Early in the season, offensive production from Troy Brouwer and Mike Ribeiro that kept the Capitals afloat. Then the first-line talents of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson found their scoring groove to help push Washington into playoff position.
Now, as the team prepares for the final week of the regular season and looks to lock up the Southeast Division title, the top two lines are both contributing on the scoresheet.
In addition to two goals from Ovechkin and another from Backstrom, Brouwer recorded a pair of tallies in their 5-1 rout of the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
Ideally, that’s the kind of balance the Capitals’ offense will be able to maintain in the postseason. That way, if opponents want to focus on shutting down Ovechkin, they’ll still have plenty of other threats to contend with.
“To have a second line that’s producing with me, Ribs has got 13 [goals], [Martin Erat’s] helping out and he’s a great asset to our line right now,” Brouwer said. “We’re making it a lot harder for D-men on the other team to try and pair up against either Alex or our line because both lines have been dangerous for the last little while.”
Washington’s second line has accounted for eight of the team’s 20 goals in the past five games with all but two of those tallies coming from Brouwer, who is three goals shy of his career high (22). Brouwer, who is second on the team in goals behind Ovechkin, and Ribeiro are beginning to build chemistry with trade-deadline acquisition Erat and as the trio becomes more familiar that should help increase the quality and frequency of their scoring chances.
For Ribeiro, who has one goal and eight assists in the past five games, the second line must find a way to extend its current roll into the playoffs.
“You have to. That’s our role is to take off some pressure from those guys, make teams trying to adjust,” Ribeiro said. “You have two good lines it’s hard to decide who you’re going to put against who.
“We’re there to support them. They’ve been huge through this stretch and with Martin now on our line we feel that [we will have] more offensive time, cycling the puck,” Ribeiro continued. “Going forward it’s going to be important for both us and that first line to score and play well.”