The Capitals played a solid road game in the Windy City on Sunday afternoon, but suffered a 3-2 defeat against the Blackhawks. This game was exciting at times with a lot of back and forth action.
There was some good news for the Capitals in this game. The Caps did not allow the first goal of the game, which is a positive step. They allowed the first goal of the game in the previous 7 games they played. The Capitals came out of the gate and dominated play in the 1st period against the Hawks, and badly outshot them 17-6 in the frame.
Another positive thing the Capitals had going for them is that their powerplay looks like it is getting back on track. The Capitals struck twice with the man advantage in this game.
A day after being placed on waivers, Brooks Laich was in the lineup back on the 4th line for the Caps. Jay Beagle made his return from his hand injury, but did not make any noticeable plays in the game. Mike Richards centered the 4th line, and won 60% of his draws, which was best among all of the Capitals centres.
DOES THE CAPITALS BOTTOM SIX NEED MORE?
The Capitals have not received much production from their fourth line this year. Here is a rundown of the 4th line goal totals by player:
Brooks Laich: 1 goal
Mike Richards: 1 goal
Michael Latta: 3 goals
Stanislav Galiev: 0 goals
In 61 games this year, the Capitals have only received 5 goals from players who have been regulars on their 4th line. While 4th lines are not supposed to produce a ton of goals, 5 goals is relatively low for a 4th line.
To put things more into perspective, here is how the NY Islanders 4th line has produced this year:
Matt Martin: 7 goals
Casey Cizikas: 6 goals
Cal Clutterbuck: 11 goals
The NY Islanders 4th line has produced a whopping 24 goals.
Now let’s take a look at another team around the NHL. Here is how Tampa Bay’s 4th line is performing this year:
Brian Boyle: 9 goals
Erik Condra: 3 goals
Cedric Paquette: 4 goals
Tampa has had solid production from their 4th line as they have notched 16 goals this year.
DO THE CAPS LACK DEPTH?
The Capitals have received steady production from their 3rd line. Jason Chimera, Marcus Johansson, and Tom Wilson have shown tremendous chemistry with one another. It will be hard for Barry Trotz to separate this trio of forwards for the foreseeable future.
But the Capitals 4th line has been a bunch of interchanging parts most of the season. The production is lacking from this line, and the Capitals need to get more consistency from this trio of forwards.
THE TRADE DEADLINE IS NEAR
With defenseman John Carlson going on LTIR due to his recent medical procedure, it gives the Capitals cap relief. The Capitals have not made any depth forward moves.
On Sunday, the NY Rangers made a big move and acquired Carolina Hurricanes Captain Eric Staal. On Saturday, the Florida Panthers had a busy day and traded a bunch of draft picks for some notable rental players like Jiri Hudler and Teddy Purcell.
Both clubs made their forward groups better. Both clubs are chasing the Capitals and could very well meet them in the NHL Playoffs.
While the Capitals are good the way they are, they could use a little bit more. The Capitals need to take advantage of the extra cap space that they have in order to bolster their forward lineup. The deepest clubs that make the long runs in the playoffs have 4 lines that they can roll at all times. The Capitals 4th line is not real dependable and does not score very often.
The Capitals do not need to land another star player, but they do need to land another quality depth forward that can pitch in some goals. Depth is always tested in the playoffs and the Capitals do not want to go into the playoffs with only 3 lines that are dependable.
Fixing a 4th line is fairly inexpensive, and the Capitals should not have to sacrifice much in order to get another quality rental via trade. The Capitals need to make the depth move, and fix the 4th line, and that removes some pressure from the top 9 players.
By George Foussekis