Capitals

Quick Links

The Capitals' Game 1 lineup appears to be set against Columbus

The Capitals' Game 1 lineup appears to be set against Columbus

With fourth line center Jay Beagle labeled as “doubtful” for Thursday’s Game 1 vs. Columbus, the Caps’ lineup appears to be set.

Here’s how Coach Barry Trotz had his players lined up Wednesday:

Forwards

Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Wilson

Burakovsky-Backstrom-Oshie

Vrana-Eller-Smith Pelly

Connolly-Stephenson-Chiasson

Out: Beagle (upper body), Boyd (illness) and Gersich

Defense

Kempny-Carlson

Orlov-Niskanen

Orpik-Jerabek

Out: Djoos and Bowey

Goalies

Grubauer

Holtby

RELATED: HOW VEGAS MAY HAVE SAVED THE CAPS' SEASON

Some notes, quotes, and observations about the lineup:

*Beagle skated on his own again following the team practice and appeared to do more than previous days. Still, Trotz did not sound optimistic—at all—about his availability for Thursday.

*Travis Boyd remains ill and did not practice again. It’s unclear what’s wrong with him, but he’s been sidelined for nearly a week. His absence limits Trotz’s options on the fourth line with Beagle also expected to be out.

*Vrana, who was a healthy scratch in the second to last regular season game, is slated to make his postseason debut. Ditto for Chandler Stephenson and Jakub Jerabek.

*The top-six forwards are the same as they were on opening night with the exception of Wilson in place of Vrana. Wilson, if you recall, was suspended for the first four games.

*Grubauer will be making his second career postseason start—and first since the 2014-15 season. It’s the first time the Caps are starting a series with a goalie not named Braden Holtby since 2011.  

*Three players—Stephenson, Michal Kempny, and Jerabek—were not on the opening night roster. 

RELATED: THE ULTIMATE CAPS-BLUE JACKETS PREVIEW

Quick Links

Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

chandler_stephenson.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

With Tom Wilson still serving a 20-game suspension, Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden has the difficult task of finding a wing to complement his top line of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. For the first four games of the season, that player was Brett Connolly.

On Saturday, however, he changed things up and went with Chandler Stephenson instead.

Just 18 seconds into the game, Stephenson made his head coach look very smart as he finished off a 2-on-1 with Kuznetsov to score his first goal of the season.

“Obviously, the start was great,” Reirden said after the game.

Stephenson is an incredibly fast skater and the extra speed seemed to add another dimension to that line that opponents had to contend with, and it led to both of the Caps’ goals on the night.

In addition to Stephenson’s goal, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty in the second period, and Washington scored on the resulting power play.

“Those guys are a lot of fun to play with,” Stephenson said. “They just know where to be and can find each other. I've just got to get the puck to them and just go to the net with your stick on the ice, and they'll find you.”

The top line’s success was a matter of finding instant chemistry as Stephenson had very little time to adjust. The Caps were off on Friday following back-to-back games, and Reirden did not make the switch of putting Stephenson on the top until Saturday’s morning skate.

Putting a new top line together with little time to practice does not seem like an ideal scenario, but according to Kuznetsov, the level of familiarity between all the players made the adjustment quick and easy.

“It doesn't matter with who you play,” he said. “In this locker room, we can communicate with anybody. We don't have a first line, we don't have a fourth line. We try and roll all lines.”

Reirden seemed pleased with the new trio after the game saying, “They did a number of good things during the game as well, so they I thought accomplished a lot. I thought [Stephenson] brought the speed on the forecheck and was able to at least go after their defense a little bit and force some turnovers that Kuznetsov and [Ovechkin] were able to at least get some opportunities from. So I think that's important to have him in that situation.”

Reirden was happy enough with the top line’s performance to keep them together. The team is off Monday, but Stephenson remained on the top line during Sunday’s practice.

But so long as Wilson remains out, finding the right match for the top line will remain a work in progress.

Said Reirden, “We’ll continue to try to put together our four lines that give us the best chance.”

MORE CAPITALS NEWS

Quick Links

NHL Power Rankings: Not every night is a big-time game for the Capitals

NHL Power Rankings: Not every night is a big-time game for the Capitals

There was a lot of excitement to start the season for the Caps. First, there was the home-opener and the banner raising against the Boston Bruins. Then there was a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the rival Penguins. After that, it was a Stanley Cup Final rematch against the Vegas Golden Knights.

And all of that was followed up with a trip to Newark.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

With all due respect to New Jersey, given the slate the Caps faced to start the season, it was no real surprise to see the team struggle to get up for Thursday’s game against the Devils, a game in which the Caps were blown out 6-0. Of all the games Washington faced to start the season, the trip to New Jersey was definitely the least exciting.

But not every game is going to be a big rivalry matchup or a playoff rematch. With every team gunning for the Caps, they better make sure they can get themselves ready for the grind of an 82-game season that won’t always feature a big-time matchup.

A trip to Newark may not be flashy or exciting, but it still counts as two points.

The Caps dropped the game in New Jersey and lost a tight contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Where do they stand now after two straight losses?

FIND OUT HERE IN THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS

MORE CAPS NEWS: