Already comfortable, Caps preparing for season
Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Caps reflect on their 4-3 shootout victory over the Winnipeg Jets in their first of eight preseason games Saturday night at Yardmen Arena in Belleville, Ontario:
Ovi OK: It looked far worse than it was, but Alex Ovechkin got clipped in the face by a careless high stick by Ben Chiarot early in the first period. When the Capitals’ captain pulled himself off the ice he had a bloodied lip and Chiarot had himself four minutes in the penalty box.
Ovechkin required stitches [see his post-game Twitter photo here] but returned to the game and took a regular shift the remainder of the game.
Olympic speed: Yardmen Arena is an Olympic-sized sheet of ice and the pace of the game was a reflection the wider ice surface. Capitals coach Adam Oates told reporters that goaltending coach Olie Kolzig returned to the coaches’ room after the first period and “couldn’t believe” the pace of the first 20 minutes.
“The speed of the first period was incredible,” Oates said. “I was very shocked.”
Return of the wraparound: Saturday marked the Caps’ first look at the shallow nets being introduced by the NHL this season. The new nets are 4 inches more shallow than the ones used last season.
While four inches may be hard to discern from the stands or on TV, it means a lot to players like Nicklas Backstrom, who likes to operate from behind the net, and Marcus Johansson, who like to attempt wraparounds.
The Jets’ Scott Kosmachuk used the extra space to beat Caps goalie Braden Holtby on a wraparound in the second period.
Backstrom said the extra space behind the net will “absolutely” increase scoring chances.
“If you have more space like that, that’s almost like a second extra you have,” he said. “It will be an advantage to us.”
Holtby called the change “very subtle” and wondered if the extra space might give goaltenders even more room to handle the puck behind the net.
The new nets have not yet arrived at Kettler Capitals Iceplex but Oates said he’s anxious to see how the shallower nets alters the angles of shooters.
“I’m more curious to see the bounces off the boards on dump-ins,” Oates said. “Does it hit the back of the net and stop? Does it ricochet out on an angle?”
Goalie shuffle: Holtby allowed two goals in his preseason debut and Philipp Grubauer allowed one.
The Caps will hit the ice for three practice sessions again at Kettler today before embarking to Philadelphia Monday for a preseason game against the Flyers. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth is expected to get the start, with David Leggio expected to replace him midway through the game.