“You don’t need your top guys playing 20-plus minutes a night in October,” said winger Mike Knuble, who is skating an average of 15:30 this year, down 2:22 from the previous year.
As for the blue-line corps, Mike Green’s average has dropped 2:26, with a portion of that coming in less time on the penalty kill. Nearly three minutes have been shaved off John Carlson’s average as the second-year defenseman is playing an average of 1:20 less each night on the power play.
The Post Sports Live crew debates which Capitals' victory last week was more impressive, at Philadelphia or vs. Detroit, and argues whether or not the team's franchise-best 7-0 start ultimately matters.
Seeing changes in ice time can be an adjustment for any player, particularly those accustomed to seeing 20 minutes or more a night. Boudreau said he hasn’t heard any complaints yet, though.
“None of the guys have said a word,” Boudreau said. “So it’s great. I’ve said this all along, whether you believe us. They all want the same thing, they want to win. If we were 0-6 and this was the thing that was happening I’m sure they would be saying, ‘Hey, play me more, maybe we’d be winning.’ But it’s not. So it’s working.”
As part of the shut-down third line, Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera have seen their average shifts per game increase. That third unit’s ability to add points (12 in seven games) combined with the offensive capability of the fourth line (10 points, all at even strength) has helped create a trickle-up effect of sorts, making a strong case for Boudreau to continue putting them on the ice.
“He said at the beginning of the season he would reward guys, and that’s what you want as a player. It keeps you on your toes,” Chimera said. “I believe if you spread the ice time out you’re going to get more out of people. The fourth line is happier, the third line is happier and while the first and second line might not be seeing as much, they’re getting their power-play minutes. . . . In the end, you get a more balanced team that relies on everyone, not just a few guys.”
Capitals notes: Boudreau said Green (ankle) will travel with the team to Edmonton and Vancouver. Boudreau added that they hope Green, who has missed two practices since suffering the injury Saturday against the Red Wings, will be able to skate Wednesday at Rexall Place. . . . John Erskine (left shoulder) and Jay Beagle (concussion) will not travel with the Capitals.