LW C RW
Alex Ovechkin Nicklas Backstrom Mike Knuble
Brooks Laich Marcus Johansson Alex Semin
Joel Ward Jeff Halpern Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera Mattias Sjogren Matt Hendricks
Mike Green Roman Hamrlik
John Carlson Karl Alzner
Jeff Schultz Dennis Wideman
I think Jay Beagle and Erskine round out the scratches. While some people might envision things a little different this is how I see the Caps starting out the year.
First Line: Ovi, Backstrom, Knuble.
I think this top line for the pass two years stays intact because of the familiarity. Keeping this line together will provide offense to start the season until other players find their role and learn the system.
Second Line: Laich, Johansson, Semin
This comes down to talent and money. To me if you are paying Laich like a 2nd line center he has to at the least play wing on the 2nd line. Semin is a world class talent when he's on. Finally I think Johansson really matured towards the end of last season. Johansson's speed and ability to handle the puck should allow this line to really contribute.
Third Line: Ward, Halpern, Brouwer
Lots of people see Halpern as a fourth line center and I think that will eventually happen once Sjogren (or Eakin) really step it up and learn the style and speed of the NHL. However I think Halpern with these two wingers provides grit, defense and physicality.
Fourth Line: Chimera, Sjogren, Hendricks
When did you ever see our fourth line contribute goals last year. It didn't happen. I think Chimera paired with either Sjorgren or Eakin's speed will cause a lot of havok from a 4th line. As I said above I see Halpern sliding back to this role if either young guy can make the next step.
Carlson and Alzner together is a very easy decision. They logged big minutes against top talent. I thought for a while on the other two pairs and decided that Hamrlik was brought in for a reason. That being to give Green a complement combo Dman that can both play D and chip in offense. And that is what Green has become a overall solid D man. I think Schultz will rebound after a terrible year. The mono over the off season seemed to slow him down and leave him weak which (for a guy can struggle with both) caused him to struggle. He will provide stay at home D while Wideman can jump into the rush.
Sjogren vs Eakin:
The reason I went Sjogren over Eakin was for two reasons. First Eakin really struggled at the development camp. I think the incredible about of hockey over the last year has taken its toll on him. I think he will still be run down at camp and not be able to show off the speed and skill that almost got him a spot last year. The other reason for picking Sjogren is simply that he came to the Caps over several other teams. Its possible that his friendship, Johansson, and respect for Backstrom caused him to pick the Caps. However a more likely situation is the Caps told him they would give him every chance to make the team. With a tired Eakin being his competition he will be successful in making the team.