A rebuilt third line has been key for the Caps

AP
7 Comments

The Washington Capitals are on quite a roll, and it’s not just the usual suspects who are filling the net.

Though Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov have, indeed, been piling up points since the Caps caught fire after Christmas, the third line of Brett Connolly, Lars Eller, and Andre Burakovsky has been pretty potent itself.

“You’re getting guys who’ve got double-digit goals on that line,” head coach Barry Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “We didn’t have that on that third line last year. We do now. We’re getting scoring from the third line, no question. We’re getting scoring from all lines. That’s good for us. It makes us a hard team to play.”

The Caps did not get the balanced scoring they so desperately needed in last year’s playoffs. And so GM Brian MacLellan added Eller and Connolly in the offseason, lauding both for their size, skating ability, and skill.

“We’ve been looking to fill that (third-line center) spot for a little while now,” he said after acquiring Eller from the Montreal Canadiens, who received a couple of second-round draft picks in return.

Connolly, meanwhile, was a former sixth overall draft pick who was running out of chances to stick in the NHL. He signed a one-year, $850,000 deal with the Caps on July 1, after the Bruins chose not to extend him a qualifying offer

“He just hasn’t seemed to put it together yet consistently,” said McLellan. “Talking to him, I think in hindsight he probably started in the league as too young a guy so his game hasn’t fully come around or matured and I think he’s got a good awareness of where he’s at and so do we. We’re going to try and fulfill his potential and he’s trying to do the same thing.”

Of course, all of this success will be forgotten if the Caps don’t keep rolling in the postseason. That’s the burden this team will carry into the spring. Washington is now in the second year of what McLellan has deemed a “two-year window.” Win or lose in the playoffs, some tough decisions will need to be made this summer, and the balanced scoring the Caps are currently enjoying may take a hit.

But that’s a worry for another day.

“It’s fun to play right now,” said forward Marcus Johansson, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “The confidence in the group is outstanding.”

Capitals goal-scoring since Jan. 1

caps