The many lines of the Washington Capitals

Over the last 4 games, here have been all of the line combinations the Capitals have shown:

Ottawa
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Johansson
Knuble-Perreault-Laich
Chimera-B. Gordon-A.Gordon
Hendricks-Steckel-Beagle

Ovechkin-Johansson-Knuble
Laich-Backstrom-A.Gordon
Chimera-Perreault-Beagle
Hendricks-Steckel-B. Gordon
Ovechkin-Johansson-Laich
Hendricks-Backstrom-Knuble
Chimera-Steckel-Gordon
A. Gordon-Perreault-Beagle
Beagle-Steckel-Chimera
B. Gordon-Backstrom-Knuble
Ovechkin-Johansson-Laich

Vancouver
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Fehr
Laich-Johansson-Knuble
Hendricks-Steckel-Gordon
Chimera-Perreault-Beagle

Laich-Johansson-Fehr
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble

Philadelphia
Chimera-Backstrom-Knuble
Laich-Johansson-Ovechkin
Gordon-Perreault-Hendricks
King-Steckel-Beagle

Hendricks-Steckel-Beagle
Ovechkin-Perreault-Gordon
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Chimera
Laich-Johansson-Knuble
Hendricks-Johansson-Knuble
Laich-Perreault-Beagle
Hendricks-Johansson-Gordon

Islanders
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Chimera
Laich-Johansson-Knuble
Hendricks-Perreault-Beagle
King-Steckel-Gordon

When you’re a team with a slumping offense like the Washington Capitals, the coaches will attempt to spark the team by switching up the lines a little bit. It’s become a common theme for the Caps these last few games as the lines have rarely stayed the same throughout the entire game due to Boudreau being unsatisfied with the production and lack of offense and chemistry between them. Usually, the Caps have 2 major scoring lines (Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble and Laich-Johansson/Perreault-Semin) that get the job done with the bottom-six being depended on for secondary and tertiary scoring when needed. The last few weeks, goals have been hard to come by and there have been many injuries which have resulted in players like Eric Fehr (who is also hurt) and Jason Chimera being placed on the first line in Mike Knuble’s usual spot.

I understand why one would think Chimera is a good fit on the first line but he is really just Mike Knuble with more speed and less of a scoring upside. He scored in his first game on that line so I could be wrong but putting a bottom-six player like Chimera on the first line as a permanent solution won’t work. Eric Fehr I can understand because he’s been effective when he gets top-6 minutes and his current ceiling is still unknown (though I think it’s the 3rd line, hopefully I’m wrong). Some say the injury to Alex Semin is what’s causing this because usually whenever Washington is going through a dry spell, Boudreau puts him on Ovechkin’s line and the three are too talented offensively not to score. That hasn’t exactly been the case this season when the three are paired together so the line shuffling has continued even with him in the lineup.

The lack of a true second line center is also apparent because for awhile last year, we had Tomas Fleischmann playing that role when it wasn’t his true position. He was traded and Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson have been fighting to earn that spot and the latter seems to have the upper hand on it. Perreault is simply too inconsistent to play on the second line right now and while Johansson was brutal to start the year, he has picked it up as of late so the spot is his for now. I have no qualms about Johansson playing this spot in the future but he still doesn’t look truly ready to me. Granted, he’s gotten much better the past couple of weeks so I could be wrong with that assumption. He is skating better and his playmaking skills have gone up. However, you’ll see in a few lines up there where he was played as a winger and I believe he scored twice when on those lines. Offense is always welcome but winger isn’t our primary concern at the moment. I’m going to be the broken record here and say that the Caps will likely make a move to acquire someone to center the second line (think the Eric Belanger trade last year) to at least keep the seat warm for Johansson until he’s fully ready. If Johansson keeps up this production, though then we may not need to make a move after all but we might anyway for depth purposes. The fact that we have Jay Beagle playing almost every night isn’t a good sign even if it is in a bottom-six role. There’s too many fringe top/bottom-6 players and not enough people who can score on a more consistent basis.

I expect this line rolling to continue at least until Semin is back. Chimera scoring last night will likely make Boudreau play him there again and then it will change when the production inevitably goes down. I’m just hoping that he’ll put Mike Knuble back on that line instead of trying to fit someone like Matt Hendricks there.

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