Instead, it’s deja vu all over again, with the Capitals on the brink of elimination at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, facing a must-win Game 5 at home on Saturday night. Now, Capitals’ Coach Barry Trotz is making changes to his top six. And it’s the correct move.
In this playoff series, the Capitals’ top line has produced 34 even-strength scoring chances but have been outshot 23-32. Surprisingly, they have just four goals for their efforts: the hat trick by T.J. Oshie in Game 1 and Ovechkin’s tally in Game 3.
By moving Evgeny Kuznetsov up to skate with Ovechkin and Oshie, Trotz is making the top line more dynamic. During the regular season those three scored 3.4 goals per 60 minutes and put 55 percent of shot attempts in their favor at even strength. With Backstrom in the middle those numbers were 2.8 and 50 percent, respectively, albeit in a much larger sample size.
The new second line, Backstrom centering Marcus Johansson and Andre Buravosky, skated only 48 even-strength minutes during the regular season but Backstrom and Johansson scored 2.6 goals per 60 minutes while allowing just 1.3 during the regular season in the 184 minutes they shared on the ice.
Moving Justin Williams down to the third line with Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle is a curious move. Those three were outscored 1-4 in 59 minutes of ice time this season but broke even on shot attempts.
Mounting a comeback in the series is not going to be easy. According to WhoWins, only seven of 82 teams have rallied from a 3-1 series deficit in the second round. But, home teams are 34-18 in Game 5 in these situations, so Washington shouldn’t be as big an underdog as people are making them out to be.
A big change could make all the difference.