Fresh off of a third-star recognition, Travis Boyd returned to home ice to score less than eleven minutes into Tuesday night’s game as the Capitals hosted the Detroit Red Wings.
Saturday’s goal, versus Columbus, was the first of Boyd’s career. The fact that his second came not even four days later may seem unusual – but with the Capitals’ fourth line cruising, it’s hardly a surprise.
The fourth line, consisting of Boyd, Nic Dowd, and Dmitrij Jaskin, has been together the past three games since Tom Wilson sustained an upper-body injury and the lineup changed. That version of the fourth line has combined for eight points in three wins.
Dowd has had the most sustained success with seven points in his past nine games (three goals, four assists) - though not all of that came with Jaskin and Boyd. But together the trio continues to show that it shouldn’t be overlooked with significant contributions towards the team’s scoring.
“I think right now we're just having fun together,” Boyd said after the 6-2 win against the Red Wings. “It's kind of funny, you play games and you start making plays together and all of a sudden, it's kind of like a snowball effect. The more plays you make, the more confidence you get and it just kind of keeps going.”
The fourth line’s newfound confidence – and the fun they’re having with it – is tangible. Jaskin, after chipping past Detroit defenseman Mike Green, hustled to avoid an icing call and then helped feed Dowd, who passed to Boyd for a goal that put Washington ahead 2-0 just 10:50 into the game.
The play looked effortless – so much so that the Red Wings were frustrated by the end of the first, down 3-0. It wasn’t until the third period that Detroit was finally able to get on the board thanks to a goal by Dylan Larkin that held up after a coach’s challenge for goalie interference.
Larkin spoke to the struggle to counter Washington’s fourth line’s success..
“There’s no bad players in this league,” Larkin said. “Whoever scores, it’s disappointing. But the next shift is the most important. We got penned in our zone a little too much tonight.”
Capitals coach Todd Reirden had high praise for the line’s developing chemistry.
“[There’s] a lot of chemistry,” Reirden said. “They're playing well and it’s great to see them get rewarded, and they could have had a couple more. They play the right way for the most part.”
Though Boyd, Dowd, and Jaskin have been outstanding in the past few games, it isn’t a completely new development, but rather, an improvement on a larger goal.
“It's something talked about in the summer,” Reirden said. “[There’s an] importance of having depth scoring and I think that was something we struggled with in the first 10 games of the year, getting scoring from that bottom six. Now it's been a really big part of our success.“
As the league evolves, requiring more skill and versatility from more players, Reirden remains positive that the Caps are ahead of the curve.
“The days of just having a fourth line guy that would be your tough guy, that's kind of gone away,” Reirden said. “I think where we're headed, [if] you can get offensive production from that fourth line, you become a very difficult team to match up against. That's a luxury as a coach if you can have that type of depth. Credit all goes to how our players have bought in and taken advantage of their opportunities. They've been given them, they've earned and deserved to be in that situation they're in right now.”
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