When General Manager Brian MacLellan signed Justin Williams last July, the Caps were looking to add a player to their already formidable lineup that could provide the team with valuable playoff experience as well as more top-6 scoring.
Williams boasts three Stanley Cups on his résumé, one with the Carolina Hurricanes and two with the Los Angeles Kings. He owns a Conn Smythe Trophy to his name as the most valuable player of the playoffs in 2014 with the Kings, and he’s has been coined the nickname “Mr. Game 7” because of his performance in such games. Career in game 7’s (games in which the Capitals have struggled), Williams has scored an NHL-record 14 points including 7 goals.
While obviously the playoffs have not started yet, the Caps know that when the time comes, Williams will be there to make clutch plays when they are needed most. In the mean time, the Caps are chasing after the President’s Trophy in order to secure home ice throughout the playoffs, and Justin Williams has been a huge contributor to the team’s success so far. Williams is second on the team in goals with 18, and is on pace for 27 goals, which would be the most he’s scored since the ’06-’07 season.
The Capitals’ second line of Williams, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Andre Burakovsky has shown to be very lethal at times this season. When Jay Beagle went down due to injury, Burakovsky was moved up to the second line with hopes of boosting his production playing alongside top-6 talent, and this move has definitely payed off. Burakovsky’s increased production is partially due to the wizardry of Kuznetsov, but Williams’ leadership and experience has helped Burakovsky continue to develop into a solid young forward.
William’s exceptional puck control in tight spaces this season has been a key part of continuing the cycle in the offensive zone for this second line. He also does a great job of screening the opposing net-minder, as well as finishing rebounds close to the net. Williams plays a complete two-way game and contributes significant minutes on the penalty kill as well as the second power play unit.
Justin Williams has already proven to be a great addition to this Capitals team. His rare combination of toughness, experience, scoring, and leadership is the reason he fits in perfectly with this team. If the Caps make a deep run in the playoffs this year, don’t be surprised if Williams makes a few clutch plays along the way.
By Gabe Mead