Capitals First Scrimmage of the 2021 NHL Season: 1/7/21
Training camp officially kicked off last week, and the Capitals held their first in-team scrimmage of the NHL season this Thursday. In an abbreviated season with zero preseason games, these short, two-period scrims are the best chances for the new, younger players to show the coaching department what they bring to the table. Plus, with inevitable roster cuts next week looming, these minutes are more valuable than ever.
The teams for this shortened scrimmage were fairly even on paper, but that was not the case come puck drop. Team Red featured the team’s complete first and third line (Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Wilson and Sheary-Eller-Panik) with Samsonov in net and Carlson-Orlov and Jensen-Chara on defense. Team White consisted of their second and fourth line (Vrana-Backstrom-Oshie and Hagelin-Dowd-Hathaway) with Vanecek behind and Dillon-Schultz and Siegenthaler-van Riemsdyk defensively. The game was slow to start as guys were still feeling everything out, but the pace soon quickened. This was most noticeable about four minutes in when defensemen Jonas Siegenthaler met the new brick wall in Washington that is Zdeno Chara.
Team White took the first lead about seven minutes in when newly acquired defensemen Cameron Schilling put a hard shot in from around the blue line past Samsonov. The rest of the period was quiet scoring-wise, as both sides looked a little sloppy in their first real playing on-ice experience together. Samsonov looked good, putting the clamps on for the remainder of the period, and Vanecek stood strong too as he fended off wristers from Ovechkin and company.
The second (and final) period began with goalie changes as Pheonix Copley took over for Team White and Craig Anderson for Team Red. Andersen is coming into camp relatively late, filling the veteran spot of Henrik Lundqvist whereas Copley was the backup goaltender to Braden Holtby two seasons ago and is familiar with the system. This all became evident as Team White was able to pour it on in the second period. Five minutes into the period, T.J. Oshie recovered a turnover at his own blue line and immediately sent it up-ice to Garnett Hathaway for a breakaway. Hathway drew the defenders in and sent the puck back into the slot for Jakub Vrana. Vrana’s shot then bounced off Anderson’s pad where Trevor van Riemsdyk was able to get the rebound and finish it. It’s always great to see a defenseman successfully get up in the action like that.
Team White was able to convert on a turnover from Chara at their own blue line around the 8:30 mark of the period. The turnover led to a clean one on one breakaway for Joe Snively who beautifully put it past Anderson to make it 3-0. T.J. Oshie and Team White were able to capitalize on another turnover late in the period when Oshie stole the puck from Lucas Johansen on his own blue line and charged firmly ahead before giving it to Backstrom. He quickly passed to Vrana, who was in close on the left-side, where he waited for Oshie get in perfect position to shoot it beautifully past Anderson. Anderson was completely caught out of position as the quick passes overwhelmed him for a 4-0 lead for Team White.
The Capitals host their next scrimmage on Sunday January 10th at 4:30pm before beginning the regular season on January 14th in Buffalo against the Sabres.