With Game 5 approaching and the absence of forward T.J. Oshie (upper body), the Washington Capitals’ line combinations and defensive pairings continue to rotate. The Capitals are ninth on the postseason leaderboard with four points. The second line for Saturday’s pivotal game in the first round series against the Carolina Hurricanes is full of quick, but scoreless players in the first four games. The series is tied at 2-2.
Left wing Jakub Vrana had a breakout year with Washington in the regular season. He posted 47 points (24 goals, 23 assists) in all 82 games played. It brought his career numbers to 40 goals, 40 assists, for a solid 80 points.
The Czech native has been quiet since the Capitals’ playoff run began on April 11. Recording six penalty minutes, Vrana has only made six shots on goal, four of which came during Game 4 on Thursday.
Center Evgeny Kuznetsov lead the Capitals with 12 goals, 20 assists, and a total of 32 points in the 2017-18 Stanley Cup Playoffs. No one will ever forget his overtime game-winning goal that lead the Capitals to eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and advance the Eastern Conference Final.
He ended the 2018-19 regular season with 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists) in 76 games played. Kuznetsov was starting to get back into playoff form towards the end of the season, but has yet to carry the momentum into the Capitals’ first round series with the Hurricanes. Although he had seven shots on goal and three assists in four games, Kuznetsov has not scored a single goal.
Two-time Stanley Cup Champion Carl Hagelin was acquired by Washington on February 21, 2019 from the Los Angeles Kings along with a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional pick in 2020 Draft. Since the Trade Deadline, the forward scored three goals with the Capitals and picked up eight assists. He had an overall record of 5 goals, 14 assists, and 19 points for the season.
In his first postseason with the Washington Capitals, Hagelin remains scoreless, but has made five shots on goal and holds a 100% face-off win percentage. He will playing in the top-six since Oshie is “out indefinitely”. Hagelin’s diverse style is an advantage for the Capitals. He usually switches between the third and fourth line as a left winger or right winger.
Vrana, Kuznetsov, and Hagelin provide the Capitals with incredible speed around the ice. However, they must step up and create that offensive consistency. This is the first time in the playoffs that these three will work together on a line, and give a spark the team needs to defeat the Hurricanes in the first round.
By Della Young