The Washington Capitals have struggled defensively early in the season. With a skinnier roster than usual to choose from, Peter Laviolette is making some changes.
Saturday, the coach tinkered with his defensive pairings, promoting Zdeno Chara and bumping Nick Jensen to the extra pairing.
The Washington Post’s Samatha Pell reported the defense makeover on Twitter.
Caps D pairs looked a bit different today:
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) January 23, 2021
The Chara and Jensen pairing had been the Capitals’ most dominant pair until they were completely shelled by the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
The pair was on the ice for two of the Sabres goals and Jensen finished at five-on-five with a minus-11 shot attempt differential, a minus-9 scoring chance differential, and a minus-5 high danger chance differential. To put that in better perspective, the Caps overall at five-on-five finished with a team minus-7 shot attempt differential, a minus-7 scoring chance differential, and a minus-3 high danger chance differential.
Laviolette explained after the skate that with Tom Wilson’s injury and the team’s razor-thin margin under the salary cap, the Capitals may turn to a lineup that has an extra rearguard.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s available to us tomorrow,” Laviolette said of the math-cruching happening behind-the-scenes. “Not to be vague again. We’re trying to figure out whether if we need to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Then who can play forward if that’s the case. We were just looking at different things during practice to figure it out.
“Not trying to keep anything from ya, I just don’t have the answers just yet,” he added with candor. “We’re working on them ourselves in here.”
While the changes may be more salary cap-related, the Capitals, who are implementing a new system, have given up the eighth-most goals in the NHL so far this season (16). Despite the leaky defense, the Capitals are one of only six teams in the NHL that has not lost in regulation yet.
“We’re going game-by-game,” Laviolette said.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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