The Washington Capitals are difficult enough to beat when just their top line, led by Alex Ovechkin, is filling the net.
As the Capitals continue their West Coast road swing against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, they are enjoying a lesser line’s recent prowess.
Depth forward Garnet Hathaway has scored five goals in the past four games, including both markers Wednesday a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings that has the Capitals on a 5-0-1 run.
“I thought Hath was playing well, and you always get judged by goals, it seems,” coach Peter Laviolette said of the gritty winger who has notched the game-winning goal in the last two victories. “Especially in the role that he plays, that’s not the factor that determines it for me, so I thought he was playing good hockey, but with the amount of offense that is out of the lineup right now, to have him contributing the way he is, is really important. …
“It’s nice to see him get rewarded.”
The Capitals are without a litany of offensive forwards — Nicklas Backstrom, Anthony Mantha, T.J. Oshie, Nic Dowd and Lars Eller — but may have a couple of them back very soon. Oshie and Dowd practiced fully on Friday and are “possibilities” to play, according to Laviolette.
Being without so many offensively talented players has given the Capitals more impetus to play a complete game, as witnessed in the Los Angeles victory.
“A team win,” said Washington goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who earned the shutout with a 34-save outing. “We played with a lot of heart. A lot of blocked shots, and everybody helped me. … I think I need to play like that every night.”
The Sharks return home after taking a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday to end a five-game road trip. They have lost three of four games and collected only two victories in their last seven outings.
The Thursday score flattered San Jose, as it could have been even more one-sided had it not been for the 44-save performance by goaltender James Reimer.
“There were high-percentage shots … in the slot a lot of times for them throughout the game,” Sharks defenseman Jacob Middleton said. “(Reimer) made great saves. There’s nothing we can do but pat him on the back. We’ve got to be better in front of him.”
Better from the drop of the puck, which the coaching staff will emphasize before facing the Capitals.
“Who knows what the start is going to be like against Washington, but we’ve got to try and stick to our identity for 60 minutes,” San Jose coach Bob Boughner said. “There’s going to be peaks and valleys of the game. It’s just a matter of getting back to your foundation, and I think we got away from it.”
Amidst the team’s struggles, the Sharks do have a strong positive in the play of forward Timo Meier. He has registered points in 10 of 11 games in the best start of a season in his career — despite it being interrupted by a COVID-19 battle that sidelined him for five games. The 25-year-old leads the Sharks with 15 points.
“Timo’s come back and has tried to take on more of a leadership role in the dressing room,” Boughner said. “He’s a lot more vocal, he’s taken young guys under his wing, and he looks like he’s having a lot more fun.”
–Field Level Media