I want my 3rd line back! Suggestions?

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Photo: Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire

All in all, it’s been a great year for Lars Eller, Andre Burakovsky and Brett Connolly, and they’ve contributed in ways that don’t always include scoring.  But I would still like to see their production back closer to where it was prior to Burakovsky’s injury as well as better puck possession and team defense contributions from them.  Just compare these numbers! 

In the seven games since Burakovsky’s return to the lineup, here are the forward totals; the three of them have combined for one goal (an empty net goal at that), three assists (one of which was on a power play), and a -12 plus/minus.


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In contrast, here are their numbers in the seven games that Burakovsky played before having to sit out: nine goals, seven assists and a +17 plus/minus.  Wow, what a swing – that’s 12 fewer points and 29(!) in plus/minus comparing the two seven-game periods.


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Burakovsky does not seem to be suffering any lingering effects from the injury; on the contrary, Burakovsky appears in better physical shape than before, thanks to the skating he did while recovering.

In his first couple games back, Burakovsky also seemed to be having a favorable impact on the play, but it didn’t translate into points.  Since then, it’s been a roller coaster ride: a not-so-good performance against the Minnesota Wild, followed by a stronger outing against the Colorado Avalanche the next night, but then a particularly rough outing against the Arizona Coyotes on a day’s rest.

Is this just a case of extremely favorable puck luck followed by extremely unfavorable puck luck?  Has part of their chemistry not returned, and if so, what part is missing?  What are you seeing in the 3rd line’s play that can be corrected, and what can be done to
“get the old 3rd line back”?

As more production and better play from the bottom six was a key takeaway from last year’s playoffs, I’d like Eller, Burakovsky and Connolly to turn their performance around sooner rather than later.

By Tim Foisie


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5 Responses to I want my 3rd line back! Suggestions?

  1. jenrubio39 says:

    Great article and great question. I think a little more ice time would help. Feels like Trotz is being pretty stingy with the ice time for these guys. Sort of sends the message that he doesn’t believe in them, and I can’t imagine they don’t feel that. Becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, doesn’t it?

    • Great COMMON SENSE observation, Jen…

      But Barry is notoriously stubborn and–in my view–nonsensical when it comes down to giving younger, skilled players like Burakovsky and Connolly the time not only to develop their skills, but also to improve chemistry with each other through increased PT…

      But because of Washington’s overall success–at least during the regular season–no one in the local media or even among the fans has the onions to call him on it…Playing youngsters and allowing them to work through their inevitable mistakes is what makes teams stronger for YEARS—not just for a single season as playing veterans (and ultimately wearing them down under pressure) actually does…

      But hey, what do I know?? I’ve only been watching hockey for 532 years…

      Santa Monica

  2. Tim Foisie says:

    Good point. The average minutes for these three players has dropped from ~12:35 minutes in the prior period to ~11:40 minutes in the most recent period … Connolly’s time has dropped the most. Against the Wild, the minutes for Burakovsky and Connolly were significantly below their average and the third line was -9 on plus / minus. Against the Coyotes, their minutes were around their average and the third line was -6 on plus / minus. I hope their minutes increase and they score more goals than they concede.

  3. Because of the Caps’ overall success–at least during the regular season–Barry Trotz’ personnel decisions (viz a viz MINUTES) rarely gets questioned by anyone–either the fans or the back-slapping sycophants in the local media pool. But the truth is that BT deserves a good deal of criticism for his reluctance to allow the younger players on his roster to flower more fully by giving them the playing time to not only to develop their skills but also to increase chemistry with their line mates…

    I mean, rolling all four lines worked real well prior to the five game break when the Caps were throwing opposing teams down a flight of stairs almost every night–something Jay Beagle attributed to Barry’s willingness to PLAY the third and fourth lines more often which helped keep the first two lines fresher and gave opponents no time to rest…COMMON SENSE, n’est’ce pas???

    But I’ve noticed that “old school” Barry can be pretty stubborn–and stupid, frankly–when it comes to younger players getting time to make mistakes…at least if the younger player isn’t a favorite of his…

    Recall, for instance, the fact that while still head coach of the Predators Barry didn’t give former JEWEL of or farm system (Filip Forsberg) more than 12 minutes a game even though he absolutely oozed talent…GMGM’s dumb beyond belief decision to trade Forsberg for a pair of future Hall-of-Famers named Erat and Latta–neither of whom are even on the roster anymore–is a related, (and pathetic) story that I won’t bother to pursue here…except to say, imagine how powerful this team would be if Forsberg was wearing the Red…)

    All of that remarked, suffice to say that it remains to be seen if the our team can overcome Trotz’ stubbornness and Braden Holtby’s disturbing tendency to look like Dominic Hasek some nights and Elmer Fudd at other times despite his rep as a great goaltender…

    In fact, we’ll know later this spring if the Caps don’t make it past the Penguins again, won’t we??

    Santa Monica

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