Peter Laviolette has gotten very artistic with his lineup selections of late. The Caps obtained again each Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson from damage at the identical time and that has pressured proficient regulars out of motion.
It has additionally meant that a ahead group that after had stability and extra outlined roles has been thrown into disarray. That has led to the Capitals’ head coach wholesome scratching a handful of NHL gamers that usually anticipate to play at any time when they’re out there.
While talking on 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday, the veteran bench boss went into what that course of has been like and participant response to the fixed lineup motion.
“There’s no means round it proper now when three gamers [come back],” Laviolette mentioned. “Oshie got here again and has been again for seven or eight video games now. Backstrom and Wilson are again for 3 video games every. The traces are gonna shift.
“We have 14 NHL gamers who have all performed right here and contributed and been good gamers for us,” he continued. “There’s not a man that had been sitting out or somebody referred to as up from the minors simply right here as an additional in case somebody will get damage. All the guys in the lineup have contributed as much as the level of these guys returning to the lineup. [They’ve] performed very well giving us a chance to battle our means again into a playoff spot and up the standings with that sturdy month of December.”
The Caps completed that month of December with an 11-2-2 file. At five-on-five they noticed 51.3 p.c of the shot makes an attempt, 56.5 p.c of the anticipated objectives, 52.6 p.c of the scoring possibilities, and 53.7 p.c of the high-danger possibilities go their means. The crew additionally noticed nice outcomes in phrases of their five-on-five capturing share (9.2%) and particularly their five-on-five saving share (93.6%). Both marks ranked firmly in the prime half of the league.
Through eight January video games, these numbers have dipped. The Caps are 3-4-1 and have seen 52.7 p.c of the shot makes an attempt, 51.9 p.c of the anticipated objectives, 51.4 p.c of the scoring possibilities, and 50.5 p.c of the high-danger possibilities. Their five-on-five capturing share is additionally down to eight.2 p.c and their five-on-five saving share has clicked right down to 90.2 p.c.
Wilson and Backstrom returned on January 8 and the crew’s lineup has modified in each single recreation since then. Players like Anthony Mantha, Lars Eller, and Dylan Strome have been wholesome scratches in these 5 video games.
“Right now we’re managing the depth of our group,” Laviolette mentioned. “For me, I did not have any purpose to take anyone out. I suppose it is uneasy – only one man at a time right here and we’ll simply kinda transfer by means of till we determine it out. With regard to the traces, there are some issues that I like. I had actually appreciated for 2 video games in a row Backstrom, Milano, and Wilson collectively so I’m making an attempt to see if there’s a little little bit of chemistry there.”
Laviolette stored that Backstrom line collectively in opposition to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night time however made a couple of fairly drastic adjustments to different traces. Those adjustments included Nicolas Aube-Kubel going from being a wholesome scratch since January 6 to a top-line project with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov being demoted to fourth-line heart.
The Caps created the third-most high-danger possibilities in a single recreation that they have this season (21) however fell to the Wild 4-2 on dwelling ice.
“Last night time we put collectively a lineup after enjoying the night time earlier than the place we wished pace and physicality,” Laviolette mentioned. “Kubel match the invoice. It was extra about what he would convey to the desk and I thought he performed a fairly good recreation. I suppose he had 4 or 5 hits. His line had one in every of the objectives and he was a large a part of that.
“Sometimes you have a look at the opponent, typically you have a look at the situational play of a energy play participant or a penalty kill participant,” he continued. “With 14 gamers and at the time 5 centermen, issues are going to modify, individuals are going to modify positions, and that’s actually the solely means you may hold that depth.”
Scratching gamers which can be used to enjoying night time in and night time out is one thing that Laviolette equates to only basic math. The Caps are merely the healthiest they have been this season.
The bench boss introduced that up when the Junkies requested him if any of his gamers have “balked or quibbled” with any of his latest selections.
“Yeah, I imply hear, they’re all skilled athletes,” Laviolette mentioned. “They wish to play and I love that. [If] somebody is upset that they’re not in the lineup, I don’t have a problem with that. They wish to play, they wish to assist, they usually wish to contribute. But, once more, 14, it is simply basic math right here. My Division III Westfield State school schooling, it is 14 NHL gamers and 12 NHL roster spots. Two have to come back out each night time.
The subsequent iteration of Laviolette’s line combos can be despatched out in Arizona in opposition to the Coyotes on Thursday night time. Six of the crew’s subsequent seven video games will come on the street as they appear to each flip round their fortunes in the month of January and discover a secure lineup.
The Caps at present sit 4 factors forward of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference’s first Wild Card spot.
Headline photograph: Alan Dobbins/RMNB