The Capitals offense has sputtered a bit in the NHL Playoffs. In the last 5 playoff games, the Capitals have scored only 7 goals.
A significant reason for the lack of goal scoring is the poor performance of the Capitals second line. Through 8 playoff games, Evgeny Kuznetsov only has 1 goal and 2 points. Justin Williams has 2 assists, and a -6 rating, while Andre Burakovsky only has 1 goal.
These 3 players have been the most consistent players on the Capitals 2nd line this season. So why has this line been so poor in the playoffs? And how does Kuzy get his “sauce” back?
LACK OF SHOTS
In the last 5 playoff games, Evgeny Kuznetsov only has 8 shots on net. In 2 of those games, he did not register any shots on net. There have been several occasions in the playoffs where Kuznetsov has open looks at the net, but has not shot the puck.
Justin Williams only played 12:50 against the Penguins in Game 2. In Game 5 against the Flyers, he played his worst playoff game. He was a -2 rating in that game, and could not seem to stay out of the penalty box. In Williams’ last 5 games, he also only has 8 shots on net.
Andre Burakovsky recently was bumped down to the 3rd line, and has looked a little bit more comfortable playing with Jason Chimera and Mike Richards. He scored in Game 1 against the Penguins, but did not have any memorable moments in the first round against the Flyers. Burakovsky has been better in recent games, and has 10 shots on goal in his last 5 games.
In the last 5 games, these 3 forwards only are averaging around 2 shots per game each. The shots on net totals are simply not good enough. No team can score a lot of goals if the shot totals are not high enough.
TOO MANY TURNOVERS
Justin Williams has 6 giveaways in 8 playoff games. Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov each have 4 giveaways.
The passes with the 2nd liners have not been crisp, and because there have been a lot of giveaways, there has not been a lot of offensive zone time for this line. The second line needs to limit the turnovers against the Penguins. The Penguins feed off of transition plays and bad passes in the neutral zone.
WHAT CAN TROTZ DO?
The second line needs to be changed up again. Evgeny Kuznetsov needs a big body along the boards that can retrieve loose pucks. Should Barry Trotz try someone like Jay Beagle or Tom Wilson on the second line? They are both big bodies that can retrieve loose pucks out of the corners.
The second line needs a little bit more grit and it needs a defensive presence. Kuznetsov needs someone who will bring some energy as his linemate.
So what should Trotz do with Justin Williams? Since Mike Richards and Justin Williams played with each other in Los Angeles, Trotz should attempt to see if the chemistry is still there. Richards has brought a lot of energy to the playoffs, and he can cover up any giveaways that Williams may make.
Burakovsky could always re-emerge on the 2nd line, but he should stay put for now on the 3rd line. The Capitals 3rd line has not played poorly, and they should eventually score some goals as the series moves along.
The 2nd line needs more power and strength along the boards. When lines are not clicking, they need to be changed. Trotz is a smart coach, and he will most likely make the necessary adjustments. But it all starts with the players. The players need to execute, and they need to play harder. More effort is needed. More shots on net are needed. The Capitals need to protect the puck more, and they need to get more dirty goals.
By: George Foussekis