During the second half of the regular season, the Capitals’ second-line of Evgeny Kuznetsov, Justin Williams, and Andre Burakovsky were one of their most productive: in 35 games played, the trio had a combined 21 goals, 44 assists, and 65 points.
In the team’s first round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers, they combined for just one goal and two assists in six games played (the lone goal coming from Kuznetsov, and the two assists from Williams). If the Caps are going to have any chance against a red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins team, they’re going to need their second-line to step up more than ever. With the Penguins’ focus inevitably going to be on shutting down Alex Ovechkin, Williams, Kuznetsov, and Burakovsky must take advantage of that. In the regular season series, Burakovsky had two goals and two assists in the five games, Kuznetsov recorded two goals and an assist, while Williams was held to three assists. The Caps will need more than that in a best of seven series.
All three were noticeably quiet in the first round, and Williams in particular had a rough series, being held to the aforementioned two assists while being assessed four penalties in Game 5. Burakovsky’s pointless streak is also concerning, considering that many expected the 21-year old Swede to finally breakout offensively, as Kuznetsov did last spring.
The talent is certainly there, and his stats against Pittsburgh in the regular season indicate he can be effective against the Pens. As for Kuznetsov, his struggles have been apparent. He has only one goal on his last 82 shots and went the last 20 games of the regular season without a goal.
As mentioned before, the Capitals are going to need their second-line to start heating up if they hope to keep pace with a dangerous Penguins offense. If they can do that, the Caps should stand a very good chance of winning what should be an exciting series.
By Michael Fleetwood