The second round matchup between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins looked like it was going to be an offense-heavy matchup. Four games into the series, however, it's the lack of offense that has become the story.
For the series, Washington has scored only nine goals, fewer than three per game. It's easy to immediately point the finger at Alex Ovechkin who has only one goal and two assists against Pittsburgh, but Ovechkin's line has been given the unenviable task of shutting down the Penguins' top unit. So far so good as Sidney Crosby has only one assist in the series.
Really, when talking about the Capitals' offensive struggles, the problem in this series has been secondary scoring.
"You look at the production through the playoffs, we haven't had a lot out of certain guys," Trotz said. "We just need it. We're playing a team that gets production from all four lines, we cannot afford to not have production from any lines to have a chance to win the series."
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It's not hard to figure out who Trotz could be talking about.
The Caps have only gotten three total points in the postseason from young offensive stars Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky. Veteran leaders Justin Williams and Mike Richards are struggling as well. Williams has four points, but his contributions have been largely negated by the six penalties he has taken. Richards, meanwhile, has zero points.
Washington's vaunted power play has also grown silent, with only one goal in 12 attempts. When asked about it after Game 4, Trotz said, "We're a hair off right now."
The team's lack of offensive production also comes at a time when they are facing a future star in net in Matt Murray.
An upper-body injury kept the rookie netminder out of the lineup until Game 3 of Pittsburgh's first round series, but he hast started ever since going 6-1 with a 1.81 GAA and .944 save percentage.
But the opportunities to beat him have been there.
Murray has given up a lot of big rebounds throughout the series, but there's been no one there up close in the crease to collect from the Caps. When teams are struggling to get the pretty goals, that's when it's time to go after the ugly ones.
When asked if he was satisfied with the amount of pressure his team was getting on Murray, Trotz said, "No because we haven't got enough goals by him. He's a good goaltender. He's playing really well. What he's doing is making some keys saves at key times. I thought he did that obviously in Game 3, he was really good and I thought he was really good in Game 2 in that third period when we had it really coming on. He made some key saves. We've got to get by that and move forward."
The problem Trotz now finds himself in is a matchup one. By going top line vs. top line, the Caps have effectively shut down Crosby's line. If Trotz tries to move away form that matchup to get his own top line more opportunities, will that allow Pittsburgh's top line more opportunities as well?
If the team can't get any production from the other three lines, it's a choice Trotz may have to make.
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