Capitals’ Hathaway & Sheary Shine on Road Trip

This isn’t a jinx. That must be established right away, and all superstitious precautions have been taken. The Washington Capitals, though suffering through major injuries and early roster uncertainties, have played very well to start the season. It’s partially due to the stars finding form, but the role players have gone above expectations as well. Everyone seems to be stepping up, and this was exemplified by Garnet Hathaway and Conor Sheary during Washington’s recent road trip.  

Capitals Getting Production From Role Players

Grinders and penalty killers are invaluable members of any team. Their grit and ability to take care of the little things create more opportunities for the big point producers on a roster. Washington is spoiled with solid role players.

Garnet Hathaway Washington Capitals
Garnet Hathaway, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Last season, the fourth line of the Capitals was arguably the team’s most consistent line, perhaps even their best. Nic Dowd, Carl Hagelin, and Hathaway were the only three Capitals other than Brenden Dillon—who is now a Winnipeg Jet—to skate all 56 games in 2020-21.

Key injuries have forced line changes this season, however. The trio has been split up at times to help ease Washington’s class of rookies into the mix. Whatever head coach Peter Laviolette is deciding, it’s seemingly working, and that was proven during Washington’s recent Pacific Coast road trip.

Hathaway’s Goal-scoring

Hathaway is known for his physicality at a solid 6-foot-3-inches and 208 pounds. The 30-year-old winger averages over a minute of his 13:17 per game on the penalty kill and leads the team in hits with 72. Second is rookie Martin Fehervary with 54.

Hathaway also occasionally breaks free for timely points. Since joining the Capitals in 2019-20, he has increased his production. Considering the last two seasons were shortened due to the pandemic, he was on an 82-game pace to finish with 20 and 27 points, respectively, which would have been the two best statistical years of his seven-year NHL tenure.   

The main difference this season is Hathaway’s goal-scoring pace. If maintained, he will net 22 in 2021-22, which would double his current career-best from when he scored 11 in 2018-19 as a member of the Calgary Flames. His two tallies, the only goals of the game, against the Kings helped his cause—and that helps the Capitals as they continue to ask for production from players, not on the top line.     

Sheary Shines

Sheary only missed three games last season. He registered 14 goals and eight assists in 2020-21. The winger was on an 82-game pace to record 34 points, which would have been his second-best statistical year. This season is no different; in fact, he’s on pace to substantially up his production by 21%.

Of course, the season is young and the numbers can change, but Sheary is set up to finish with 41 points (23 goals, 18 assists). This past weekend he showed no sign of slowing down, netting two goals against the San Jose Sharks. On the contrary, he has had two four-game scoreless streaks this season already. Scattered points can be viewed negatively and positively. He isn’t consistently scoring every other night, but he’s also not allowing himself to fall into a detrimental slump.

His best season to date is 2016-17 when he scored 23 goals and added 30 assists, finishing with a plus-minus rating of plus-24 while lifting the Stanley Cup as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Role Players Stepping Up For Washington

Unfortunately, Sheary was a late-game scratch in Washington’s 5-2 loss to Seattle and is considered day-to-day at the moment. Currently, four main Capitals are on the injured reserve list which is worrisome. Nicklas Backstrom hasn’t played yet this season and is at least out until Nov. 30 with a hip injury; Anthony Mantha underwent shoulder surgery and is expected to be out until Jan. 2; T.J. Oshie is suffering from a lower-body injury and won’t be able to return until Nov. 28; Lars Eller entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols back on Nov. 16 and isn’t eligible to return until Nov. 24.

Fortunately, Washington has been able to sustain their contender-level play on the backs of their top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Tom Wilson. Hockey is a very team-oriented sport, however, and the Capitals wouldn’t be tied for the second-most points in the league (27) if it wasn’t for players like Hathaway and Sheary.

Related: Capitals’ Goalie Competition Heats up After Samsonov’s Back-to-Back Shutouts

The play of their role players and rookies has been vital to the team’s success thus far. The former’s consistency and the latter’s experience will only strengthen Washington’s chances at lifting the Stanley Cup once again after the whole roster is available. Uncertainty still looms as health will always remain a concern, but the Capitals are receiving production in a variety of ways.

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