In hockey, the first-line is usually the one that is credited with giving the opposition fits, the one that causes a disruption on the ice. When the Capitals swapped Brooks Laich’s massive cap hit ($4.5 million) for Daniel Winnik’s reasonable $2.25 million, it gave the team a cheaper, but potent option for the fourth-line.
So far, the swap has proved to be beneficial both on and off the ice. In 28:45 of ice time, the trio of Mike Richards, Jay Beagle, and Winnik, have produced an astronomically-high 79.1 Corsi percentage, (measures the percentage of shots that go in the Caps’ favor when the line is on the ice). The trio have also formed a dominant defensive unit that can keep opposing offenses out of the offensive zone.
The top three lines have struggled to find consistency at times in the past few games, but it’s been the so-called fourth-line that has remained consistent in the pursuit of the puck and throwing pucks on the net, per the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan: “I think they’ve taken on the personalities of their centerman”, Trotz said, “It’s a credit to Beags being sort of that missing element and then Daniel has fit in and is playing really well on the line. He’s making plays and is doing a really good job on the penalty kill.”
The team has clearly benefitted from the additions of Winnik and Richards, and the return of Beagle. According to Trotz, per Khurshudyan: “That line, you can throw them out there against anybody. They’re hard to play against.”
Come playoff time, the team’s “fourth-line” will be a huge asset. The never-ending determination and pursuit of the puck, as well as defensive play, will be key in keeping the opposition out of the Washington zone and pushing the play in the opposite direction. With Winnik and Beagle under contract next season, at least two of the three will be returning to give opposing teams headaches.
By Michael Fleetwood