Tonight when the Washington Capitals hit the ice to take on the Carolina Hurricanes for Game Five of the First Round of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals will be doing so without the services of forward TJ Oshie who was injured the other night in Game Four in Carolina by forward Warren Foegele.
Now we can debate the hit that Foegele put on Oshie that caused the injury, but there is no point of doing that because what’s done is done and it’s time to move on and look forward to what the Capitals will need to do without their heart and soul player.
Going into Game Five the Capitals will have to do some line juggling, and have also called up Devante Smith-Pelly from Hershey of the AHL to fill in for Oshie. Here is the Capitals projected lineup for tonight:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Carl Hagelin
Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson – Nic Dowd – Devante Smith-Pelly
Jonas Siegenthaler – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik – Nick Jensen
The reuniting of Tom Wilson with the first line of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will bring back some of the size and snarl that Wilson brings to the line after being on the second line in game four, and moving Carl Hagelin to Oshie’s normal spot on the second line will add some more speed to the line to compliment Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana. Plus with Hagelin, the second line will gain a player who will play a similar style to that of Oshie’s and will help establish net presence and create some space.
For the bottom six however, the Capitals will need more from them. The line of Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, and Brett Connolly were stellar last season in the playoffs and so far in these playoffs have not done a whole lot to help the Capitals this series. Inserting Smith-Pelly back into the lineup on the fourth line with Chandler Stephenson and Nic Dowd will bring back some grit and some needed playoff experience.
On the powerplay it’s time to let Wilson loose and put him in Oshie’s spot. Wilson is a magnet for attention and by putting him in Oshie’s spot in the slot area will force the Hurricanes and other teams to change their focus on how they will penalty kill to adjust for Wilson being in that spot instead of Oshie.
Now with all of this said, there is one thing that needs to be done by the Capitals, and that’s not seek retribution by going after Foegele, but seek retribution by going out and winning thes next two games and winning the series. Next season Foegele can atone for his hit on Oshie that took him out of the playoffs due to injury, but the Capitals need to remain focused on the prize at hand, and that is the Stanley Cup and doing what Oshie said they could do last summer at the parade, and that is “Back to Back.”
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*Feature Graphic courtesy of the Washington Capitals