Washington Capitals That Have the Best on-Ice Chemistry
Like virtually every other National Hockey League team, the Washington Capitals' ability to win games relies heavily upon the players' ability to operate as a cohesive unit on the ice.
In recent years, the Caps have struggled at times to find suitable linemates for Alex Ovechkin, and that issue has been a consistent thorn in the team's side.
But last season, Ovechkin rediscovered his past chemistry with Nicklas Backstrom, in addition to speedy Swede Marcus Johansson, and Washington built up enough momentum to save its season.
Heading into a pivotal campaign in which the Caps will go to battle in a very tough Metropolitan Division, Adam Oates' squad will need its pairings and trios that have demonstrated elite chemistry to be at their best.
Here's a look at the Capitals that have the best on-ice chemistry.
John Carlson and Karl Alzner
For the past three seasons, Karl Alzner and John Carlson have appeared to be the Capitals' most reliable defensive pairing for the present and foreseeable future.
In Calrson, the Capitals have a big, mobile defenseman who is extremely gifted offensively. And not surprisingly, he's proven to be is a nice complement to the defensively-minded Alzner.
Alzner's development as an elite shutdown rearguard has been gradual, yet undeniable. That notion was confirmed by Alzner being invited to Canada's Olympic camp, that experience should only give the 24-year-old more incentive to show up ready to play in October.
Yes, Alzner's been paired frequently with Mike Green over the last nine months, but in an ideal world Oates would find another stay-at-homer to play alongside the All-Star defender.
Carlson and Alzner have grown as NHL players together, so it's only fitting that they continue their development alongside each other.
Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green
As two of the key members of the Capitals league-best power play unit last season, Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin once again found chemistry from exterior shooting and passing lanes, and that development was integral in the power play's continued success.
Though Ovechkin's comeback campaign grabbed the majority of the headlines, Green quietly had a bounce-back year of his own, shaking off some early struggles to lead all defenders in goals, despite missing 13 of the team's 48 games.
A lot of the reason both found more quality opportunities to score was both players' ability to move the puck around up top with the extra man. Along with Mike Ribeiro, Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer, the unit managed to generate enough movement to create opportunities down low.
But when they couldn't get the pretty one-timer going from in the slot, Ovechkin and Green each demonstrated their respective abilities to burn goaltenders from the outside, and hopefully that continues this season.
Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault and Joel Ward
In Game 1 of the Caps Round 1 clash with the New York Rangers, the defining moment of the contest came when Jason Chimera's seemingly harmless shot from the boards fooled Henrik Lundqvist, giving Washington an ultimately insurmountable 3-1 lead.
Though it was a decidedly lucky goal, the opportunity was created by hard work down low by Mathieu Perreault and Joel Ward, who pressured the Rangers defense into turning the puck over.
Over the course of the final two months of the regular season, the trio combined to form a formidable third line, one that featured a degree of skill in Perreault, blazing speed from Chimera and an all-around competitor in Ward.
Will this line remain as the Caps No. 3 forward unit in 2013-14? Probably not, but that's only because with Brooks Laich, Martin Erat, Mikhail Grabovski, Eric Fehr and potentially Tom Wilson in the fold, these three may be shifted down a line.
But if that is the case, Chimera, Perreault and Ward would be a nice combination, at least on paper, as an energy line.
Troy Brouwer and Nicklas Backstrom
At the end of the 2013 season, this slide would've featured Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer because Brouwer enjoyed a breakout year offensively playing alongside the gifted passer.
But with Ribeiro in Phoenix and nothing to judge his chemistry with the recently-added Grabovski, we'll go with the next best thing: Nicklas Backstrom.
Last season, Brouwer's most frequent linemate was Ribeiro, but he did skate more than 42 percent of his shifts alongside Backstrom.
And what makes their chemistry even more unique is that the pair routinely team up to form the Caps' top penalty killing unit, and also skate alongside each other on the power play.
Though Brouwer is more likely to skate alongside Grabovski and Martin Erat this year, he'll probably take up residence in the slot on the Caps' top power play unit, which is a spot he found success from in 2013.
Most of the time, Backstrom is stationed down low on the half-boards on the power play, so Brouwer's location in the low slot gives the slick Swede an insurance plan if the one-time feeds to Green and Ovechkin are unavailable.
Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson
So, to recap: Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson were all well on their way to a very disappointing 2013 season, until the trio suddenly combined forces to take the rest of the NHL by storm.
For Ovechkin and Backstrom, this was ultimately to be expected, as Ovechkin hit the 50-goal plateau three times with the Swedish pivot skating beside him. Though the pair had been reunited on occasion over the last two seasons, they've spent a great deal of time apart.
But for whatever reason, during the second half of the season, Ovechkin and Backstrom began to click once again. The addition of the speedy Johansson to the line only made life more difficult for opposing defenses.
With Johansson capable of leading the rush, he became an additional outlet target for Backstrom on the breakout, and when he did carry it into the offensive zone, the younger Swede had a penchant for finding Ovechkin on drop-passes near the tops of the circles.
Though the trio didn't enjoy a great deal of success during the postseason, the magic that they found together during the later stages of the 2013 season is enough to guarantee that they'll begin the 2013-14 campaign as the team's No. 1 line.