Washington Capitals: Not resting core team will be problematic in playoffs

Believe it or not, the Washington Capitals 2021 regular season comes to an end tonight. It seems like yesterday we were previewing the season opener or giving you our bold predictions. Now the season has flown by and the Caps have gone through a lot in their first year under head coach Peter Laviolette.

Recently, the injury bug has taken a big bite out of the Caps lineup with many regulars missing almost two weeks worth of game action. With nothing to play for tonight and the playoff seeding and matchups already set, the Caps would be smart in resting their starters.

The Caps had an optional morning skate today at MedStar Capitals Iceplex so we couldn’t quite get a read on what the lines could look like tonight. But there are some notes from morning skate.

Alex Ovechkin, who’s battling a lower body injury, was on the ice for the optional skate. He will be a game time decision. John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom also participated in the morning skate. T.J. Oshie did not. Meanwhile, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ilya Samsonov are still on the COVID protocol list.

Although Vitek Vanecek didn’t participate he will still get the start in goal tonight. With lots of questions surrounding Samsonov, Laviolette might have no choice but to start Vanecek in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Saturday night, ironically against the Boston Bruins.

Backstrom told the media that he was good to go tonight after missing Saturday’s game. Carlson and Oshie will not be playing. The Caps also made two roster moves. After making his NHL debut on Saturday, Garrett Pilon was sent to the taxi squad while the team recalled forward Philippe Maillet.

Since we don’t have morning skate lines let’s go with the lines that were skating on Monday’s practice to get a general idea of what the lineup could look like. Via Samantha Pell of The Washington Post:

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Mantha
Sheary-Eller-Raffl
Sprong-Maillet-Wilson
Hagelin-Dowd-Hathaway
Carr
Orlov-Schultz
Dillon-TvR
Chara-Jensen
Fehervary-Carlson

The Bruins will be resting 16 regulars in their lineup. Tonight’s game could very well be an AHL matchup between the Providence Bruins and Hershey Bears. While we don’t know the status of Ovechkin, even if he does play, playing him for just 5-10 minutes would be best so the great eight can rest up for the playoffs.

The Caps will also have some time off between Tuesday and Saturday to get some recovery in time for Game 1. If Laviolette’s smart this game will be all about the future faces.