Before the trade deadline, General Manager Brian MacLellan was hesitant to make a major move so as to not upset the chemistry on a close-knit first-place Capitals team. He felt Shattenkirk was the one player worth the risk because of his on-ice value, an elite puck-moving, offensive blue-liner. But MacLellan also did his due diligence on Shattenkirk as a teammate, and he received rave reviews from T.J. Oshie and Brooks Orpik, both of whom had previous experience playing with Shattenkirk.
Midseason trades can be hit or miss because it often takes time for players to adjust to their new surroundings. But with the postseason just two games away, this deal has been a success so far, with Shattenkirk already feeling comfortable with the Capitals.
“He’s one of those guys that you think of first when you’re asking people to go do stuff, you know?” Alzner said. “He’s just one of those guys that you really enjoy spending time with. He’s very smart, very observant, remembers people’s names and just an overall very good person, which has kind of been the M.O. of this management and coaching staff with the type of people they get.”
That he’s immediately produced hasn’t hurt either. Washington’s power play, consistently ranked atop the league for years, had a 21.8 scoring percentage before Shattenkirk’s arrival. Since he’s been on the point of the top unit, the Capitals have scored on 29 percent of their power plays, superstar winger Alex Ovechkin has five power-play goals and the unit has scored 12 times in the past 10 games.
With Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on either side on the power play, Shattenkirk initially felt pressure to force the puck to one of them. But the unit has excelled as he’s started to shoot from the top more, which has in turn created openings for Shattenkirk’s flat passes to Ovechkin’s one-timer sweet spot in the left faceoff circle.
“I think you can see his skill, his ability to move the puck, shoot the puck,” Ovechkin said.
“My main goal coming in here was not to tip toe into the game and try to figure out how to play with these guys,” Shattenkirk said. “I just wanted to play how I know is best, play my best games and figure it out on the fly, how to gain some chemistry with these guys. I think the way that I play best and that aggressive offensive style of the game, it allows me to produce. I think when you have so many skilled guys who are making great plays, it’s pretty easy for a guy like me to get some points.”
Shattenkirk said he started to feel at home with the team when it was on the road. The Capitals’ four-game losing streak last month that included a winless three-game trip in California that was a low point of the season, but for Shattenkirk, the adversity helped him bond with his new teammates. “All of that stuff helps just build great chemistry and make me feel comfortable going into the playoffs,” he said.
Shattenkirk’s growing confidence has been noticeable in his play. Coach Barry Trotz said Shattenkirk was stationary on the power play at first, but he’s started initiating some movement as he’s gotten more settled. Against Toronto, Shattenkirk called for Ovechkin to switch positions with him, with Shattenkirk going to the left faceoff circle before scoring his first goal with Washington.
That seemed to mark the last step of his initiation.
“Obviously, there was some growing pains just because we play a little different than St. Louis,” Trotz said. “He makes really intelligent plays, he’s got great poise, his puck skills are very, very strong, and he’s fit in with the group extremely well from a personal level. Sometimes, when you get new guys, everybody’s sort of standoffish, but we’ve been on a few road trips right off the hop when we got him, so he’s spent a lot of time in hotels the last little while. He’s gotten to know his teammates quite well.”