WASHINGTON -- Hockey made its long-awaited return to Capital One Arena on Monday as the Capitals opened their preseason slate with a 4-3 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Tom Wilson was the best player on either bare-bones roster and he scored the overtime winner.
Besides Wilson, here are the players who impressed on Monday.
Protas already stands out because of his size at 6-foot-6. It was his play that stood out during the game, however, as Protas was the best player of the night for Washington.
Playing in the high slot on the power play, Protas took a pass from Christian Djoos. Chicago’s penalty kill box collapsed around him and he calmly backhanded a pass to a wide-open Travis Boyd who ripped the shot past goalie Collin Delia.
Less than two minutes later, Protas took the puck from behind the Caps’ net and started the breakout. He passed off the puck then made a beeline down the ice. When he saw Beck Malenstyn grab the puck along the boards, he headed to the front of the net and was there when Delia lost control of the puck to get the goal.
In addition, Protas recorded an assist on the overtime winner and was impressive for his all-around play. He forced Chicago to the neutral zone with a poke check on the blue line out of the defensive zone and he recorded two blocked shots.
The Capitals will need to cut salary early in the season to get under the salary cap and to many, Djoos looked like a possible candidate to be headed out of Washington. He did what he could on Monday, however, to show he should stick around.
Djoos does not typically get much power-play time during the regular season -- he had a grand total of 3:15 power-play TOI in 45 games last season -- but he got plenty of it on Monday and he looked right at home. He was good holding the blue line with the extra man and distributed the puck well from the point. He was rewarded with a secondary assist when he fed Protas in the high-slot in the second period.
Djoos, however, needed to show more than his prowess on the power play -- where he likely will not get much time again this season -- and he did that with an overall solid effort on defense. He outplayed his counterpart, Jonas Siegenthaler, whose place on the team seems all but assured. The only of Chicago’s three goals Djoos was on the ice for was Adam Boqvist’s wicked shot off the post and in and there was nothing anyone could do about that one whether it was Djoos, John Carlson or Bobby Orr.
If Malenstyn has a future in the NHL, it will be as a fourth-liner. He gave a glimpse of what he had to offer at that NHL level in this game with his high-energy play.
Malenstyn was relentless on the forecheck and looked like he was in constant search of something to hit every time he was on the ice. He was also great on the penalty kill and recorded an assist on Protas’ goal when he flung the puck at the net from the sideboards.
Malenstyn is not going to be a top-six NHL player. He’s not going to put up 20-30 goals. What he can provide, he showed on Monday and it was exactly what you want from a fourth-liner.
Honorable mention: Connor McMichael had the play of the game with his no-look backhand pass to set-up Damien Riat for Washington’s first goal fo the game. His overall game was solid with one assist, two shots on goal and another two attempts blocked.
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