It’s felt like the hits have just kept on coming for the Capitals this season.
First, they found out they’d be without center Nicklas Backstrom to start the 2021-22 season due to a hip injury — and he has yet to even skate with the team. Then they lost wingers T.J. Oshie (lower body) and Anthony Mantha (shoulder) to injured reserve, as an entire second line was depleted. For good measure, center Nic Dowd has also been out of late with a lower-body injury.
To put it in other terms, the Capitals are without one-third of their typical forward corps, including three skaters usually penciled in for top-six roles.
This is why, on nights like Friday against the Blue Jackets, they’ve needed scoring to come from up and down the lineup. In a 4-3 win against the Jackets, they got it.
Alex Ovechkin scored first for the Capitals, as it seems like he and the rest of the top line has all season, as he netted his 742nd career goal and his 12th of the season.
But then the Capitals got two quick goals in the second period from Garnet Hathaway, who before Friday hadn’t scored all season. Last year, he scored six goals; the year before, he scored nine.
And with 1:22 left to play in a tie game, Conor Sheary lifted the Capitals to a win with a wrist shot that got past Joonas Korpisalo to give the Capitals a pair of wins on their two-game road trip. It was Sheary’s second goal of the season.
Just 24 hours before, Lars Eller potted his first of the year and Dmitry Orlov his second as the Capitals knocked off the Red Wings 2-0 in Detroit. The top line of Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson scored just one of the team’s six goals in the last two games.
At 8-2-4, the Capitals have done a good job of playing without such consequential players in their lineup. Paired with Ovechkin continuing his superb season and depth scoring like the Capitals got the last two days, they’ve gotten exactly what they needed.
As for when those four injured forwards will return to the lineup, or more specifically when they’ll be 100 percent themselves again, is still unknown. But while they’re out of the lineup, the Capitals will need more nights like they got on Friday to keep pace in the deep Metropolitan Division. And once they get fully healthy again, all bets are off.