It took him seven games, but Dmitrij Jaskin finally earned his first point as a Capital on Saturday in Calgary.
When the Caps left for Western Canada, they brought with them a player in Jaskin who very much looked lost in his new team’s system and as a result was playing overly cautious. They brought home with them a much more confident forward.
“I think all three games on that trip were pretty solid,” Jaskin told NBC Sports Washington after practice on Tuesday. “I think the game in Vancouver was probably as good as the Calgary one. But every game, it takes some time to get used to everything, but I know where my game is and I think I kind of start applying to it game by game. I feel good now.”
Jaskin recorded an assist on Matt Niskanen’s goal against the Calgary Flames. Not only did he record the assist, he also set up the goal with a screen right in the face of goalie Mike Smith.
Getting in the face of goalies is something this Capitals team does not do enough and it was definitely a boost to see Jaskin provide that and finally get involved offensively.
Coming from a very defensive system in St. Louis, Jaskin looked extremely cautious and overly defensive in his first few games as a Cap. But clearly, he has more to give offensively.
Jaskin scored a career-high 13 goals in the 2014-15 season and in Canada, the Caps finally got a glimpse that there was perhaps some more offensive upside to their newest player.
“There's still more there,” Reirden said. “I think he's been able to show us some things. It's a great example [Saturday] he's at the net-front on Niskanen's goal so bigger body that gets to that area. I thought he and [Nic Dowd] together have played well. If you're looking at some analytic numbers in particular, you'd find that those are pretty heavily skewed for them in particular on the prior couple games. I think he's added some different stuff to his puck possession, size. I think his play below the tops of the circles is where he's at his best and then he's defensively responsible for understanding the importance of doing everything he can to keep the puck out of the net.”
But in today’s NHL, a fourth line can’t get by just by not getting scored on. They are never going to be relied upon like a top line is, but they still need some offensive production.
That will come as the line continues to develop chemistry.
“I think it's a little bit of the timing,” Jaskin said. “Guys are really used to all the systems and everything. I think I got better at it. It will get better, it's just the game action.”
“It's just like learning how the tendencies of your linemates,” Dowd said. “When you know those tendencies, it allows you to make plays without having to think as much, without having to look as much. The game's so fast nowadays that sometimes getting your head up and seeing the guy making a play isn't an option. You just have to have an instinct of where your player's going to be and then make the play. I think we've adjusted well.”
Jaskin may find himself having to adjust to a new center soon with Travis Boyd nearing a return from injury. But Boyd is a player with a higher offensive upside than Dowd so it could provide an offensive boost for Jaskin if they can find chemistry quickly. If not, then it is unclear what the future may hold for Jaskin.
It seems unfair to judge a player who had no training camp after just a handful of games, but with the pending return of Boyd and the end of Tom Wilson’s suspension some time in November, the Caps will have to make some tough decisions with their depth players very soon. The onus is on Jaskin to show he can contribute offensively if he wants to remain in the lineup.
“It's still very early in the process with [Jaskin] so we need to continue to push the envelope with him and see where it can take us,” Reirden said, “Because you watch in practice and he does a lot of great things with the puck. I haven't been able to completely see that translate into a game yet.”
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