The Caps dropped a 3-2 decision to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Chris Higgins had a bit of a fluky goal wth 1:10 remaining to win it. Since it seemed like there was a fair amount of both good and bad tonight, let’s break it down in two parts:
* Keith Aucoin may have had his best game of the preseason (Bruce Boudreau thought so). He had a goal on a 2-on-1 pass from Alex Ovechkin, but beyond that both he and Chris Clark were skating well and creating chances on the team’s second line.
* Jose Theodore wasn’t lights-out, but he did make some pretty good saves and pronounced himself ready for the regular season afterwards. One goal was on a breakaway by a world-class player and the other was a rebound by the same guy. More on the third one in a minute.
* Tyler Sloan and Quintin Laing both continued their solid work. Laing was credited with three hits and Sloan logged nearly 19 minutes. Both look like they could play for the Caps. The question remains if there will be room or not. It is looking pretty good for Laing, Sloan is still too tough to call.
* Brandon Sugden went 1-0-1 in his two fights with Donald Brashear. One was short and sweet, the other went on for a long time and both guys traded a lot of blows.
Sugden led early before Brashear rallied, though Boudreau questioned why the officials didn’t step in after Brash’s jersey came off. It did give him a distinct advantage because he kept pulling Sugden out of his stance by his sweater.
* The PK was a perfect 5-for-5 and only had one Rangers PP chance that led to several chances and a lot of possession time.
* Conversly, the power play was pretty meek, and even yielded a shorthanded goal. There’s way too much talent there to be too concerned at this pont.
* There were several sloppy turnovers, and a few were in vulnerable positions and led to breakaways or odd-man rushes.
* Alex Ovechkin had seven hits, but was also 2-for-6 getting shots on net and had a couple of said bad turnovers.
* Like I said, the final goal was a bit of a fluky one. Milan Jurinca rocked Brandon Dubinsky to the left of Theodore, but the puck squirted across the goal crease and Higgins was able to tap it across the line.
Boudreau said that A) Matt Bradley erred by trying to hit Dubinsky high, and when he ducked under it that left him with a path to the net and B) David Steckel needed to erase Higgins and/or his stick there. Theodore said he was hugging the near post to prevent a Dubinksy chance, and when he slid across Higgins miss-hit the puck and it trickled past him.
* Alexandre Giroux had a nice start to camp with a goal in the first period at Buffalo, but he’s not helping himself by not adding to that total at this point. He had a pair of great chances in the second half of the final period, but didn’t convert. Boudreau said afterwards that goal-scorers have to convert those chances — and brought up the six breakaways he had last year in 12 NHL games. He brought that up unprompted … that can’t be good for Giroux.
All in all, it was a bit of a mixed bag but Boudreau was happy his team played in a preseason game this intense. One more against the Rangers on Sunday and it will be time to start counting games for real.
The Caps are off tomorrow and then have the Capitals Convention on Saturday. The team will practice at 10 a.m. and then head over to the Gaylord hotel. If you’re going to the convention, come check out the panel about covering the Caps, which will include several other more important people, but also yours truly.