Capitals Coach Barry Trotz has a tendency to tinker with his forward combinations when they aren’t performing as optimally as they should.
On Monday, he blew up them up.
In case you missed our previous post on the matter, here’s how the forwards lined up and, presumably, how they’ll start Tuesday night’s game in Columbus:
Trotz said he chose to make radical changes to the lines for a couple of reasons. No. 1, he wanted more balance up front. And, No. 2, he wanted to reward the forwards he believes are giving it their all.
“One thing that resonates with me a lot is that you have to have a balance of will and skill,” Trotz said. “And sometimes we forget that we need the will and the skill to work together. We made a lot changes, even for my standards. But at the same time, the players that have played well are going to move up and get an opportunity. And you never know, you put lines together and sometimes those combinations that you think would never work [actually] work. So I put some balance and will and skill on each line, and hopefully it will work. …All the lines have a unique quality to them.”
Especially the first line, which now features Beagle centering Ovechkin. Beagle, the team’s full-time fourth line pivot, scored two goals in Friday’s 3-2 overtime win in Chicago.
“You got a lot of skill and a lot of will,” Trotz said of teamming Ovechkin and Beagle together. “Hopefully they can help each other, that combination.”
The shakeup comes two days after the Capitals’ humbling 5-1 loss to the Hurricanes in Raleigh. But this was about more than just one bad game.
The Capitals are 16th in the NHL in goals per game, despite one of the most talented groups of forwards in the league.
It’s collective problem. But it’s an individual one, too. Several top forwards are off to slow starts. Andre Burakovsky hasn’t scored since potting a pair in the opener. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his second goal of the season Saturday, but it was just his third tally in 35 regular season contests dating to last season. Meanwhile, Justin Williams and Nicklas Backstrom have scored just one goal apiece.
“I think honestly he’s trying to wake us up here, especially the top players, including myself,” Backstrom said. “We got to get going here. We got to start playing better. We got to be better, create more chances, produce more and help the team more.”
Beagle concurred with Backstrom’s assessment.
“It is a little bit of a wake up,” Beagle said. “Shake things up. We haven’t been playing to our capability for five games. It’s not as good as we should be. And everyone knows it. We know it more than anyone. We can feel it. This is to shake it up a bit and to kinda get guys going.”
Brett Connolly said it’s too early to be overly concerned, though he agreed that it’s past time for the forwards raise their level of play.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best really yet,” he said. "But that’s the thing—we’re still 9-4. So it’s kinda hard to really get too, too mad at ourselves. But I think we have so much talent that we’re winning games on our talent and I think we just have to get dirtier and just raise the bar a little bit. It’s still really early. There’s 70-ish games left. I think it’s good to get a bit of a wakeup call early.”