It has been a struggle for T.J. Oshie since his return from a concussion. Heading into Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Blues, Oshie had logged just a single point in seven games. To try and spark his production, Barry Trotz put Oshie on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. It didn’t work. What did work, however, was the move Trotz made during the game.
With the top line floundering, Trotz elected to move Devante Smith-Pelly back onto the top, replacing Oshie. Oshie took Smith-Pelly’s spot on the third line with Brett Connolly and Lars Eller. That's when he finally seemed to find his rhythm.
“Everything just seemed to click,” Oshie said after practice on Monday. “To tell you the truth, it was a lot of fun there in the last half of the game playing with those guys. We were buzzing, I think we were buzzing out here again today.”
Oshie recorded two primary assists in Sunday’s 4-3 win including an assist on the overtime winner. For the first time in a long time, he finally looked like his old self on the ice.
“I thought [Oshie] was really good today,” Trotz said Sunday after the game. “I thought Lars Eller was really good. We made that flip. It was an easy flip, just the first and third line with [Smith-Pelly] because [Smith-Pelly] had been playing there. I just think it freed us up a little bit.”
Connolly, Eller and Oshie remained as a line on Monday in practice and are expected to stay together for Tuesday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.
The third line was able to find success not just because of their instant chemistry, but because the line was able to get favorable defensive matchups.
With the Blues focusing on shutting down the Caps’ first and second line, they were not prepared for a third line with as much scoring potential as the Caps showed.
“I thought [St. Louis was] getting sort of good matchups where we were just nullifying each other and I think by, what we did was sort of spread it out and it created a little more sustainability,” Trotz said.
A third line with Oshie presents one more matchup for opposing defenses to account for. Shutting them down will be a difficult task if they continue to play with the same chemistry they found on Sunday.
Said Oshie, “Judging by how we played and how it was today and us being on the same line today, I think it's definitely something that could stick and I think that will give us another element and depth.”