The Washington Capitals are back home after spending the past week in California. They managed a 1-1-1 record in California, and did not play their best hockey on the trip.
The Capitals are midway through March and have 14 games left in their regular season. In the last 7 games, the Capitals have only managed to score 15 goals. 6 out of those 7 games have been 1-goal decisions.
While the Capitals have still won some of these close games, they have not scored a ton of goals. As the playoffs inch near, the games get tighter and the scores get closer.
On Monday at practice, Barry Trotz decided to do some line shuffling. Trotz shifted Jay Beagle from the 4th line to the 1st line, bumped T.J. Oshie from the 1st line to the 2nd line, bumped Justin Williams from the 2nd line to the 3rd line, and bumped Tom Wilson from the 3rd line to the 4th line.
So what is Barry Trotz thinking with these lineup changes? Why bother change-up the lines now?
When a hockey club is not scoring a ton of goals, sometimes line changes can provide sparks. Lines change in hockey all of the time, and it is very rare that any club keeps a consistent line combination for any lengthy period of time.
T.J. Oshie has been one of the best Capitals forwards the past few games, as he is on a two-game goal scoring streak. Evgeny Kuznetsov has not scored a goal in his last 6 games. Barry Trotz is probably hoping that Oshie’s hot hand can jumpstart Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov and Oshie are both crafty skaters that can skate well. If this new combination works, that will give the Capitals top six a much-needed scoring boost.
Jay Beagle has seen time with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. While he does not have the flash or the scoring ability that Oshie has, Beagle is a relentless forechecker that can get in the dirty areas for loose pucks.
With Justin Williams getting bumped to the Capitals 3rd line, this can hopefully get Jason Chimera back on track. Chimera has not score a goal in his last 9 games, and has only 1 goal in his last 13 games. Justin Williams will give the Capitals bottom 6 group and scoring threat, as he has put up 20 goals this year.
Tom Wilson was a staple on the Capitals 4th line last year, and he will return back to the 4th line in the upcoming games. With a 4th line consisting of Dan Winnik, Mike Richards, and Tom Wilson, this 4th line is big, physical, and gritty. Wilson will provide the extra physical play as he replaces Beagle on this line.
It is important for NHL clubs to have balance in all of their forward lines and defensive pairings. It is good that this Capitals team has plenty of balance, and they have a lot of guys who play well at various positions. As the games in the final few weeks change and get tighter, the Capitals must adapt to the changes. With Barry Trotz changing the lines up, he is only attempting to help the Capitals as they enter their final string of games.
By George Foussekis