The Caps 3rd and 4th lines must produce or the season is over
Last year, the Caps watched enviously as Tampa Bay Lightening role player Sean Bergenheim scored 4 goals to help lead the Bolts to a sweep of the Caps. Bergenheim’s heroics, coupled with the Caps lack of scoring from their grinder lines, led to moves in the offseason that were intended to give the Caps 3rd and 4th lines more of a scoring punch, especially come playoff time. Jeff Halpern and Joel Ward were signed. A trade was made to bring in Troy Brouwer, with the thought that he’d either play on the 3rd line or push Mike Knuble down the depth chart to strengthen the lower lines. Unfortunately for the Caps, the lack of secondary scoring remains. Here is a look at the Caps production (or lack thereof) from the bottom 2 lines through 3 games against Boston.
Man Games Goals Assists +/- SOG
18 0 0 -9 18
These numbers include the 5 players (Aucoin, Perreault, Ward, Hendricks and Beagle) who have spent all 3 games on the bottom two lines as well as a game each from Brouwer (Game 3), Chimera (Game 2) and Johansson (Game 1). Beagle has 8 of the 18 shots. Perreault and Aucoin, two-thirds of the 4th line, have combined for 1 shot and a -3 rating. How can we blame Joel Ward for not producing when these are his partners? Ward never did and never will carry a line, so he must play with guys who are going to carry their own weight.
Perreault took some good strides this year when playing as our 2C, but the Caps have opted to go with more size on the top lines against the Bruins, leaving Perreault on the 4th line, a role he is ill-suited for. Perreault either needs to be playing on one of the top two lines or be out of the lineup for a player (i.e. Jeff Halpern) who’s skill set is better suited for a checking line role.
Of all of Hunter’s questionable coaching decisions, giving Aucoin a jersey over Knuble, against an opponent like the Bruins, may be the most perplexing. If ever there was a time when we need to #freeknuble, it is Thursday night at Verizon Center. The Capitals (much like any team this time of year) will be hitting the golf course sooner rather than later if they don’t get production from the 3rd and 4th lines. So, Caps fans, who ya got, Knuble or Aucoin? Perreault or Halpern? I’m certainly hoping there are two different faces in the lineup for the Caps come Thursday night.