Sometimes the game of hockey gets over-complicated. In an effort to add secondary scoring, you can destroy what you know already works.
The forward line combinations from Sunday night’s game in Detroit are a great example. I give you Jamie Benn and Radek Faksa from last year (plus is good for offense and bad for defense):
Admittedly, at 131 minutes together, this is not a humongous sample size. There is, however, nothing here that would indicate found gold. It was tried, it failed, and it was tucked away as an idea whose time had not come. At least until Sunday, at which point it was retried and once again failed.
On the other end of the scale, we have what last year was known as the “big three” line: Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov. Per Natural Stat Trick, this trio has spent less the eight minutes together this year at even strength. At this rate, the Dallas Stars’ top line from last year will spend under 220 minutes together at five-on-five.
It is probably time to reunite the big three.
In the meantime, Mattias Janmark and Roope Hintz have combined for two-thirds of the team’s goals and almost half of their points. They have shown chemistry together, and this should come as no surprise if you look at their time together from last year:
Again, its a smallish sample size, but it’s enough to make it an option to explore further. Again, looking at Natural Stat Trick’s line stats, adding Joe Pavelski to the pair creates a dangerous line combination. Interestingly, Mattias Janmark appears to be the major beneficiary of the arrangement. Janmark makes Hintz and Pavelski better, but without them, Janmark’s numbers are replacement level at best.
There are a few other combinations that might be worth looking into. In limited time together, Radek Faksa and Joel L’Esperance have been good. If the Stars want to maintain a third checking line, keeping Andrew Cogliano and Faksa together, with L’Esperance in Blake Comeau’s spot should play similarly.
Sometimes, it’s too easy to go looking for new solutions to problems that you’ve already solved.
Back just in time to face the Stars is Evgeny Kuznetsov, returning from a three-game suspension to start the season. In Kuznetsov’s absence, Lars Eller has been manning the center spot on the second line, which will likely continue on Tuesday night. Paired with Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie, the line is responsible for four of the Capitals’ seven goals on the season.
Washington was already a physical team, and during the offseason, they took steps to add even more size and physicality. Through three games, the Capitals have drawn 11 power plays, while the Stars lead the league in power plays allowed with 14. After taking eight penalties on Sunday night, expect staying out of the box to be a point of emphasis for Dallas.
Defensively, Washington will look a bit different this year. Gone is Matt Niskanen, in is Radko Gudas. They bring size, but are not known for their speed. John Carlson runs their power play and has been one of the league’s top defenders in scoring over the last few years.
Goaltender Braden Holtby returns for his 10th year in net for the Capitals.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jamie Benn (14) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Joel L’Esperance (38)
Nicholas Caamano (17) - Rhett Gardner (49) - Justin Dowling (37)
Esa Lindell (23) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) -John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Taylor Fedun (42)
Ben Bishop (30)
Washington Capitals Lineup
Alex Ovechkin (8) - Nicklas Backstrom (19) - Tom Wilson (43)
Jakub Vrana (13) - Lars Eller (20) - T.J. Oshie (77)
Carl Hagelin (62) - Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) - Richard Panik (14)
Brendan Leipsic (28) - Chandler Stephenson (18) - Garnet Hathaway (21)
Jonas Siegenthaler (34) - John Carlson (74)
Dmitry Orlov (9) - Nick Jensen (3)
Radko Gudas (33) - Tyler Lewington (78)
Braden Holtby (70)
Keys to the Game
Washington has an above average power play and the Stars have been wearing out the penalty box. Special teams haven’t been the reason for any of the loses, but Dallas is missing three regulars on the penalty kill, which was overtaxed against Detroit. The Stars need to play even-strength hockey.
The Capitals will be aggressive and physical. The Stars need to counter-punch and use their speed to attack. If Dallas gets hemmed in by the Capital’s forecheck, it could be a long night.
Did you know?
Washington starting defense contains five right-handed shots.