Despite a high-powered offensive lineup, the Jackets fell short against the Capitals, 6-2, despite consistently outshooting the capitals and generating multiple scoring chances at both even strength and with the man advantage.
A lot of credit goes to Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov, who had an exceptional game, making impressive saves through the 30 minutes he played and stopping all 20 of the shots he faced.
As to the Jackets side of the score sheet? Well, it isn't good, but don't panic...
The Jackets came out fast early, and had a lot of pressure on Varlamov. The Nash-Johansen-Umberger line had timing problems, but they did find several nice passes and scoring chances, and the 6-7-8 line was a threat through the entire night.
There were several defensive issues, though, that became evident. Though the forwards were good at chasing the pucks, they struggled at faceoffs all night, and there were several head scratching turnovers, usually from passes too light or too hard to reach linemates. The defensemen themselves were an equally mixed bag.
Jan Hejda had some good moves, defensively, and set up a few scoring chances by sending shots in from the point, but also committed a horrible gaffe by chasing a Capital right into Mason's crease and bowling the netminder over, allowing Matt Hendricks to rifle a goal in over Mason as he attempted to get back up and into position.
Fedor Tyutin flat out sucked last night. There's no nice way to say it. He looked like he was struggling with his skating, he turned the puck over, he took bad penalties. He and Teddy Ruth ended the night -3, but I thought Ruth had a decent game except for one bad play where he tried to force Hendricks wide midway through the third period, and ended up being dragged across the goal instead.
John Moore was interesting - he didn't manage to score last night, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. He made several good pinch moves, made some very good passes in and out of zones, and kept showing up around the net looking for an opportunity, including one heartbreaker where he appeared to have Varlamov beat 5-hole, but couldn't get enough on the shot, and the puck stopped just short of the goal line, allowing the goalie to drop on it and cover up.
I was also impressed by Dalton Prout in a "I didn't really notice him that much, but when I did he was popping up in the right place at the right time" sort of way. Same for David Savard, who was just a horse last night - 26 minutes of ice time, including 4 minutes on the man advantage, and a +1. I would have liked to see a bit more offense than one shot with all that PP time, but I can't complain much.
Now, as to goaltenders...
Steve Mason, I thought, actually had a good game. The first goal, before you start yelling about "HIGH GLOVE!" was redirected on a nasty angle after Mason had already made a couple of saves and wasn't getting help from his D, and the second goal, as I mentioned, was more due to getting knocked around in the crease by his own guys than any weakness.
Daren Machesney is another matter. Going into camp, he looked good in the first two on-ice practices, and there was talk that his experience with playing for Arniel in Manitoba might give him an edge to be the extra goalie going over to Sweden. If last night was an indication, I think he just played himself out of a plane ticket. Compared to the steady goaltending provided in Atlanta by LeNeveu, the Cheese couldn't settle himself down last night, and got torched for four goals that probably should have been stopped. Unable to make saves, the game quickly spiraled from a 3-1 game that the Jackets seemed likely to keep interesting to a 6-2 blowout.
6-7-8 Line: Though they only connected for one goal (and Jake made a SWEET pass across the crease to Filatov to set it up), they hit several posts, and did a great job of creating pressure all night, including a long cycling attack on a delayed penalty that generated several shots. They certainly had their issues with a couple of turnovers, but they also seemed to do the best at pursuing the puck, and Filatov and Jake both had a couple of nice steals that turned into odd man rushes back down the ice.
Chris Clark: Clark was actually one of the best guys on the ice last night. He played aggressive, he was physical, he took the puck away from the Caps several times, and I'd say he went out there like a guy who knows his job is up for grabs, and wanted to show the coach what he could do. I was also surprised to notice he had 4 shots on goal - not bad for 13 minutes of ice time.
John Moore: Even though he's still clearly learning, and he made a few mistakes last night, Moore did a great job of making plays and keeping after the puck. He also showed excellent anticipation of where play was going so he could get in to set up opportunities or get the puck away from trouble. I don't know if he'll start the year with the Jackets, but I think he's earned a ticket to Sweden at the very least.
Bottom Of The Barrel:
Fedor Tyutin: Toots needs to step his game up, and he needs to step it up very quickly, or he will find himself as one of those guys with an NHL contract who suddenly doesn't have a job. I love what he can do when he's on his game, and I think he should be a guy the team can rely on, but he did not make a good case for it last night.
R.J. Umberger: Yes, he had an assist on Nash's goal. Yes, he played over 20 minutes last night, and yes, he was a good PKer. But he seemed to have a lot of trouble keeping up with Nash and Johansen last night, and his passing and skating seemed off. I don't know if it was related to the illness he came into camp with, or a matter of not enough time with the line combination, but nothing seemed to go right for him last night - even a chance to score on an empty net when Johansen hooked him up on a great saucer pass....and R.J. roofed it over the crossbar.
Daren Machesney: The Cheese was full of holes last night. 'Nuff said.
The Jackets will be back at it Friday at home against the Pens, then back to back with a game on Saturday in the 'Burgh.