One of the biggest advantages for the Washington Capitals in this playoff run compared to the previous two was the youth on the team that can help bring speed to the game. Yet it looks like coach Barry Trotz’s approach is still preferring playing veterans over young players with promise.
This has been an ongoing problem all season and after dropping Game 1 in overtime, it looks like it carried over into the playoffs. Granted, it’s just one game and adjustments are usually made when you come up on the wrong side of a game. One notable issue that didn’t sit well among Caps fans was lack of ice time Jakub Vrana had despite the impact he made during the course of the game.
Vrana had a great NHL playoff debut. In the first period, he drew a penalty on Ian Cole that sent him to the box for hooking. In the third, he used his speed to take the puck down ice, quickly turned to his right and flung the puck cross-ice to Devante Smith-Pelly to give the Capitals the lead at the time.
The Capitals would go on to fall to the Blue Jackets in overtime and when the final stats came out, Vrana’s total ice time was only 6:58, the least time on ice among the forwards.
Throughout the season Trotz has inserted Vrana in and out of the lineup. Partially his reasoning for that method comes when a young player is in a scoring drought, sit them for a few games hoping it sends a message to them or gives them the opportunity to observe things by watching the game from the press box. The vantage point is much different upstairs than it is when you’re on the bench allowing you to catch the little things to tweak your game.
When you put regular season games into account, Vrana’s 6:58 in Game 1 was the second lowest ice time he had this season. Only the overtime loss to the Flyers back on Jan. 21 was the least amount of ice time Vrana had as he clocked in for 6:25.
The Capitals had their struggles against youth. For the last two years, they were beat by the likes of Nick Bonino, Patric Hornqvist, and Connor Sheary. Last year in the first round, they were nearly beat by Auston Matthews and William Nylander. The Capitals have the youth this year, they have the speed. Jakub Vrana is an essential part of that youth movement. His ice time may have been brief, but he did make a positive impact in a game that turned out to be negative for the Capitals. Imagine if he was out there for at least 15 minutes. Maybe we’ll see that in Game 2.
By Michael Marzzacco