December 21, 2011
WASHINGTON, DC - On Tuesday night, the Washington Capitals experienced something they had yet to experience during their stumbling season: Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Nicklas Backstrom all scoring points in the same game, in a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators. In fact, they haven't scored in the same game since Oct. 2010.
Maybe it was the emotional juice from Mike Knuble's 1,000th game ceremony — dude got a jet ski — that kick-started the Capitals stars. Or, perhaps, coach Dale Hunter has finally fixed the offensive malfunction for both Ovechkin and Backstrom this season by breaking up the previously productive tandem.
Ovechkin looked like Ovechkin, if but for a night: Throwing the body, scoring a goal on the rush into the offensive zone, being "one of the most dangerous players in the world" as Barry Trotz called him. He skated with Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer, and had seven shots on goal (in a un-Ovechkin-ish 15:05).
Backstrom was equally engaged: Skating 20:31 with Marcus Johansson and Semin, by far the best line in the game. He had a goal and an assist; Johnasson had two helpers; Semin had an Alex Semin Hat Trick: a minor penalty, a bad turnover the led to a Nashville goal and a nasty snipe to get it back for the Capitals.
"We have the same style. We should find each other out there," said Backstrom. "Semin, I've played with before. It shouldn't be too much adjusting."
Johansson said Backstrom's easy to play with, and was impressed with the instant chemistry of the trio. "All of us have some hockey sense, which made it a little bit easier."
Backstrom said the challenge for the line was bigger in the offensive end than the defensive end. "Developing chemistry, knowing where you're going. On defense, you should know where you're going," he said.
If the Capitals ever get their crap figured out this season, it could be with Ovechkin and Backstrom playing on different lines. Rather, it should be: Splitting them up gives the Capitals offensive depth they've lacked this season.
Splitting them up could get them both going offensively at their expected clip: The chemistry's been off for Backstrom and Ovechkin this season, for whatever reason. They looked like different players last night, playing on different lines. Perhaps they just need some space …