This week, the Capitals’ bottom-six lines have become a strong offensive weapon. In a typical game, Washington’s bottom six consists of some combination of Anthony Mantha, Connor McMichael, Aliaksei Protas, Beck Malenstyn, Hendrix Lapierre, Matthew Phillips, Nic Dowd, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, none of whom have been offensively strong for the team previously. But, as of late, these lines have been surprising Capitals fans by finding the net more often, and hopefully, this trend will continue.
Connor McMichael, the 22-year-old forward, has become a regular in the Capitals’ lineup this season after previously playing for the Hershey Bears. Last season, McMichael produced 39 points in 57 games played with the Bears during the regular season. In the team’s Calder Cup run, McMichael was also an offensive weapon, scoring 10 points in 20 playoff games, 6 of those being goals. With the Capitals so far this season, the forward has produced 3 goals and 2 assists. His most recent goal was a shorthanded bullet against the Florida Panthers on November 8th. Though Washington lost to Florida that day, Connor McMichael tied the game and contributed to a close 4-3 loss.
Anthony Mantha is, arguably, one of the weaker forwards in the Capitals regular lineup. Since being acquired by Washington during the 2020-2021 season, Mantha has tallied just 62 points. However, he also showed up offensively in the recent game against the Panthers, creating a multi-goal game for himself. Mantha had only one goal on the season going into Wednesday’s game, so this performance was incredibly impressive. Unfortunately, Mantha was unable to continue his scoring streak, as he left the game in the third period after taking a rogue puck to the face. While the injury was bloody, the outcome appeared less grave than John Carlson’s similar injury last season. Mantha was seen walking out of the team doctor’s office on his own. He will miss a handful of games, however, and was placed on IR. Washington fans are hopeful that Anthony Mantha’s eventual return will continue to bring out the best in him offensively.
Following Mantha’s injury, forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel was recalled from the Hershey Bears. Aube-Kubel spent 47 games with the team in the 2022-2023 season but found the net only 4 times. His first goal this season came as the Capitals faced the New Jersey Devils on November 10th. Given the chance, Aube-Kubel could develop into an offensive weapon, but he may need some more time in Hershey for development, as his career statistics are not incredibly strong.
Beck Malenstyn spent most of his time in the 2022-2023 season with the Hershey Bears but has become a regular player in the Capitals’ bottom six lines recently. Like Aube-Kubel, Malenstyn also scored his first goal of the season in Washington’s 4-2 win against the Devils. Hopefully, this goal was a catalyst for the forward to begin to produce offensively more often. He had only 18 points last season in Hershey between the regular season and playoffs.
With continued ice time and development, the Washington Capitals’ bottom six forwards could become serious offensive weapons, helping the Capitals to become a more well-rounded and balanced team. As the season progresses, we should see more of these players finding the net, hopefully again and again.