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Trotz hoping line shuffle ignites Kuznetsov

Trotz hoping line shuffle ignites Kuznetsov

After his team fell behind three games to one with a pair of one-goal losses in Pittsburgh, Capitals coach Barry Trotz knew he’d need to shake things up for Saturday night’s critical Game 5.

He did just that, moving center Evgeny Kuznetsov to a top line with Alex Ocvechkin and T.J. Oshie, dropping Nicklas Backstrom to a second line with Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky; promoting Jay Beagle to a third line with Jason Chimera and Justin Williams, and dropping Mike Richards to a fourth line with Daniel Winnik and Tom Wilson.

The results?

Ovechkin drew a hooking penalty on Bryan Rust that led to his own power play goal, Wilson drew a slashing penalty that led to a power-play goal by Oshie; Williams scored an even-strength goal that gave the Caps a two-goal lead, and Backstrom helped keep the Penguins off the board at even strength.

“If we’re going to be successful in this series we’re going to need everybody chipping in and producing,” Trotz told reporters Sunday on a conference call. “There are some dymamic players like (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin and Kuznetsov and Backstrom and sometimes they nullify each other, so your depth down the lineup can be the difference between winning and losing.”

Through five games in this second-round series, which continues Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center with the Penguins holding a 3-2 series lead, Crosby has just two assists and Malkin has just one goal and one assist. Meanwhile, Ovechkin has two goals and three assists and Oshie has four goals and one assist.

But if the Capitals hope to bring the series back to Washington for a decisive Game 7 nearly everyone agrees they’ll need better production from their leading scorer in the regular season.

Kuznetsov has just one assist and is a minus-2 in the series. In 11 playoff games this year he has one goal on 33 shots, with one assist and a minus-4 rating. By comparison, in 14 playoff games last year Kuznetsov produced five goals on 42 shots, with two assists and a plus-4 rating.

“I think his game through the playoffs hasn’t been to the level we saw last year,” Trotz said. “At the same time he’s been paid a little more attention than he was last year. I think his game is coming around. I think it was very encouraging (Saturday) night, the way he played. Obviously, the change of him playing with Alex and T.J., that line was real strong (Saturday) night. From my standpoint, I expect Kuzy will be productive. He’s too good of a player not to be.”

Up until Game 4, the same could have been said of Williams, who looked a step behind everyone else and committed some uncharacteristic turnovers in his first eight playoff games with the Capitals, when he had one assist and was a minus-6 in six games against the Flyers and the first two against the Pens.

But in Games 3, 4 and 5, Williams recorded two goals, one assist, 10 shots and was a plus-2.

“Early in the playoffs Justin got a little frustrated with not getting a lot of production,” Trotz said. “I thought that line (Saturday) night was effective. They got a big insurance goal for us, but I thought they were on the puck last night, Justin can drive whatever line he’s on. His skill set is a lot those intangibles, but he can play a small-area game and when (pucks) turn over he can make things happen for us.”

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Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Mich.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Red Wings will be broadcast on NBCSN.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (42-24-7) take on the Red Wings (27-35-11) Thursday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Detroit.


The Capitals-Red Wings game will be broadcast on NBCSN. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Check back with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Red Wings (on NBCSN)
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Red Wings game:

Alex Ovechkin -  Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Jakub Jerabek


You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.