With Tom Wilson suspended for three-games Barry Trotz had to find someone to play right wing on the top line. In Game 4, he inserted Devante Smith-Pelly and the line struggled. A lot.
Neither Smith-Pelly nor Ovechkin managed any shots on goal and Ovechkin had only two total shot attempts. The top line was outscored 1-0 and outshot 12-8.
None of this is news to head coach Barry Trotz who gave a less than stellar endorsement for the Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Smith-Pelly trio when speaking to the media on Friday.
"That whole line has to be better," Trotz said. "I think that whole line has to be better for us. They're going to need to be productive for us."
When a coach puts a line together, he usually gives them time to gel as a line and develop chemistry before deciding to pull the plug.
The problem is they may not have time to wait.
When you are up 2-1 in the series and have already stolen a game on the road, you have a bit of wiggle room. The series now, however, is a best of three. The top line needs to gel and gel quickly if the Capitals are going to survive and advance against the Penguins.
No team can survive in the playoffs with zero production from its top line.
"They got to come together quick," Trotz said. "We don't have time for anything. Our timeframe's short. They will have to get it together quickly."
This all begs the question of whether Trotz will make any line changes prior to Game 5 or keep the top line together initially and adjust if they start slowly again in Game 5.
Trotz did say he was "possibly" considering changes to the lines, but did not say if he would make any such changes prior to Game 5.
"You're in a short window, and you have to make decisions based on that short window," he said. "[The players will] make their adjustments, I'll make my adjustments and we'll go from there."
If the Ovechkin - Kuznetsov - Smith-Pelly trio does start Game 5, you can bet they will be on a very short leash before Trotz decides to make a change. With no Wilson, however, there's no obvious solution for how to fix the top unit. As Friday's practice was an optional skate, Trotz did not show his hand with what lines he may be considering.
As of now, if Trotz is considering any changes for Game 5, they remain a mystery.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS: