The Washington Capitals are gearing up to begin the 2023-2024 season as they host the Pittsburgh Penguins at home this coming Friday, October 13th. With a fresh slate of coaching staff and a healthy roster, the Capitals are optimistic about starting off on the right foot (or skate, if you will). The team finished the preseason with a 3-3 record, with some standout performances by both core and newer players. A mix of healthy veterans and spry newcomers to the team has created a team that is fast, well-rounded, and ready for action as the first game of the season approaches. Looking at Washington’s preseason performances gives us some insight into what may be in store for the 2023-2024 season– let’s take a look!
September 24th vs Sabres– L (4-3)
Though the Capitals ultimately lost their preseason opener in the shootout, they really came out swinging. Nicolas Aube-Kubel opened the season’s scoring in the first period. Ryan Hofer (now on the Hershey Bears) opened up scoring in the second period, followed by Sonny Milano in the third. With an even score, the game moved to overtime but saw nothing produced offensively on either side. Brandon Biro of Buffalo finished the game with the only shootout goal scored in Capital One Arena that day.
September 28th vs Red Wings– W (4-3)
Washington saw its first of three preseason wins when they hosted the Detroit Red Wings on September 28th. Core veterans Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, and John Carlson all tallied goals, with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov getting assists. The semi-recently acquired defenseman Rasmus Sandin rounded out the Capitals’ 4-3 win with his goal in the third period. Sandin continues to look like an impressive pickup for the team and well worth the trade. It is also worth noting that young forward Ivan Miroshnichenko recorded 2 points in the victory. We will likely see Miro on the Hershey Bears this season, but the Russian is a bright spot in the future of the Capitals.
September 30th at Red Wings– L (5-2)
Perhaps the Capitals’ most disappointing preseason performance came during their loss to the Red Wings at Little Caeser’s Arena. However, both Dylan Strome and Matthew Phillips (who have consistently played on a line together) showed up offensively– each forward scored a goal and tallied an assist. Ethen Frank and Sonny Milano also recorded assists in the loss. With a Milano-Strome-Phillips line seen repeatedly throughout preseason and training camp, we can certainly find a silver lining here in that line’s offensive ability.
October 3rd at Bruins– W (5-4)
While Capitals fans, myself included, may have felt nervous about playing the Bruins after their phenomenal performance last season, the team quickly quieted any doubts that fans may have had. Connor McMichael, Tom Wilson, and Sonny Milano all lit the lamp in the first period, helping the Caps to go into the locker room with a 3-2 lead. With Milan Lucic’s goal in the second period, the teams were tied but fired up to play as the third got underway. John Carlson’s goal just 43 seconds into the period brought fans to the edge of their seats with excitement. However, after regulation concluded, the score was tied 4-4. Newcomer to the Capitals and standout talent Matthew Phillips delivered, winning the game for the District, assisted by John Carlson.
October 5th at Blue Jackets– W (4-2)
Coming off their OT win against the Boston Bruins, the Capitals doubled Columbus’ score as they took on the team at Nationwide Arena. A roster made up of mainly young, Hershey-bound talent was fun to watch and continued to prove that both the Bears’ and the Capitals’ future is bright. The first period was truly #ALLCAPS, as only Capitals’ Beck Malenstyn and Aliaksei Protas found the net. We will likely see Protas as a regular in the lineup this season, but Malenstyn’s future is still uncertain. The team’s final roster will be revealed on Wednesday, October 11th. Only Columbus tallied goals in the second period, but Riley Sutter and Hendrix Lapierre (both of whom will be seen on Hershey) contributed to the final 4-2 score in the third period.
October 7th vs. Blue Jackets– L (4-2)
Unfortunately, the Capitals closed their preseason with a loss as they hosted Columbus at home. Washington’s only goals came in the first period, scored by core lineup members John Carlson and (finally!) Alex Ovechkin. Nic Dowd, Lucas Johansen, and T.J. Oshie tallied their first points of the preseason with assists on the two goals. While the Capitals’ offensive showing was not particularly impressive, fans did get to see a preview of possible lineups for opening night this Friday:
Overall, Washington had a decent preseason showing, with lots of bright spots to be found. Hopefully, the Capitals will find the playoffs again this season– time will tell! You can catch the Capitals’ home opener as they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, October 13th at 7:30 EST. It will be broadcast on ESPN+, and game tickets are available here.