Through two games against the New York Rangers, the Capitals’ best players unquestionably have been their best players. As for the rest of the gang, not so much.
While the top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Joel Ward has combined for three goals and three assists through two games and goaltender Braden Holtby has stopped 63 of 67 shots, the Capitals have just one even-strength goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov as they head into Game 3 tonight at VerizonCenter locked in a 1-1 series tie.
That means no production from their bottom six forwards and only one assist [by John Carlson] from their back end.
“I think if you’re going to be successful in the playoffs it’s not only going to be one line carrying you through the playoffs,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “You’re going to need individuals or lines step up. In our case, some nights we might not get anything from our top six forwards and we’re going to need to get them from our bottom six.”
That was certainly the case in the first round against the New York Islanders when right wing Jason Chimera and defenseman Karl Alzner each scored two goals and Marcus Johansson and Brooks Laich added one apiece.
But the Caps’ third line of Troy Brouwer, Jay Beagle and Andre Burakovsky, a trio that combined to score 40 goals in the regular season, is still is looking for its first goal of the playoffs.
“I had a couple good looks, Burk had one or two and Beags had a couple, even going back to Game 7 of the Islanders series,” Brouwer said. “But we haven’t been able to score, which is not benefitting our team at all.”
Brouwer’s scoring funk extends into the regular season. He’s gone a total of 12 straight games without a goal and has found the back of the net just three times in his last 39 games.
“It’s hockey,” said Brouwer, whose 21 goals in the regular season were second on the Caps to Ovechkin’s 53. “I’ve gone through it a few times in my career and it’s no fun. I think we had this talk at the beginning of April. You just have to continue to be positive. You have to know that in the playoffs it doesn’t matter who scores, as long as somebody is.”
Brouwer and Beagle each has been stopped on 14 shots in the playoffs, while Burakovsky has failed on eight shot attempts.
“They’re a really good team and it’s not easy to get chances out there,” said Burakovsky, who has played in six playoff games. “If you don’t skate they’re going to catch you. I think we’ve had pretty good chances to score. We just need to get a puck in the net and we’ll be fine.”
Caps right wing Tom Wilson said he has not made the impact he’d like to make in this series. In two games he has three shots and seven hits and has taken a charging penalty.
“I think I can do a little more. Their defensemen are very aware of getting hit. They’re getting rid of the puck super quick and it’s tough to get on the forecheck. They’re almost looking at me and getting rid of the puck before I can even get close to hem. It’s a fast game and hopefully coming back home we can play our game with better dumps and better forechecks on their D.”
Trotz said there will be “subtle changes” to the way the Caps look in Game 3 and that could mean some tweaks to his forward line combinations.
“We’ll see if their game is the same here as it is in MadisonSquareGarden,” Trtoz said. “And we get last change, so there will be some changes.”