By Julia Karron
After the Carolina Hurricanes throttled the Caps in Game Three, something had to change.
To that end, Todd Reirden has shuffled all of his lines and the bottom defensive pair to get the Caps back to their winning ways in Game Four.
The only thing that has remained the same from Game Three are the top two defensive pairs. Courtesy of Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post:
Ovechkin – Backstrom – Oshie
Vrana – Kuznetsov – Wilson
Burakovsky – Eller – Connolly
Hagelin – Dowd – Boyd
Carlson – Jensen
Orlov – Niskanen
Orpik – Siegenthaler
On defense, Jonas Siegenthaler looks like he will make his playoff debut by replacing Christian Djoos on the bottom pairing. Reirden initially stated he wanted to use Djoos more after skating him under 10 minutes in Games One and Two. But he’s been on the ice for four 5v5 goals for the Canes and only one for the Caps while playing on his off side next to Brooks Orpik. And his fumble in Game Three to give the Canes their opening goal certainly didn’t help.
Siegenthaler will be playing on his strong side, and his skating ability may help the Caps break up that pesky 2-1-2 forecheck the Hurricanes have deployed.
Next, Reirden has overhauled the offense. To start, he’s reunited Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Oshie as the Caps top line. Until they were held scoreless in Game Three, Ovechkin had one goal and two assists, Backstrom had three goals and one assist, and Oshie had one goal and one assist. Those players have been carrying the Caps so far, and Reirden is stacking his top line.
Additonally, Jakub Vrana has been promoted to the second line and Carl Hagelin has been dropped to the fourth line, while Tom Wilson drops from the top line to the second. Vrana has been held pointless so far this series, so this may be a move to kick start the speedy winger, while Kuznetsov and Wilson have three and two points, respectively.
Then come the bottom two lines. Lars Eller is the only bottom six forward with a point this series, an empty net goal in Game One. Andre Burakovsky has been promoted to take Vrana’s place to try and inject some offense. Meanwhile, Hagelin and Travis Boyd will flank Nic Dowd, and Chandler Stephenson is the odd man out on offense.
A practice day in Raleigh #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/u8VNM9dduh
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 17, 2019
Update, 4:30 PM: Peter has crunched the regular-season numbers for these lines/pairs via Natural Stat Trick.
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk
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