- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. — After taking their first loss of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Todd Reirden and the Washington Capitals seek solutions with some new personnel.

Outclassed 5-0 by the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 on Monday, the Capitals made a larger collection of starting lineup changes between games than they have in months, hoping to spark a turnaround in Thursday’s Game 4 at PNC Arena.

Reirden’s lines at Wednesday afternoon’s practice subbed Jonas Siegenthaler in for Christian Djoos on the third defensive pairing, as Djoos struggled to get anything going in the first three games of the postseason.


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Each forward line was rejiggered, too. T.J. Oshie moved up to the top line in Tom Wilson’s place, Andre Burakovsky and Carl Hagelin swapped spots on the third and fourth lines and Travis Boyd was in for Chandler Stephenson on the fourth.

It represents by far the most sweeping shakeup for the Capitals in a while. Reirden called these the tentative starting lines for Game 4.



“It’s all combinations I’ve tried before, so it’s not brand-new,” the coach said.

That’s especially true for Oshie rejoining Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, which as recently as two years ago was Washington’s go-to top line. When skating together this regular season, that trio created 15 goals while allowing just 10.

Oshie isn’t expecting hat tricks now that he’s bumped up, but he is looking forward to skating with Ovechkin and Backstrom again.

“I haven’t been up to my own personal standard and obviously playing with two world-class players like that, shouldn’t be too hard to find a way to have success with those guys. I gotta do my part on that line, get in, create havoc, create some space for them, get on the forecheck and get to the net. That should bring a little success for us.”

If the Capitals want to stay ahead in the series, they’ll need more than just the big names to get hot. During last year’s Stanley Cup run, 18 different players scored at least one goal. Against Carolina so far, depth scoring has been nonexistent — their only 5-on-5 goals in Games 1 and 2 were scored by Backstrom, Oshie, Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik.

“Our first top lines have been really good and like you said, we need something from the bottom two too,” Burakovsky said. “We’ve had that in the past in last year’s playoff and hopefully we can pick that up tomorrow.”

But the biggest concern out of Game 3 was the blue line. Braden Holtby saved 40 shots and still let in five, as the Hurricanes have forechecked aggressively and controlled the puck more throughout the series.

Carolina’s first goal Monday was only made possible by Djoos handing the puck to a Hurricane forward in front of Holtby’s net. Though it’s partly due to the amount of special teams this series has required, which the 24-year-old Swede doesn’t play, Djoos only averaged 7:24 on ice per game this series, an absurdly small number for a defenseman.

Though Djoos is no playoff newbie and was a mainstay in the third pairing last postseason, he has been demoted for now and Siegenthaler will make his playoff debut. He played 24 games in 2018-19 while Djoos and Orpik battled injuries.

“(Siegenthaler’s) a young defenseman that’s got size and really good stick detail,” Reirden said. “Understands the game. He has poise out there in heated situations. Obviously he hasn’t played playoff hockey before, but he’s a guy with that added size that can I’d say make plays under pressure and take a hit to make a play, and fend off players a little bit easier.”

Will the unfriendly environment of PNC Arena get to Siegenthaler the way it affected the Capitals as a whole Monday? The Hurricanes are playing their first playoff series in 10 years and their fans came out in full force for Game 3.

Lineup changes only do so much, and the core of the team that won the 2018 Stanley Cup is still in place. For the players who did the dirty work and powered Washington to a title last June, the time to dig deep again has arrived.

“(In the) playoffs, you kind of make adjustments,” Oshie said. “There’s pushbacks from both teams, depending on how the last game went or even the last period went. They won the Game 3 pushback. Game 4, momentum’s on their side. We gotta find a way to get the momentum back on our side.”

 

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