Each year the pre-season comes and goes with some surprise teams and some disappointing teams. Not much should be made of this as most squads are giving their young guys some experience before sending them back to their respective leagues.
The prospects that are cycled through the lineup each year usually attract the most attention, which may be why newly-acquired free-agent Mike Knuble has gone under the radar this pre-season as he is learning to mesh with line-mates Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Knuble will fill the shoes of Viktor Kozlov, who is off to the KHL after a sub-par season playing alongside two of the game’s young stars on the Capitals’ first line. While Kozlov refused to struggled to play a physical game, contact and crashing the net are Knuble’s best assets.
Washington’s top line now consists of one of the best passers, one of the best shooters, and Knuble, who will be there to clean up on top of the crease. A scary thought, indeed. No longer will the Capitals need to toss around terms like “Putting all your eggs in one basket”. Knuble is a better fit than a guy like Alex Semin (on the top line) not because Knuble is better, but because he is better at what the top line needs.
When Bruce Boudreau sent out the combo of 8-19-28 last year, there was a heck of a lot of skill out there, but they were often times caught being too cute. Forcing backdoor passes, excessive curl-and-drag moves, and unnecessary passes on odd-man breaks drove fans insane last season.
Finesse players are great, but too much of a good thing can lead down the wrong path. Knuble will be successful in D.C. for all the reasons that past free agents have not been. Washington has found what they have been looking for to fill up the first line and Capitals’ fans should get used to seeing things like this.