With the Capitals down 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Capitals coach Barry Trotz is assessing his choice of lineups.
Alex Ovechkin practiced Friday on the third line with Tom Wilson and Lars Eller, letting Andre Burakovsky spend time with the first unit.
For the past two games, Trotz has gone with 11 forwards and seven defenseman. Trotz said he wanted to use Friday’s practice to evaluate that.
The Penguins need only one more win to advance to the conference finals. Game 5 is Saturday at Verizon Center at 7:15 p.m.
“We’re looking at different things,” Trotz said. “We talked about getting a little more production through the length of our lineup. One of the opportunities you get … when you do use 11 forwards, you end up playing with other people.
“It was an opportunity for us to put him there, and get him some reps with Lars and Tom, or maybe it’s going to be Burkie there, he’s played with Burkie before,” he said
Trotz said it was also about Ovechkin possibly double-shifting with the group, similar to how the Penguins have done with Phil Kessel. Because the Capitals have played with 11 forwards instead of 12, double shifts are more common.
Trotz admitted his top players didn’t perform the way he expected them to in Game 4’s 3-2 loss.
Ovechkin was also frustrated after his performance, saying he made stupid decisions and he needed to play better.
“I think it’s just to a situation where you want to switch up the lines and get better, I hope, and I hope it’s going to work,” Ovechkin said.
The third line of Burakovsky-Eller-Wilson has been strong analytically against the Penguins, but they haven’t produced goals.
While the Capitals generally stuck with the same four lines throughout the regular season, Trotz has made adjustments in the playoffs.
In the Toronto series, the Capitals coach swapped Brett Connolly for Wilson on the third line. Against Pittsburgh, Connolly was deactivated all together once defenseman Karl Alzner became healthy, with Trotz opting for seven defenseman.
If Ovechkin sticks with the third line in Game 5, Eller and Wilson both liked his fit.
“He adds obviously a lot of power,” Wilson said. “When he’s playing, he’s hard to stop. If we can get two big wingers like that going, it’s going to be tough on their D, it’s going to be tough on their team.”
Added Eller: “It could be good or it could be great.”
Burakovsky was also optimistic after practicing with the first line. He said he has chemistry with T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom, having played with them against Vancouver in the regular season.
The ultimate goal will be to revamp the offense so the Capitals can stay alive. Washington has scored just nine goals through four games in this series.
“As I said, we need everybody going, not only our top players,” Trotz said. “Everybody follows the top players. Everybody will follow their lead and then everybody needs to contribute right down the lineup.”