So here’s one radical suggestion for an adjustment in Game Five: play healthy players.
Here is the Caps’ lineup from Game Four, but with all the players who are nursing or who have recently recovered from known injuries or illnesses in red.
Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Wilson
Mantha – Backstrom – Oshie
Sheary – Eller – Raffl
Hagelin – Dowd – Hathaway
Orlov – Carlson
Dillon – Schultz
Chara – Jensen
Alex Ovechkin suffered a lower-body injury in late April. Evgeny Kuznetsov recently returned to play this week after his second bout with coronavirus in a year. Tom Wilson suffered an upper-body injury in early May. Nicklas Backstrom suffered a lower-body injury in early May. Lars Eller suffered a lower-body injury last week. John Carlson suffered a lower-body injury in late April. Justin Schultz suffered a lower-body injury in mid-April.
These kinds of injuries aren’t uncommon, and they’re not excuses for the totality of the team’s dismal play. Right now, these are nothing but the justification to make a reasonable adjustment.
Here, by position, are Washington’s available black ace skaters:
Connor McMichael, 20, has just finished a season leading the AHL’s Hershey Bears in points. Right defender Alex Alexeyev joined the Bears just a few weeks ago but looked great, scoring his first goal against Wilkes-Barre. Also on the Bears D was Martin Fehervary, who has excelled in his brief NHL assignments and has scored 17 points in 24 games for Hershey.
In addition, there’s Daniel Sprong (13 goals in 42 games) and Trevor van Riemsdyk (team-high plus-3.3 relative expected goals percentage among defenders), two players with the twin qualities of being a) good at hockey, and b) in possession of working lower bodies.
These are not seasoned NHL players by any stretch, and we know acutely what can happen when rusty players are thrown into a game, but what’s the worst that could happen? Sure, the Caps could get laughed out of the barn, losing in humiliating fashion while making their fans miserable, but folks — we’re already there.
It’s a longshot, but a longshot is all they’ve got.
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk
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