Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin are shown on the attack against Ottawa in March. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
Coach Bruce Boudreau has typically preferred to spread out his most offensively-potent players in order to maximize the Capitals' options and to make it a challenge for opponents to match a defensive pairing or checking line against any single unity.
But given how well the combination of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin played Saturday when they were assembled on one line against the Calgary Flames, it looks as though he will keep the group together at least a little while longer. The trio finished with 10 points by the end of the 7-2 rout of the Flames.
"In a perfect world, they'd be split up because it makes the team tougher to cover. But every now and again, as I've done for three years, you throw [Semin] back for three or four games. They get on track and then you move him," Boudreau said. "We'll see how long this lasts until they start getting really too [fancy] playing with each other instead of doing the right things, because they want the puck and they can play shinny with it. When they're going and they're doing the right stuff they're a pretty good line."
Heading into Wednesday's match up against the Maple Leafs, Semin is the only one of the trio that hasn't gone more than two games without a point this season. The hope is that they can continue to spark each other the way they did against the Flames.
"The advantage or disadvantage is we're either going to have the puck all the time or we're not going to have the puck. Because once they get the puck those guys are going to hold on to it and it's tough to get the puck back from them," Brooks Laich said. "It was a treat to watch those three guys on the ice; that's the most talented offensive line in the NHL, the world."
Backstrom said previous stints with Semin and Ovechkin along with the trio's time spent together on the power play make it an easy transition. He simply has to adjust to playing with another linemate who likes to hold onto the puck, rather than someone like usual linemate Mike Knuble, who drives to the net.
"We've played together before and we are capable of scoring a lot of goals, I think, and creating a lot of chances out there," said Backstrom, who guessed the group would be together against Toronto. "I know [Boudreau] likes to change [lines] sometimes but if we win, I don't think it's going to change, but we'll see tomorrow."
The trickle-down effect is that Knuble moves to the second line with Laich and Tomas Fleischmann, whom Boudreau reiterated is in main possession of that line's center position. Through 11 games, four different players have spent considerable time as the second-line center -- Fleischmann, Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault and, most recently against Calgary, Laich.
"For the most part, that's Tom's position," Boudreau said. "I thought in the last two days that line's looked pretty good together. So hopefully it can contribute a little bit."
Knuble isn't the only player on that line looking to rediscover his scoring touch, either. After a hot start to the regular season that saw Fleischmann post three points in the first two games and Laich record five points in the first five games, both players wouldn't mind figuring in on the scoresheet a little more. In the past six games, they've only tallied one point each.
"I feel okay as the center. I like it, but I have to improve on faceoffs and I have to improve on my scoring. I feel like I should score more goals," Fleischmann said, before discussing the quick start that he, Laich and Semin had with 10 points in the first three games. "We got split up, you know, and that's what happens, but the change helped the team, basically, because we started playing three lines instead of two or one all the time. You figure every team needs it; you need secondary scoring."