In the first hockey game at First Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Md. in 14 years, the Washington Capitals lost 2-0 to the Nashville Predators in Washington’s preseason opener.
The Capitals began the game with a set of good scoring chances, including the game’s first power play, to out-muscle the Predators. Michal Neuvirth lasted the entire match, making the saves needed to keep the game scoreless and giving Washington a chance to end up on top. However, just before the end of the second period, Chris Mueller of the Predators nabbed the first goal of the game.
The Caps still were getting the best opportunities to score, but about the 10-minute mark, Nashville scored again as Washington failed to make a clean line change. The botched shift, caused a turnover that led to the second Predators goal assisted by potential team scoring leader, Niclas Bergfors, his second assist of the game. Neuvirth was pulled for the extra attacker, but no dice for the Caps. Nashville is now 2-1-0 in preseason play.
Of course, this is game one of the preseason for the Caps, so all talk of “five-game losing streaks” and “panic” shall be in jest. The Capitals have six more preseason game to find chemistry and to figure out what works offensively and defensively.
Earlier in the day, there were minor concerns about the ice quality, as there were cracks and puddles that showed up on the thin sheet. Fortunately for the game, play was able to continue, but it certainly seemed to be a factor in situations like line changes and puck movement. In the arena’s defense, however, the Baltimore Blast’s indoor soccer team has been the only regular sports usage for years, and this was the first hockey game in First Mariner since 1997 when the AHL team, the Baltimore Bandits, left the area.
While many are not familiar or do not remember, before the Bandits, Baltimore had two previous stints with AHL teams: the Clippers (1962-1976) and the Skipjacks (1982-1993). Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau had his own memories of Baltimore. As an AHL star, Boudreau played with the Skipjacks in the 1984-85 season.
“It was a fun city to play in,” Boudreau said Monday, the day before his first time back to the arena since ’85. He reminisced about the times when he came back from playing in Europe and how he chose to play in Baltimore because of the number of friends he already had there who loved playing in Baltimore. Boudreau said Baltimore provided “a lot of great stories” as a result.
Boudreau isn’t the only one with memories of Baltimore as a hockey city. The Bandits’ old coach is current Predators’ bench boss Barry Trotz, who began his coaching career in Baltimore.
“Baltimore has been a great breeding ground for young coaches and players, and you see that sprinkled around the National Hockey League,” Trotz said about returning to Baltimore according to local radio station 1570 AM WNST. “Hopefully I will bump into a few friends and bring back some good memories.”
It is possible that Baltimore could attract attention for a new minor league hockey team once again. A new arena to go along with a much more intense following for the Capitals’ NHL team definitely help the city’s case.
Notes: Washington will head to Columbus for their second preseason game set to take place Wednesday at 7 p.m.