Powering Forward: Capitals’ Line Combinations

With an average of nearly five goals per game so far this month, the Washington Capitals are again proving to be a force in the attacking zone. Their most recent victory was a six-goal effort against the Detroit Red Wings at Verizon Center.

Powerful scoring lines have been characteristic of the Capitals in recent seasons. Even with the departure of capable scorers like Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, it hasn’t slowed the Capitals offense.

Much of its success comes from solid scoring by all four of the team’s lines — which Capitals correspondent Mike Vogel has come to term, “The Dominant Dozen“. Sure enough, “The Dominant Dozen” is living up to its name. There have only been five games so far this month and already, all four lines have tallied at least one goal.

A closer look at the players on each of the forward lines will show the amount of scoring depth they bring to the ice.

Backstrom Line

The prowess of the Backstrom line is hardly surprising as this line consists of the team’s three strongest forwards — Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T. J. Oshie. They have combined for 64 of the team’s 186 regular season goals. Ovechkin and Oshie lead the team in goals with 26 and 22 respectively while Backstrom — with 16 goals and 41 assists — has the most assists and points.

For the Backstrom line, strong chemistry is nothing new. Ovechkin and Backstrom — who have been a dynamic duo for the Capitals since 2007 — have combined for many terrific performances in the attacking zone over the past decade. The addition of Oshie only strengthened the line.

Oshie — who joined the Caps last season after seven years with the St. Louis Blues — may be on track to surpassing his goal record. Last year, Oshie recorded a career-high 26 goals before the playoffs. With a little under two months before the regular season ends, he only needs five goals to achieve a new record. Having picked up two goals and an assist in Washington’s most recent match against the Detroit Red Wings, he is on track for such an accomplishment.

Consistency has also helped fuel the Backstrom line’s firepower. Last month, Backstrom had a point streak of 10 games. In the Caps’ last five games, he’s managed at least a point in each game — with two of the matches ending in a goal and two assists.

Kuznetsov Line

The second line — featuring Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams — has also been an effective combination this season. Both wingers — Johansson and Kuznetsov — are approaching 20 goals. Like Oshie, Johansson may also have his most productive season. His best season to date was 2014, with 20 goals and 27 assists.

Last month, Kuznetsov made his mark when he led the League in scoring with seven goals and 13 assists in 15 games, becoming the NHL’s First Star of the month. His 20 points in January rank second in team history for most points in a single month — only Ovechkin has had more, with 22 points back in April 2014.

Eller and Beagle Lines

Washington’s last two lines have Lars Eller and Jay Beagle as centers. The wingers on the Eller line are Brett Connolly and Andre Burakovsky while the Beagle line has Daniel Winnik and Tom Wilson.

The performance of the Backstrom and Kuznetsov lines easily overshadow that of Eller’s line, but in the last five games, the scoring depth of the latter has been comparable to the former. Seven of the 24 goals this month came from the Eller line — by comparison, the Backstrom and Kuznetsov lines recorded nine and six goals respectively.

Connolly has been especially strong on the left wing. His most recent goal came during the Caps’ win against the Red Wings, where he fired a sharp-angle shot to rebound a deflection by teammate Karl Alzner. Connolly has now tied his NHL career-high of 12 goals in a single season and with four goals in the last five games, he also ties Oshie for the most this month.

With Burakovsky out of the lineup for the next game due to injury, teammate Eller said, “in the big scheme of things, I think it’ll be all right.” In the meantime, Zach Sanford will be taking Burakovsky’s place on the Eller line.

Although the Beagle line has only contributed one goal so far in February, they still produced 20 this season, which is impressive for a fourth line and shows potential down the stretch.