Washington Capitals: Why Ovechkin and Backstrom Must Be on the Same Line
It seems like it has been forever since Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom each tallied 100 points each in the same season. No two players complemented each other's playing style more than these two guys.
Once Backstrom went down with an injury in 2012, bench boss Dale Hunter decided to split the two apart from one another.
It hardly produced any results. The two guys aren't nearly as efficient without the other on the ice.
Back in the 2008-09 season when Bruce Boudreau was coaching the Capitals, he paired up Ovechkin and Backstrom, who was one of the most efficient duos in the NHL. That year, Ovechkin scored 56 goals and added 54 assists. Backstrom tallied 66 assists that year and added 22 goals of his own.
It was the start of something that brought extreme promise to Capitals fans.
A year later in the 2009-10 campaign, Ovechkin and Backstrom spearheaded a Capitals offense that led the league in nearly every offensive category. Ovechkin scored 50 goals and added 59 assists, while Backstrom scored 33 goals with 68 assists. They combined for 210 points that season, which highly contributed to Washington taking home the President's Trophy.
After similar success in 2010-11, the Capitals' success dropped off tremendously in 2011-12. In fact, it dropped off so much that general manager George McPhee decided to fire head coach Bruce Boudreau.
After bringing in Dale Hunter to replace Boudreau, the Capitals were not the same team. Hunter's primary focus was defense. In doing so, he split the two apart from each other. They saw rare ice time with one another. They pretty much only spent time together on the power play.
If the Capitals want to get back to their high-powered offensive success, they need to be smart and get these two guys playing together on the same line.
They went out and added Mike Ribeiro in the offseason, which will definitely help their case. What they need to do, though, is place Ribeiro on the second line as the center and move Backstrom up to line one.
Here is my breakdown of what the lines should look like once hockey does resume:
Line 1: Alexander Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Troy Brouwer
Line 2: Wojtek Wolski-Mike Ribeiro-Marcus Johansson
Line 3: Matt Hendricks-Brooks Laich-Jason Chimera
Line 4: Joel Ward-Mathieu Perrault-Jay Beagle
Defensive Pairing 1: Karl Alzner-John Carlson
Defensive Pairing 2: Roman Hamrlik-Mike Green
Defensive Pairing 3: Dmitry Orlov-John Erskine
Goalies: Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth
Not too many changes from last year are needed aside from having Ovechkin and Backstrom together: no Alexander Semin, and Wolski and Ribeiro headlining the second line.
This roster has the talent to be successful, but if they want to make a big splash, the Washington Capitals must place Backstrom and Ovechkin on the same line.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com.
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