It’s no secret that the Capitals’ fourth line has struggled somewhat at the start of 2022-23 season. Over the past two season’s the fourth line has been arguably the Capitals best line. Often tasked to defend against the opposition’s best players, the line has consistently neutralized the league’s best players, but also added significant scoring.
One possible reason for the drop-off in the level of play of the fourth line this season could very likely be the absence of Carl Hagelin. Hagelin often receives criticism for his lack of scoring, but that’s not his job as a fourth-liner. Hagelin has always been one of the league’s better defensive forwards, and was also a critical element of the Capitals penalty kill in recent seasons.
The Capitals have tried several players at left wing on the fourth line at the start of this season, but nothing has seemed to adequately replicate the success of the fourth line in recent years. Enter Beck Malenstyn, a player born for the role.
“It is almost like that role is built for him,” said Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette following Monday night’s game against the Devils. “That is his game. He’s a checker, he’s a defender and he can chip in offensively. He did everything that we asked him to do.”
Yes, Malenstyn differs from Hagelin with regards to style of play, but it could be argued Malenstyn is a perfect fit with Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway, and the style of game they play.
Malenstyn expanded on his own perception of his game in an interview with NoVa Caps in 2019.
“I think for me, that’s the base of my identity. It may not be the prettiest plays in the world, but getting the puck off the wall, getting right out of the zone, being good on the penalty kill. You know, get on the forecheck, physical. Then from there, I need to develop the offensive side of my game. How can I use that platform to then create offense, create opportunities? I just need to grow that way. Not change the way I play, just develop the way I play and creating more and more as a player.”
Malenstyn not only does a good job at filling the void on the Capitals fourth line, but he’s also excellent on the penalty kill, another job responsibility that Carl Hagelin handled very well in recent years, and another struggling unit at the start of the 2022-23 season. Malenstyn has been a stalwart on the Bears penalty kill over the last few seasons and eats a lot of pucks, consistently leading the Bears in blocked shots.
Malenstyn’s other major asset is his physical style of play. Malenstyn led all skaters in hits in last night’s game against the Devils, but for Malenstyn, that’s business as usual. His physical style of play and grit on the fourth will add to an already scrappy fourth line, but also add possibly a new benefit in his ability to hit players.
Beck Malenstyn led all skaters in hits with 6. #Shocker
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) October 25, 2022
The job opening on the fourth line is anything but filled at this point, but it’s likely Malenstyn earned at least one more game at the position and should be there when the Capitals face the Dallas Stars on Thursday night. Don’t be surprised if he settles in for a much longer stretch.
By Jon Sorensen
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