Monday, January 18, 2016

The hockey IQ of Justin Williams

The player dubbed “Mr. Game 7” for his Stanley Cup championship playoff heroics, although it is a moniker he prefers to shrug off, is one smart hockey player. The hockey IQ of Justin Williams makes him the type of player that the Caps needed to add to their lineup at the end of last season. T.J. Oshie and Williams added critical veteran leadership and hard-working players to this team and helped to amplify the culture Coach Barry Trotz set out to build.

Williams’s 15G-16A-31P and +14 stats in his 43 games has him on pace for a year he has not seen since his 59 points in 2011-2012 with the Los Angeles Kings. Williams seems stoked to play on this team. His leadership has to be a huge help to Trotz, too. What better person for the players who have not played in the Stanley Cup finals to listen to on the bench.

Two years ago in the playoffs skating for the Stanley Cup champions Los Angeles Kings, Williams’s 9G-16A-25P and +13 helped that team win. His 7 points in the finals earned him the Conn Smythe trophy. The Caps can only hope for a similar experience during a playoff run that hopefully lasts longer than one series.

Williams’s contribution to the Caps this year includes lots of smart plays like dishing the puck ahead of three players against the New York Rangers and getting his own rebounds. Like making an impact regardless of his line mates, Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson, or Chimera and Evgeny Kuznetsoz. Williams assists and scores with all of them.

His hat trick and first star performance on Sunday versus the New York Rangers included a little luck and an empty net, but Williams makes his own luck, too. He is constantly involved in the play, stirs up trouble, makes great plays and gets great cycle games going with Johansson and Kuznetsov. He likes playing against the Rangers, too, since he had a 2G-1A-3P night against them for another first star performance on December 20, 2015. Williams is a key cog in the wheel of the Caps playoff hopes.

Let’s go Caps!

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