Capitals

Quick Links

Why a move to the third line could be just what Oshie needs to spark his offense

third_line.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Why a move to the third line could be just what Oshie needs to spark his offense

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.”

RELATED: CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS

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.

MORE CAPITALS: YES, OSHIE"S BIG REBOUND SHOT WAS AN INTENTIONAL 'PASS' TO ELLER

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.”

Quick Links

Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

vrana_capture.png
USA TODAY Sports

Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

It was a bit of a surprise to see Jakub Vrana in the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers. On Saturday in practice, Barry Trotz mixed his lines up and it appeared that Vrana would be the odd-man out. On Sunday, however, when the team took to the ice for warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Vrana lined up on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Did the near scratch spark Vrana to more production? Not exactly.

RELATED: HERE'S WHY THE CAPS LOST TO PHILADELPHIA

Vrana played a career-low 6:25 against the Flyers. He had zero shot attempts or hits. There were only two stats on his stat line from the final box score: One giveaway and one drawn penalty.

Despite that, Trotz was complimentary of the 21-year-old forward following the game.

"What I like about Jake, he competed," Trotz said. "I know he doesn't have the minutes tonight, but he competed and that's what the message was. I met with him this morning and a little bit on the ice the other day and I just said the skill doesn't come out unless that level of desperation and compete is there night in, night out and then you'll have production. He didn't get a lot of ice time, but I was happy with his effort."

Trotz said Vrana's ice time was low because he the team was "hard matching" later in the game against Philadelphia. It was not because of how he played.

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-FLYERS

But ultimately, the key is to get Vrana producing again and the fourth line is not the best place to spark that. Vrana has only one point in his last 12 games which is why it seemed to make sense that he would be a healthy scratch on Sunday. For a player with his offensive skill, it is harder for him to make an impact on that back line given the limited minutes and the more defensive role. Ultimately he has to play in the top-nine in order to reach his potential on a game by game basis.

If Trotz wanted to spark more compete and more effort from Vrana, the move to the fourth line may have done the trick. But did he play well enough to warrant moving back into the top-nine? That's the ultimate question.

Quick Links

4 reasons the Caps lost to the Flyers

4 reasons the Caps lost to the Flyers

The Capitals never gained possession of the puck in overtime on Sunday before Travis Konecny scored the game-winner. Despite playing better than they had in their previous two games, Washington still walked away with a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers and only one point to show for their effort. Here are four reasons why.

A blown 2-on-1

Alex Ovechkin made a great defensive play in the first period with a steal high in the defensive zone to launch himself and Evgeny Kuznetsov on a 2-on-1. Ovechkin took the first shot which was saved by Brian Elliott. The rebound went right to Kuznetsov who was in position to tap it into the empty net, but instead, he sent the puck right back to Elliott. To be fair, it was a bit of a difficult angle for Kuznetsov, but that's a play that has to result in a goal, especially in a game as close as this one.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-FLYERS

Brian Elliott

Elliott had a fantastic game as he denied the Caps on 27 of their 28 shots, many of which were very quality scoring opportunities. Two saves in particular stood out starting with a save on Ovechkin in the first period. The Great 8 was all alone in the slot, but Elliott managed to get in front of the puck and send up and over the net. In the second period, he made another dynamic save as he denied Nicklas Backstrom with the pad when the Caps' center managed to get his stick on the puck in the slot.

A lost faceoff in overtime

Many people wondered why Alex Ovechkin was not on the ice to start overtime, but it was another player's absence that really cost them: Jay Beagle. Beagle's faceoff win percentage of 57.5-percent puts him among the top faceoff men in the league, but Kuznetsov was the first center for the extra session. Sean Couturier beat Kuznetsov on the faceoff to start overtime and the Caps never gained possession at any point before Travis Konecny fired the game-winner past Holtby. Beagle is not the type of player you would typically want out on overtime, but when one possession can cost you the game as it did on Sunday, perhaps the Caps need to get him out there just for the opening faceoff to give themselves a better shot at gaining the first possession and thus a better chance of winning the game.

A neutral zone misplay by John Carlson

If you are going to try to hit a player with the puck in the neutral zone, you better make sure he doesn't get past you or you have put your team in a tough position. That is exactly what happened in overtime when Carlson attempted to pin Konecny along the boards. Konecny squeezed his way through the hip check immediately creating a 2-on-1 opportunity for the Flyers which he would turn into the game-winning goal.