Thursday during the Capitals morning skate, Barry Trotz made one tweak to his lineup ahead of Game Four.
Jakub Vrana was demoted to the team’s fourth line while Chandler Stephenson, AKA Lil’ Steve, was promoted to the second line.
#Caps lines for Game 4:
*Got to assume Boyd is an a.m. skate place holder for Oshie.
— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) April 19, 2018
The move could be considered a surprise considering how much of a game-changer Vrana has been in the series so far.
The playmaking Vrana helped author the Capitals’s only even-strength goal in Game One, primary assisting on Devante Smith-Pelly’s slam dunk in front of the net.
After being a surprise healthy scratch for Game Two, Trotz put Vrana back in the lineup in Game Three and placed the Czech winger on the second line with Andre Burakovsky out with an injury.
The Carly tally gave the Caps a 2-1 lead late in the second period.
“It was much better. I think [Jakub] was just a lot more relaxed. He knew he had experienced [the playoffs],” Trotz said, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Tarik El-Bashir, Wednesday during the Capitals’ day off. “It slowed down for him. I thought early in the game he was really dangerous, had a couple of really good looks with Backy and Osh. I think he settled in pretty well for the most part. His speed, obviously, replaces Andre’s speed there. I thought for his real game, where had to play really meaningful minutes, I thought he did a real good job.”
Perhaps Trotz wants more speed or a finisher on the fourth line. Or perhaps Trotz saw a problem with the second line’s play on Tuesday.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Capitals second line was dominated at even strength by Matt Calvert, Brandon Dubinsky, and Josh Anderson. Nicklas Backstrom, for instance, had a shot-attempt percentage under 35 percent in 12 minutes of ice time against the Blue Jackets’ trio.
Moving Stephenson to the second line would perhaps give the trio a better defender in Vrana’s place if this matchup continues in Game Four.
The Capitals lineup Thursday night will also feature Christian Djoos for a second straight game.
Trotz was impressed by Djoos’ outing, despite the Swede being the Capitals’ best defenseman in terms of shot-attempt percentage (51.8) during the regular season.
Trotz was similarly impressed with Djoos—the other rookie in the #Caps’ Game 3 lineup. The defenseman skated 17:17 and finished with three shots on net, the second most among Washington blue liners. pic.twitter.com/jhDSFBUVb3
— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) April 18, 2018
Braden Holtby will start in net for the second straight game.
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