Photo credit: Rob Carr
Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates has been searching for five-on-five production all season. While Alex Ovechkin has thrived, other members of top six have been less consistent. After the first period on Tuesday, Oates had a new iteration for the first two lines: Eric Fehr-Nicklas Backstrom-Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich-Mikahil Grabovksi-Alex Ovechkin.
“We haven’t scored a lot of goals the last couple games and he’s looking for a spark,” Laich told me of Oates’s change. “Our line had a couple of good chances.”
Fehr, particularly, was a monster offensively. He had several close scoring chances, including two great opportunities in overtime that almost won the game for Washington. Fehrsie finished with four shots on goal.
Continuing the theme, Ovechkin scored a fantastic shot from the far circle while Grabovski, who also had four shots, was hauled down on a premium opportunity in front, late in regulation.
“We were unhappy about our last game against Buffalo, so we played better tonight,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “Better puck movement, better puck possession, we moved the puck well. That’s what I think is the difference.”
“We know we aren’t going to score on every shift out there, but we are doing the right thing and hopefully it will bounce with us next game,” he added.
While the Caps failed to convert save for Ovechkin’s tally, they played tight with one of the best teams in league in a 2-1 shootout loss. Washington hasn’t been a good puck possession squad this year, but, as Backstrom noted, those number were right up there with the Sharks on Tuesday. The Caps owe much of that to their new forward combinations.
Oates said he made the change to get better matchups with the Sharks, but he likes the way the team responded to the move.
“There’s chances in the game,” Oates said. “We gotta play the same way. You gotta understand there’s nights where the other team’s got a good goalie, a good hockey team.”