The Best and Worst from Washington Capitals Preseason

Ryan DavenportContributor ISeptember 26, 2013

BELLEVILLE, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals stops a puck in practice at Yardman Arena during Kraft Hockeyville Day 2 on September 14, 2013 in Stirling, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

With less than a week to go before the Washington Capitals' 2013 season opener in Chicago, the team's roster finally appears to have taken form. 

Now, as the Caps head into the final two games on their preseason schedule, there are still a couple of big decisions awaiting George McPhee and the team's management team. But for the most part, the exhibition contests have helped many players all but lock up roster spots. 

So, as we prepare for Washington's pair of remaining preseason tilts, here's a look at the best and worst moments, as well as takeaways, from the Caps' first six preseason games. 


The ice in Baltimore 

For the second consecutive fall preseason, the Capitals took to the ice at Baltimore Arena for the Baltimore Hockey Classic, this time facing the reigning Eastern Conference champs from Boston. 

And, once again, everyone in attendance witnessed incredibly poor ice conditions, which made for some scary moments, such as Alex Ovechkin nearly having a pane of Plexiglass fall on him

Sep 17, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (8) skates with the puck in the third period against the Boston Bruins at 1st Mariner Arena. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Furthermore, Baltimore-area residents didn't seem too intrigued by the possibility of seeing Ovechkin and the rest of D.C.'s talented roster in person, as Matt Vensel of The Baltimore Sun noted following the game.

The game was eventually decided in an eight-round shootout as the Bruins won, 3-2, in front of an announced 7,634, who stood for the entire shootout.

Still, the smattering of fans in the upper deck and a lack of energy in the arena for most of the game were impossible to ignore.

Given the risks associated in playing in such a run-down arena, coupled with the massive drop in attendance from the more than 11,000 that showed up for the 2011 BHC, it wouldn't be all that surprising if this was the final edition of the event.  


Breakthrough in Belleville

By contrast, the team's 4-3 shootout victory in Belleville, Ontario over the "hosting" Winnipeg Jets during the Kraft Hockeyville clash seemed to be a great experience for everyone involved. 

BELLEVILLE, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals takes a high stick up under his visor from Ben Chiarot #63 of the Winnipeg Jets during Kraft Hockeyville Day 2 at Yardman Arena on September 14, 2013 in Belleville, Ontario, C
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Sure, Ovechkin was once again the victim of bad fortune, as he took a high stick to the face courtesy of Winnipeg's Ben Chiarot, but the captain returned in time to help the Caps get the victory.

In this one, Mike Green ended a long shootout with a beautiful wrist shot off the crossbar, and the Caps got their preseason off to an encouraging start. 


Another brief loss of Laich

After Brooks Laich missed the vast majority of the 2013 season, the gritty two-way forward has now had to leave practices twice with soreness, according to The Washington Post's Katie Carrera.

Mar. 30, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA;  Washington Capitals center Brooks Laich (21) watches from the bench against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center.  Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Apparently, Laich's recent injury woes are unrelated to the groin problems that kept him out of the Caps' lineup for virtually all of last season, but it's troubling nonetheless.

Laich, as an assistant captain and longtime Capital, is one of the team's emotional leaders, and they need him on the ice in order to put forth their strongest roster.


The great Grabovski

One of the bright spots of the Capitals' preseason campaign was the stellar play of Mikhail Grabovski, as the recent free-agent signee has demonstrated the skill and creativity that made him a 58-point scorer two years ago. 

BELLEVILLE, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Mikhail Grabovski #84 of the Washington Capitals signs autographs at Yardman Arena during Kraft Hockeyville Day 2 on September 14, 2013 in Belleville, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Though he was only able to suit up for two preseason games after being held up by visa issues, Grabovski's been even better than expected; though obviously these are only exhibition games. 

But with five assists in the pair of games he skated in, Grabovski looks like he should be the answer to the team's gaping hole down the middle on the second line. 


Tom Wilson

As unquestionably the Capitals' most promising prospect, Tom Wilson has gotten a long look thus far, and he certainly hasn't disappointed. 

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 13: Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals warms up before Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 13, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick McDermot
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Beyond the pair of goals he's tallied, the 2012 first-rounder has been the type of physical presence that has fast-tracked him to the NHL. And given how he's been able to hold his own, it seems that returning him to the OHL's Plymouth Whalers would be a mistake. 

Due to the Caps' abundance of bottom-six possibilities, Wilson still may not make the team's opening night roster, but he's at least showing McPhee and Adam Oates that he's well on his way to being an impact forward with Washington very soon. 


Goaltending excellence

So far, all three of the Capitals' top three goaltenders have looked very solid in the net, and although there's no doubt as to who will be Washington's tandem this season (barring injury), Philipp Grubauer showed McPhee and the rest of the scouting staff that he's well on his way to being in the NHL. 

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 09:  Philipp Grubauer #31 of the Washington Capitals skates against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on March 9, 2013 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Capitals 5-2.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/N
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Beyond him, Braden Holtby looked sharp, and Michal Neuvirth has been no slouch either, as his 34-save performance over the Predators showed he's ready to push Holtby for the No. 1 job, if given the opportunity.