Yeah it’s always nice when one finds the back of the net,” McMichael said. “Joe made a nice play to me, so it felt really good.”
The Capitals are in the midst of an injury/COVID predicament, with five regular forwards in the top six out of the lineup — four of which were due to COVID. So Snively was called up from the Hershey Bears and made his way down to Washington D.C. for what he hoped would be his NHL debut.
With family in the stands (although he didn’t know where) Snively put up a point and impacted the game in more ways than one. During one of his shifts in the third period, he had a strong scoring chance, trailed the play and made a big hit in the defensive zone, followed the play back to the offensive zone and forced a turnover to set up a McMichael chance in front.
“He's quick,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “In on the forecheck, off the rush he's got a good skill level. That's what he does down there, just working hard in the defensive zone so I thought he was good.”
The Capitals have been decimated this year by COVID and injuries, and it’s impossible to say if their scheduled game against the Flyers on Tuesday will even be played.
But the Capitals have thrived this season because of players like Snively, and no matter how many more games he plays in Washington in this most recent callup, it’s a story that should matter to everyone in Northern Virginia.
“I thought he was good,” Laviolette said. “It was good that he jumped in there. He brought some speed and tenacity, chipped in on a goal and off the forecheck. His line was good, I don't think they were a problem. I thought he had a good debut.”