The changes Barry Trotz made to Washington’s forward lines on Saturday paid off.
Will they pay off again?
That’s what Trotz and the Caps are hoping for tonight, as they look to stave off elimination for a second straight game (7:30 pm ET, watch on NBCSN or the NBC Sports app). This time, though, they don’t have the advantage of last change — Game 6 of the second-round series goes at PPG Paints — and will have to deal with a new look from their opponent, as the Pens have made line changes themselves.
So yes, this means captain Alex Ovechkin (based on today’s morning skate) remains a third-liner with Lars Eller and Tom Wilson. And yes, it also means Andre Burakovsky — who had his first goal and multi-point outing of the playoffs on Saturday — will stick on the top unit with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie.
Trotz’s changes were designed to balance things out, and get some slumping forwards going. He was happy with how it transpired.
“When we met as a coaching staff, what we wanted to do was get more scoring through all of our lines,” he said following Game 5, per the Washington Post. “And that was the intent, and today we did. We’ll see what we do next game, but I felt that all of the lines were going pretty well.”
Burakovsky’s breakout game could be a real turning point.
He was conspicuously silent during last year’s loss to the Penguins, going pointless over the final five games of the series, and appeared to be trending in a similar direction prior to Saturday. He insisted he wasn’t concerned about the lack of production because he was still creating chances, but did say scoring a goal raised his confidence, and relieved some pressure.
There’s still plenty of pressure to go around, of course.
Justin Williams hasn’t found the back of the net this series. Neither has Eller. Neither has Oshie. Neither has Wilson, whose three goals in the opening round against Toronto were hugely important in the Caps moving on.
If Trotz’s plan is to come to fruition, the offense needs to spread to these guys as well.
And soon. Really soon.