The preseason is (mercifully) over. After a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, the next time the Capitals take the ice it will be for the regular season opener on Thursday in Ottawa.
With only two wins in seven preseason contests, there are some nervous Caps fans in Washington. But all preseason results should be taken with a grain of salt, especially the records. The Colorado Avalanche won six of their preseason games last year and finished the regular season as, by far, the worst team in the NHL.
That doesn't mean that everything that happens in the preseason is irrelevant, however. Here are some things that we did learn from the Caps' preseason:
The defense is in trouble
The Caps scored only 12 goals in seven preseason games, but it’s too early to worry about the offense. Players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky are going to show up when the games start to matter. The same cannot be said for the defense, howeer.
Heading into the preseason, the Caps defense looked approximately like this:
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
??? - John Carlson
Brooks Orpik - ???
The hope was that enough players would distinguish themselves in the preseason to fill out the roster. The competition has been whittled down to Aaron Ness, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey, but really none of those players have “wowed.” Bowey has played fairly well, but Ness and Djoos have both struggled. Both players would have to pass through waivers if the Caps choose to send them to the AHL and whether the team would risk losing either player remains to be seen, but the fact that it is even a matter of discussion is not a good sign.
After trying several different players alongside Carlson, Orpik was moved into the top four for the final preseason game which is an indication of just how dissatisfied Barry Trotz has been with what he’s seen.
Heading into the preseason the Caps were in need of a top-four defenseman and the third pairing looked like a major quesetion mark. Now that the prseason is over, the Caps look like they are in need of a top-four defenseman and the third pairing looks like a major quesetion mark.
Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will be split
Lines change frequently in the preseason, but one thing that has been consistent is that Ovechkin and Backstrom have not been playing on the same line. Even with the offense was struggling, Trotz did not move these two back together. That doesn’t mean they will never play on the same line this season, but at least to start you will see Backstrom centering a line without the Great 8 on the wing.
Tom Wilson needs to dial it back
Wilson was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit he delivered to Samuel Blais on Sunday in his second game after returning from a two-game suspension. Wilson was suspended for a hit he delivered to St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas in an earlier preseason contest. Following the league’s decision, Wilson stated that he would not change his game.
Well, he needs to.
While the initial suspension was for only two preseason games, it was still significant in that he will now be considered a repeat offender by the league.
The Capitals need Wilson to produce more offensively this season and that’s hard to do if he is in the penalty box or serving a suspension. If it wants to remain a physical player, fine, but he has to be more careful. He is not going to get the benefit of the doubt from referees or the Department of Player Safety.
Whether Wilson gets another call from the Department of Player Safety for Sunday's hit remains to be seen, but the fact that he could not even get out of the preseason without a suspension and an ejection should be a signal to him that he needs to reel it in.
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