Top Line V: Jakub Vrana is Poised to have a Scoring Breakout

MEDSTAR CAPITALS ICEPLEX – Remember that one time when Tom Wilson was suspended for three playoff games in the second round against the Penguins? This led to then-head coach Barry Trotz having to push some buttons for the right guy along the right wing spot. In a pivotal Game 5, Jakub Vrana got his turn on the top line alongside the budding superstars of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Entering a third period with everything but the season on the line, Vrana scored and also added two assists. His goal, by far, was the biggest at the time. 

Last season was a roller coaster for the young stud. There were some points in the season where he was demoted down a line or scratched from the lineup due to a scoring slump. That goal above as well as the following goal below that helped clinch the Caps first Stanley Cup were two mega confidence boosters heading into summer.

Fast forward to this season. Once again the Caps had to adjust to life without Tom Wilson, this time for a quarter of the season as he is currently serving his 20-game suspension despite a failed appeal attempt. The Caps began the season with Brett Connolly on the top line in the Wilson spot. Then it was Devante Smith-Pelly’s turn.
Finally, Chandler Stephenson was the next man up before Vrana got his turn prior to the Caps game at Calgary on Saturday afternoon.

Vrana entered that game with two goals on the season. He scored his first in the second game of the year at Pittsburgh and then again in the Capitals’ home game against the Panthers on Oct. 19. On Saturday afternoon, he helped finish off a great steal and pass by Kuznetsov.

Vrana was also one of the big stars during Wednesday’s practice. There was a slight scare in the beginning…

Vrana dished out some passes in the full rink work.

Now time for some FiCP exclusives. These are the ones you didn’t get to see on Twitter. The Caps did some five-on-fives and some full rink work. Then the forwards did some extra work involving the world famous tire. The tire is a tool the Caps use to get some air under their passes.

In addition, they worked on their top shelf shot. They did this by putting a net upside down inside a net with a small gap where you’re targeting getting the puck in. This is harder than it looks.

You really didn’t think we’d get away without a video of Vrana’s smile to brighten your day, did you?

After practice, Vrana was the last forward left. He knows how big this opportunity is to boost his scoring numbers alongside two superstars. More importantly, he wants to help the Caps win some important games in November beginning in Montreal on Thursday night. The days of being a starstruck rookie are over. It’s great to have someone on the Caps have a “last man to leave” mentality. It was that hard work that won them a Stanley Cup and it’s what it will take to do it again.

Practice lines:

Forwards

Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Vrana

Burakovsky-Backstrom-Oshie

Stephenson-Eller-Connolly

Jaskin-Dowd-DSP

Defense

Orlov-Niskanen

Kempny-Carlson

Djoos-Bowey

Other practice notes: 

  • Tavis Boyd, who began the season placed on long-term injured reserve with a lower-body injury from blocking a shot in the Caps preseason game in St. Louis on September 25, has been cleared to play. Head coach Todd Reirden’s plan is to send him to Hershey to play in the Bears games on Friday and Saturday before rejoining the Caps.
  • Brooks Orpik wasn’t on the ice. Reirden noted that he won’t fly with the team to Montreal later today and is listed day-to-day with a lower body injury.

Caps facts:

  • The Caps are one of three teams in the NHL that have four players (Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom) with at least four multi-point games. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins are the other two.
  • Kuznetsov, Carlson, and Ovechkin each have five multi-point games this season while Backstrom has four.

Happy Halloween Caps fans! Look at this guy

 

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