The Washington Capitals have a reputation for coming up short in the playoffs, but enough has changed in recent years to make it unfair to judge the franchise based on its past.
There are a lot of different and major examples of that transformation, but among the more interesting is the addition of Justin Williams and Mike Richards. Williams was a solid contributor this season while Richards played more of a depth role, but both of them have enjoyed a lot of success in past postseasons and, among other things, are 7-0 in Game 7s.
So while they aren’t the key reasons why Washington won the Presidents’ Trophy, they might prove to be valuable assets in the weeks and, if the Capitals are successful, months to come.
To be sure, the question of “will he step up” is bigger with Richards, who had a much smaller role in 2015-16 than Williams in the first place. That said, Richards will at the very least get the opportunity to do more as he’s been moved from the fourth to third line, based on Tuesday’s practice.
“It gives us some flexibility, especially when we go into Philadelphia, to get away from some matchups, maybe,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlnatic. “Maybe the top lines nullify each other and you’re depth has to get it done for you. If we’re going to be successful in any series you’re going to need production from all four of your lines.”
Certainly if Richards can step up in the playoffs, then Philadelphia will have a hard time containing the type of balanced attack that the Capitals will be capable of rolling out. That being said, while Richards is only 31-years-old, his decline has been well documented. So while he has traditionally done better in the playoffs than regular season, maybe that won’t be enough this time around.