The Capitals got their first taste of preseason action Sunday in a down-to-the-wire matchup against the Buffalo Sabres. After a late game-tying goal by Sonny Milano and a scoreless overtime, the Sabres ultimately emerged victorious in the shootout to win 4-3.
For Spencer Carbery, his first game as an NHL head coach offered an early chance to evaluate his team’s progress, albeit with a prospect-laden lineup. He offered a balanced take when speaking after the game, highlighting both where players shone and where they fell short.
Carbery first praised the team’s resiliency in the last 10 minutes of regulation. After Buffalo scored three unanswered goals to flip a 2-0 disadvantage into a 3-2 lead, the Capitals were able to tie the game 3-3 to push to overtime.
“I thought we controlled play probably from the nine minutes — and we’re pressing to win that game in regulation,” Carbery said. “So I thought we showed good resiliency there in a spot where you’ve coughed up a lead, but didn’t let that snowball and and tried to find a way out of it and try to win a game.
“There’s certainly a lot of things that we need to clean up,” he added. “That’s to be expected, first preseason game, but also some good things.”
The Caps had their first test of Carbery’s new systems just four days into Training Camp. Even in its unpolished form, the difference was noticeable, with a focus on quick and open play. Carbery noted Ryan Hofer’s 2-0 goal as an example of his preferred style as a coach.
“I loved that Hofer line: scores a goal on exactly what we’ve talked about in Training Camp,” he said.
Hofer goin’ hard in the paint pic.twitter.com/AbKERKREDE
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 24, 2023
Even after a loss, Carbery made a point to recognize specific players’ performances, and he had as much enthusiasm for well-executed details as the moments that showed up in the box score.
“I mean, I liked part of Aube-Kubel, some of that shift,” Carbery said. “I liked a lot of things when I look back, gosh, like that line — there was instances I felt like for every line. Sonny Milano makes a big play, we also had some struggle shifts in the defensive zone with that line.
“Then we had some really good sequences with Lapierre’s line. And then [Riley] Sutter, I would give him a lot of credit as a big part of the penalty kill, he was outstanding on draws. Same thing with [Dylan Strome], I think they were around 65 or something like that, percent. Liked Stromer’s game tonight.”
He was quick to point out that his list of high points wasn’t exhaustive and that he’d soon be working with the video team to go over the game.
“There was instances — I feel like I’m not doing justice to some of our guys before I go through the film,” he said
Carbery’s view wasn’t all sunshine and roses, however, and he was just as precise when offering criticism as he was with praise.
“I thought, and chalk it up to potentially first time back in this arena, our touches at times, it just was on our stick and just wasn’t ending up in a good place,” he said.
He later added, “We had some really, really tough touches for long stretches of time where we just couldn’t get any rhythm to our game because it was constantly, we have it, here we go, give it back. Have it, give it back. Hit a guys’ skates, bounce everywhere. So that’s an area that we’ll look at. Hopefully that will clean itself up execution-wise as guys get more comfortable playing more games.”
Carbery also offered a mixed opinion of Sonny Milano, Hendrix Lapierre, and Anthony Mantha’s line, which both scored the game-tying goal and at times struggled in their own end.
“Like I thought there were some really good sequences and they had a heck of a shift at the end of the second period where there was tons of sustained pressure with puck movement, a couple good looks,” Carbery said. “And then just at other times, puck management, positionally stuff where they’re pinned in the D-zone — so there was a lot of good and bad.”
Even after a loss, a sense of patience and tolerance pervaded Carbery’s outlook throughout his postgame press conference. Criticisms of the team’s five penalties were followed by praise for the penalty kill and goaltender Hunter Shepard, difficulties adjusting to new systems were expected to improve as camp continued, and concerns about rough moments were couched by knowledge that it was only the first game.
For a coach who has emphasized development and collaboration in his early days in Washington, Carbery embodied that ethos in how he spoke of his team.
“You want guys to, especially early in these preseason games, [be able to] showcase what they do well,” he said. “And they can’t be bogged down over thinking, ‘Gosh am I in the right spot? What did I do there?’ Because now you’re paralyzed and now you’re not doing the things that make you an effective player to show management (and) coaching staff the type of player that you are and what you’re capable of.”
After a day off tomorrow, the team will review the ups and downs of their first loss before returning to Capital One Arena for a game against the Detroit Red Wings Thursday.
Headline photo: Katie Adler/RMNB
RMNB 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.