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The Short King Rules All: On Conor Sheary’s Hot Start

NHL: Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Since joining the Caps two seasons ago, Conor Sheary has established himself as the type of player who can fill numerous roles, from skating alongside the team’s high-flying stars to boosting the fourth line and killing penalties. His ability to fit in wherever needed is something that is likely going to be even more important this season, with some of the team’s big names on the shelf indefinitely - and so far, he’s risen to the challenge.

Through four games, Sheary already has three goals to his credit - and while it’s not that unusual to see more unlikely heroes atop the goal-scoring leaderboard this early in the season, the fact that he’s up there right now (both on the team’s leaderboard and the NHL as a whole) is a testament to the kind of game that he’s played so far.

Not only has he scored three goals of his own, but he’s also been on the ice for another three scored by his teammates. Only John Carlson has been on the ice for more Caps’ goals with seven, and Sheary is tied with Ovechkin for second-most in that department - despite the fact that Sheary has almost 30 fewer minutes of ice time than Ovechkin (45 fewer than Carlson) and virtually no power-play time, and has one of the team’s lowest offensive-zone start rates, with just 23.5% of his shifts beginning in the offensive zone.

Interestingly, he hasn’t picked up an assist yet - but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been instrumental in helping his teammates score. Last night was the perfect example, as he was a key part of the team’s comeback and eventual win.

When Carlson picked the top right corner of the net with his shot to tie up last night’s game in the third period, it was Sheary who was parked right in the crease, causing chaos:

And when the Caps got the nail-in-the-coffin goal from the captain late in the third, who skated in front of the goalie right before Ovechkin’s shot? Yup:

Of course, it was Sheary himself who scored the go-ahead goal and eventual game-winner, once again driving the net and putting himself in the perfect position to capitalize on an Ovechkin feed:

That Sheary was even on the ice for those big moments shows the trust the coaching staff has in his ability to play anywhere in the lineup. After Connor Brown left the game early in the third with an apparent injury, it was Sheary who was often double-shifted to fill in on the top line - just another way that his versatility has been incredibly important for the Caps in the early days of 2022-23.