We have seen this before. Prior to last night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Capitals recalled Mathieu Perreault from AHL Hershey. Most of the time injury is the cause. But this time the trade of Tomas Fleischmann to the Colorado Avalanche likely played a role in Perreault’s callup. Fleischmann’s trade to the Avalanche has opened up a Center spot, one that Perreault was presumed to be a favorite to grab prior to the season opener. But ultimately, Fleischmann won that spot, and Marcus Johansson’s defensive instinct was rewarded with a spot on the third line. Perreault was again relegated to the AHL where he has consistently been the best player on the Bears’ squad. Perreault yet again resumed duty as the Caps’ first call-up when necessary.
Perreault’s first call-up occurred about a month into the season when Johansson missed time due to a hip injury. What did Perreault do? Matched with Alex Semin, he promptly took on the role of elite playmaker on Alex Semin’s first hat trick of the year. This was a welcome sight and ignited Semin’s resurgence to the league leaderboard for goals and points. The chemistry was undeniable.
But what has become an all too common theme is the lack of consistency by Perreault. He is without question a highly skilled forward, who would be a full time NHLer on most any other team in the league. The depth at forward in the Capitals organization doesn’t do Perreault any favors. He routinely comes into the Caps lineup and is an instant spark and brings contagious energy. He is fast, feisty, and forechecks with incredible tenacity. Nowhere is this more appreciated then in any of the 18,000 seats at the Verizon Center. It is instantly known when Perreault enters the game. The resounding cheer of 18,000 fans is deafening.
But what we see in the first game or two of his call-ups is yet to continue over the course of an extended amount of games. Perreault is yet to show he can be a consistent spark to this team. Bruce Boudreau made reference to this yesterday by saying that he is looking for more consistency in Perreault’s game. What did Perreault do against the Leafs? He went out and scored two goals. He did all the right things last night. But can he harness that energy and be a force for a significant amount of games? That is the question.
After two years of being the first call-up from Hershey, this latest opportunity is without question Perreault’s best chance to become a permanent pivot for the Capitals. The Capitals have traded the player that likely prevented Perreault from making the roster on opening night in Tomas Fleischmann. The Capitals are already thin down the middle, and are in dire need of a second line center. This is Perreault’s chance to win the spot that he feels was his to begin with. The bottom line is that either Perreault is going to earn this spot, or the Capitals will be shopping at the deadline for a legit second line center. Based on history I have to assume the Capitals will be shopping at the deadline, but Perreault has the skill and energy to make McPhee re-think that decision. If it comes to the point where McPhee is forced to bring someone else in via trade, coupled with the maturation of Marcus Johansson and prospect Evgeni Kuznetzov, Perreault’s future with the Capitals will not be automatic.
Mathieu, this is your opportunity to be a mainstay on the Capitals roster. Seize it.
About the Author: Jeremy is a life time hockey fan currently living in Washington DC. Jeremy also runs a Capitals blog called The Nation's Capitals where he frequently posts blogs about the state of the Caps. His other interests include music and politics. Jeremy has a degree in Political Science. Being from DC, politics kind of comes with the territory.