The Capitals have made great strides winning games when Alex Ovechkin does not score a goal -- they are 19-7-5 in games their captain plays but doesn’t score – but as you can imagine, they’re far better when he does.
In the 35 games this season Ovechkin has lit the lamp, the Caps are 30-5-0. Which is probably why there’s a greater emphasis when Ovechkin, who has a league-high 41 goals, slips into a scoring funk like the one he’s in now.
Ovechkin has just one goal in his last eight games. The Caps are 4-3-1 in those games but when asked about his captain’s recent scoring slump Capitals coach Barry Trotz had an interesting reply.
“I need all our guys to play at the level they need to play at,” Trotz said following Saturday night’s 5-2 loss in San Jose, in which Ovechkin was held to just two shots.
“Everybody we’re playing is in playoff mode. They’re fighting for playoff position and they’re marking us and they’re using us as a little bit of a yardstick based on our record and every game is hard. You’ve got to fight for inches and right now we’ve got some guys, they’re playing hard but we’re not fighting for enough inches.
“You’re going to have to fight for the inches in the playoffs and you’ve got to prepare that way for the playoffs.”
Trotz made that message clear on Saturday night when he moved Mike Richards onto the third line with Jason Chimera, while moving Marcus Johansson to right wing and dropping Tom Wilson to a fourth line with center Jay Beagle and left wing Daniel Winnik.
Trotz noted that he needs more from Chimera, who has gone nine games without a point, and Johansson, who has one goal in his last 15 games. Wilson has just one goal in his last 16 games.
“That (third) line hasn’t done much lately and I was trying to change it around because we need four lines to be able to go. I need Chimmer and I need Mojo going in a positive way right now and I don’t see much happening with that line lately, so I broke it up.
“(Richards) has been playing good and I thought he might stabilize them or give them a jump.”
The Capitals went 2-1-1 during their weeklong road trip to Boston, Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose, with three of those four games decided beyond regulation. They return to Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Monday and to Verizon Center on Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Seven of the Caps’ final 14 games will be played at Verizon Center, where they are 26-6-2 this season.