A healthy 2nd line has made the Caps contenders again

EDMONTON, AB - MARCH 9: in the second period during the Edmonton Oilers game versus the Washington Capitals on March 9, 2022 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, AB. (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Capitals have weathered the injury storm and are looking more like the team from November than the team in January. The return of key forwards is helping Washington save their season.

Throughout the season, the common theme for the Capitals has been injuries. Washington has struggled to dress a healthy lineup and that has hampered their ability to compete in a revitalized Metropolitan Division.

Despite a strong start to the season, the Caps find themselves clinging to a Wild Card position and the odds of continuing their dominance of the Metro are slim at best. But a recent string of strong performances have brought renewed faith to Caps fans

After a rough January and February that saw a six-game home losing streak, which feels unheard of for Capital One Arena, Washington has points in four straight games. This includes wins over top NHL teams like the Carolina Hurricanes and the Calgary Flames.

This is the first such streak for the Caps since November, and it could be a sign that the team is clicking at last.

This is all because of the 2nd line finally being healthy. For the first time all season, Wahsington’s projected 2nd line (Anthony Mantha, Nick Backstrom, T.J. Oshie) is 100% ready to play.

Backstrom missed the first 28 games of the season to repair a hip injury. By the time he returned, the Caps had already lost Mantha to shoulder surgery. During all of this, Oshie was on and off the ice thanks to an upper body injury.

The presence of Mantha gives the team a reliable top-6 winger. Remember how much Brian LacLellan traded away to acquire Mantha. His absence was felt and his return is making an impact.

This has allowed a better balance in ice time for the rest of the lineup while also rejuvenating a dismal power play. Having Oshie back in the center of the Caps umbrella setup has created a spark for the power play unit.

During this point streak, Washington’s power play is converting on 33.3% of opportunities. For a unit that has been in the bottom third of the league all season, this is a welcome sight.

While Backstrom’s scoring numbers aren’t on par with what we are used to, he has registered six points in his last six games, including reaching the 1,000 career point milestone.

With the trade deadline approaching, the Caps next three games are against teams currently on the outside of the playoff picture. Previously, I said that their situation following last week’s Carolina tilt would determine whether they are aggressive at the deadline or not.

The Capitals are now healthier and stronger than they’ve been all season and these last four games have reflected this. A strong showing against these weaker teams could catapult Washington into a Metro Division seed and could change MacLellan’s stance on not making a big deadline splash. 

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