It's time for another installment of Three for Three! For Games 7, 8, and 9 we decided to focus on Matt Hendricks, John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom. Last night's trip to Carolina netted a combined three goals and a +4 rating for the three... clearly we chose well!
Hendricks - Who is this guy?
He's a hard working, hard hitting, 'little things' guy, that's who. Whichever line he plays with is the line that gets the puck deep and works the cycle well in the corners. After a below average game against the Bruins (in the box for the first PP goal given up on the season, on the ice for the next 2) and an uneventful contest versus Atlanta, Hendricks' was all over the place, both on the ice and on the scoresheet, against Carolina. He looks to have decent hands and good puck control, but it's his work along the boards that is the reason he made this team.
For the majority of the season, Matt has see ice time totals in the 8-12 minute range consistent of third and fourth line players. But against Carolina, Hendricks picked up over 16 minutes of ice time and picked up his first goal as a Cap (on a nifty seat-of-the-pants pass by David Steckel) that ended up being the game-winner. It was one of those 'follow the shot' goals that shows if Hendricks continues doing the little things, he'll fulfill his role on the team and have a successful season.
Carlson - With Mike green hurting, can Captain America continue to provide offense from the point (while learning defense in the NHL)?
John Carlson started the season red-hot, with 6 points in his first 6 games. In his past 3 games, Carlson has no points but has been on the ice for 5 of the Caps 8 goals scored over that span. On the flip side, he's also been on the ice for 3 of the 7 goals surrendered by the Caps over those three games.
At this point in the season the trend in Carlson's game is that, quite simply, things happen when he's on the ice. For the season, he's been on the ice for half the Caps' goals scored, and 43% of their goals against; a total of 47% of all goals scored (next highest is Alex Semin at 36%!).
Backstrom - Will Nick and the first line finally start clicking?
The answer is: last night. With linemate Alex Ovechkin riding a 5 game goals scoring drought, questions immediately arise about the chemistry of the line. As these past 3 games have progressed, the passes have gotten crisper, the scoring opportunities have increased and the line looks back on the same page. Backstrom himself has been criticized for what looked to be laziness in the defensive zone (not a usual characteristic of his game) and from his solid play recently, it seems he's taken that criticism to heart.
Those expecting a start like last season (10 points through his first 4 games) will be disappointed, but the Nick's play the last few games has him regaining the look and vision he showed last season. Now if that Ovie guy on his left can start converting some chances...
For games 10-12, we'll be taking a look at John Erskine, Alex Ovechkin and Eric Fehr.