The playoffs have a way of always exposing a team's weaknesses and the Capitals may have one that no one really anticipated. We knew the Capitals would be in trouble if something happened to Braden Holtby with Ilya Samsonov already out injured. We knew the team had very little depth on the right side of its defense. The one part of the roster that was thought to have a fair amount of depth was on offense, but it was quickly shown in the first-round series against the New York Islanders that this was not the case.
Lars Eller and Nicklas Backstrom are important players for the team. There is no easy way to replace them and the Caps were faced with that prospect in the postseason. Eller returned home to be with his family for the birth of his son and, in his first game back, Backstrom was out after getting knocked out of Game 1 against the Islanders with a concussion.
Travis Boyd, who had spent almost the entire season with the team, was the first choice to plug into the lineup. He even scored in the round robin against the Philadelphia Flyers while in for Eller. But when the games really started to matter, that's when questions began to arise.
In Game 1 of the series, Boyd played 14 minutes. In Game 2, however, he played just 6:38. Yes, there were a fair amount of penalties and Boyd does not play on the penalty kill, but that is hardly any playing time at all, especially for a player on the third line. In Game 3, Boyd was replaced by Brian Pinho. Pinho played the first two games of his NHL career in this postseason in Games 3 and 4. If you did not notice him, that's not a surprise considering he played just 8:11 in Game 3 and a paltry 3:22 in Game 4. That's it.
If you're only going to play a player 3:22, you might as well not dress him at all.
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There were no injury issues for Boyd or Pinho, at least none that were disclosed. Neither appeared to be benched due to some obvious mistake or poor play and even their underlying stats do not paint a picture of players who were overmatched. But when it mattered, Todd Reirden did not seem to trust either player.
Neither player can replace what Backstrom brings which is why Backstrom is one of the most important players on the team, but he is only one player. The loss of one player essentially rendered the team shorthanded with Reirden significantly restricting the minutes of Boyd and Pinho.
What would have happened if another forward had gone down? You have to have enough trust in the depth players to play them when needed. Otherwise, you don't really have trust in them at all.
Boyd had 10 points in 24 games this season and was dependable as a plug-in player. Heck, he even beat out Chandler Stephenson for a spot on the roster leading to Stephenson getting traded to the Vegas Golden Knights. For some reason, however, Reirden was not impressed with him come the playoffs. Was the issue Boyd or mismanagement of the lineup? Considering that Boyd's contract is up and he will be a restricted free agent, that is a question Brian MacLellan will have to answer in the offseason.
A number of playoff seasons and late draft picks means the Caps do not have a stable of high-end prospects to draw from at the drop of a hat. Losing one center very quickly into the postseason all of the sudden crippled the team's third line. Maybe the prospects will develop more by next season to the point there are more options or perhaps the answer is a depth free agent signing. Either way, the total lack of depth on offense the team displayed in the 2020 postseason is something MacLellan will have to address.
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The Caps may not have as much offensive depth as we thought originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington