After a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss on Wednesday night, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz knew he had to do something to get some offense from his team, particularly their sputtering power play, which has gone just 1-for-12 in the series.
And he has done so in a big way. According to the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan, the Washington lines were re-arranged in the team’s practice today. Evgeny Kuznetsov replaced Nicklas Backstrom on the top-line, while Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, and Andre Burakovsky made up the second-line. The third-line featured Jason Chimera at left wing, centered by Jay Beagle, and Justin Williams on the right side. Per Khurshudyan, center Mike Richards was out with the flu (but should be good to go for tomorrow’s game), resulting in a mish-mash of combinations on the fourth-line. Defenseman Karl Alzner had another “maintenance day”. However, the exact plan for tomorrow night’s lineup is unclear. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, and Oshie played the first 13 games of the season together and found almost immediate chemistry. The Caps are hoping that the shake up sparks the team to an absolute must-win game.
One of the biggest questions regarding the lineup will be whether Mike Weber (who had the costly turnover that led to the game-winning goal) is replaced by Nate Schmidt, who was scratched after he himself, turned the puck over in Game 3 (a turnover that also resulted in a goal). Schmidt is faster and possesses a better all-around game than the slower, physical Weber.
Regardless of who’s in or out, the Capitals MUST win tomorrow night in order to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive. After controlling the play in the majority of the last few games, the team will need to play their best game of the season to stay in the hunt.
By Michael Fleetwood