With Backstrom, Wilson, Kuznetsov, Hagelin and Brown all unavailable on Thursday night, 21-year-old Caps forward Connor McMichael played his first game of the season. It was bad.
I’m fascinated by McMichael – not because he’s a future phenom, though I do think he’ll eventually do well in the NHL – but more because how the team uses him (or does not use him) is revealing.
Anyway. Thursday. McMichael got 8:33 minutes while playing, allegedly, on the second line. Here’s everything that happened, shift-by-shift.
McMichael got some time in the offensive zone, where he laid a hit on humorless epic fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson. But then the Senators took control and got two attempts against Kuemper.
Ottawa started with an attempt but Giroux turned the puck over the Caps gained the zone. Carlson got a shot off.
The Caps had zone time but did nothing with it.
Mantha had one good shot.
All Senators. Nick Holden got a shot on goal and Kuemper froze the puck.
McMichael won the faceoff. Orlov got a shot off, but then Carlson turned it over. McMichael fought back for possession and made two quick attempts, both of which were blocked by DeBrincat.
McMichael is now paired with Snively and Sheary. There’s some end-to-end action, but the puck ends up with solid zone time for Ottawa.
Parker Kelly hits John Carlson, and then Connor McMichael starts a fight with Kelly. They get matching five-minor major penalties.
Parker Kelly and Connor McMichael take it to the floor. 🥊 pic.twitter.com/0DVz7RwBVH
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 21, 2022
Back with Mantha, McMichael loses a neutral-zone faceoff. The Senators briefly make some noise in the Caps zone, but then the Caps turn it around and Johansson gets a decent chance.
McMichael gets a shift with Ovechkin and Sheary. The Senators spend the whole time deep in Washington’s zone, generating multiple looks. McMichael stays out as Mantha and Johansson join him. A lot more Senators zone time.
McMichael doesn’t see the ice again for more than six minutes.
McMichael was not good in his first game of the season. The Caps were out-attempted 18 to 3 while he was on the ice. He got stapled to the bench for long stretches of the game, during the special-teams-heavy second period, but also when the Caps were scrambling for a comeback in the third. Going five minutes between shifts in the second period, McMichael got in his first NHL fight. Of McMichael’s eleven shifts, all but two came on the fly. No one played less than him.
I’ll save broader editorializing for another day, except to say the coach needed extenuating circumstances to use this player at all. Once he had to use the player, he did so sparingly.
So I’m not sure what the development strategy is here. I sorta doubt there is one.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.