Before the reporter could finish a question about the latest spirited performance from the Capitals’ third line, coach Adam Oates interjected.
“You mean the first line?” he quipped after Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime victory against the Blue Jackets.
Since joining forces nearly a month ago, Joel Ward, Mikhail Grabovski and Jason Chimera have been Washington’s most productive line by a considerable margin. The trio has combined for 15 goals and 32 points at even-strength and on special teams in only 12 games.
Other than their complementary playing styles, a common thread that ties Ward, Grabovski and Chimera together is redemption.
All three players had down years, by their standards, in 2012-13. One season after scoring a career-high 20 goals, Chimera only mustered three in 47 regular-season games. Ward started off quickly, only to cool off considerably before missing time down the stretch due to a knee injury.
Meanwhile, Grabovski fell out of favor with Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, was forced into a more defensive role and ultimately bought out of the remaining four years of a five-year contract.
This season, however, all three have rebounded.
Chimera, recently rewarded with a two-year extension, and Ward, who arrived at training camp leaner, have both surpassed their goal totals from all of last season while playing integral roles on special teams, and Grabovski has eclipsed his 2012-13 point total with added offensive responsibility.
“We just want to play better,” Grabovski said. “Like me, I have chance to prove myself on new team. Same as [Chimera], probably. He signed a new deal. He wants to show everybody how good he is.”
Accruing individual accolades is surely a boost for morale, but they have little meaning if they are not helping the team win.
“You have a down season, you want to really get back,” Chimera said. “You want to kind of re-energize yourself and find that touch again for sure, but you want to have a line that helps the team.”