Through the season's first week, three of Washington’s four lines have scored at least one goal as the Capitals have vaulted to the top of the Metropolitan Division.
The only line that hasn’t contributed yet is the third forward combination. It’s a relatively small sample size, of course, but the lack of offensive production stands out.
On Wednesday, Coach Barry Trotz said he’s not concerned about the line, whose two consistent members have been center Lars Eller and right wing Justin Williams. Rookie Zach Sanford was the left wing for the first two games and depth forward Brett Connolly made his Capitals’ debut against the Avalanche.
Two members of the line—Williams and Sanford—are tied for the fewest shots on goal (1). Eller, meantime, had four shots in Pittsburgh but has only one in the two games since.
It's unclear which left wing will skate on that line Thursday against the Panthers, but it would seem unlikely that Trotz would shake up his lineup after a 3-0 win over Colorado in which his team mustered 40 shots. Connolly had four shots, including a backhander from the slot that forced Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov to make a good pad save.
“They had some good chances [Tuesday] night,” Trotz said. “It’ll go in for them.”
Trotz also noted the extra winger, hinting that it could have a negative effect on the unit’s cohesion. It’s the only line that’s been tweaked (Connolly replaced Sanford vs. Colorado). It’s also the only line that has a rotational player in practice.
“That line has [also] had four guys, not three, for the most part,” Trotz said. “So it’s had some moving parts.”
Again, it’s only been three games. But the third line’s slow start is magnified a bit by the fourth line’s two-goal game against the Islanders.
“I’m not worried about them,” Trotz said. “They’re going to get some offense. You saw even [Tuesday] night as the game went on, I think they were a line that generated some pretty good chances.”
MORE CAPITALS: Why Grubauer's first shutout meant so much to the Caps