Over the past month, the Capitals have become increasing familiar with serving multiple roles, not simply because of mid-game line tweaking by Coach Bruce Boudreau, but out of necessity. With injuries and illnesses knocking out several players for multiple games — most recently, captain Alex Ovechkin — it’s up to everyone in the lineup to pick up the slack and seize the opportunity for a larger role.
“I think it says a lot for our depth and a lot for the ability for somebody else to step up,” Boudreau said. “Like I’ve said numerous times, when someone’s out, it gives somebody else an opportunity to get 20 minutes a game, probably more than they’ve played a while. It’s up to them – short-term – to take advantage of it.”
While depth has kept the Capitals afloat, the large number of injuries in a short amount of time has prevented Boudreau from uniting the lines he wants to see in the playoffs — when most of the roster is presumably healthy.
Washington utilized the same forward lines for three games, from March 9 against Edmonton to March 13 against Chicago. Given how many times the combinations have been altered throughout the year, that was a rare occurance that began when Eric Fehr returned to the lineup after a 22-game absence with a dislocated shoulder. The lines changes again when Jason Arnott did not travel to Montreal because of a strained groin muscle. Additional injuries only mean the adjustments will continue to flow.
“You’d like to get the lines set, but they’re not,” Boudreau said. “I’d like to see what it’s like on the defense when you have [Mike] Green, [Dennis] Wideman, [John] Carlson on the right side, but it isn’t there yet. We’ll just have to do whatever until it does get there.”
The players would like the same thing, but they have no other choice but to keep moving forward.
“After the trade deadline, I think we had three or four set lines that could play, and I think we were showing what we could be when we had everyone in,” winger Jason Chimera said. “If you lose the best player in the world, it’s tough to lose him, you’ve just got to step up. When good players go out, guys seem to respond well and play that much harder.”