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When the Capitals signed him to a one-year, $700,000 deal in free agency in July, left wing Brendan Leipsic’s role on the team was to provide some grittiness and secondary scoring to a revamped fourth-line, one on which he would be teamed with second-year Capital Nic Dowd and fellow offseason signing Garnet Hathaway. And in his first season with Washington (his fifth team in four seasons), Leipsic has done exactly that.
Coming off a 2018-19 season in which he scored a career-high seven goals and recorded a career-high 23 points in 62 games played with the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings, Leipsic, only 25-years old, was expected to give the Capitals’ fourth-line a new look and provide the Caps’ bottom-six with a mixture of hard-nosed hockey and offensive flare. Through 38 games played this season, Leipsic has been a key part of the team’s rise to the top of the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. The team’s so-called “fourth-line” has been extremely effective since being placed together.
The trio has played a total of 119:13 together in 25 games, and have an outstanding Corsi For % of 61.29%. The trio have also recorded 65 Shots For and allowed just 42 Shots Against, with a Shot For% Percentage of 60.75%. Offensively, the combo of Leipsic, Hathaway, and Dowd have exceeded expectations, scoring seven goals (6.19 Expected Goals For) and have had 66 Scoring Chances, compared to 38 Scoring Chances Against. But just how valuable is Leipsic to the Caps’ bottom-six? Without Leipsic, the team’s fourth-line has a Corsi For % of 39.39%, have scored just one goal, and have allowed nine scoring chances to just six Scoring Chances For. Additonally, the trio has combined for 33 High Danger Chances For and allowed just 17 such oppotunities. Without Leipsic, Dowd and Hathaway have recorded 27 HDCF, but 24 HDCA. Togother, the threesome have a On Ice Shot Percentage of 10.77% and subtracting Leipsic reduces that number to 5.13%.
Individually, Leipsic is having a productive season for Head Coach Todd Reirden. In 38 games played, the former third-round pick of the Nashville Predators has scored three times and added six assists for nine points, putting him on pace for seven goals, 13 assists, and 20 points. Compared to his disastrous minus-14 a season ago, Leipsic currently possesses a plus/minus rating of plus-4. He has also added a physical presence in the bottom-six, a trait that came on full display in a game against the Anaheim Ducks earlier this season.
Through the first half of the 2019-20 season, Leipsic has made an impression on the Capitals and their fans, and his play has made him a valuable member of the team’s revamped bottom-six. With a goal to win a second Stanley Cup, Leipsic’s continued stellar play will be an asset to Reirden’s team come the Stanley Cup Playoffs and for Leipsic, his production this season could earn him a chance to find a long-term home, something that he has been ill-afforded since entering the NHL in 2015-16.
By Michael Fleetwood