In keeping the Capitals’ line combinations intact, aside from an occasional swap at center on the fourth line, Coach Adam Oates is doubling down on his confidence that the units as currently constructed will eventually provide results.
The pressure to produce is building, though, and nowhere more than on the second line. Brooks Laich, Mikhail Grabovski and Troy Brouwer have yet to combine for a goal as a unit. Brouwer and Laich are still looking for their first point of the season and Grabovski hasn’t recorded one since an assist against Calgary on Oct. 3.
Laich said they’re all well aware of the expectations for the line.
“Guys put enough pressure on themselves to win. Our line expects to score and we expect to help us win, and when we don’t, nobody else coming down on us is going to fuel us more or kick start us any more. We feel that responsibility,” Laich said. “As players, it’s early on in the season. We’re still building, our line is still getting better; we’re working on stuff. Myself, I know I was frustrated [against Colorado], slammed the gate a couple times but I’ve got to step back, cool the emotions and play with the head a little bit more.”
With Grabovski the only truly new face among the forwards, there has been question as to how long it would take him to assimilate to Washington’s system and linemates. On Monday morning, Grabovski said he’s comfortable with how he’s supposed to play as a Capital and as a line. But, he too, knows they need goals.
“I feel pretty good, just a little bit frustrated because our line doesn’t score goals,” Grabovski said. “But every game is better, we try hard and I think it’s coming. Last game we have three or four chances to score, other lines play pretty good last game. We just need little bit of luck and [to be] smarter in our zone.”
Oates was encouraged by the play he saw from the second line against Colorado. He believes the group is somewhat snakebit, but that one goal would do wonders for their confidence.
The trio combined for 10 shots against the Avalanche, with six of those coming from Laich. But some of the unit’s best opportunities are fizzling with passes just slightly off the mark or incorrect timing.
“I think we can use each other a lot better,” Laich said. “We’ll try and do that tonight, try and talk a little more on the ice and try to use each other and use each other’s strengths.”