“I know the price of success: dedication, hard work and an
unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.”
-- Frank Lloyd Wright
Goals, stick-handling prowess, skating wizardry. They get the attention, the highlights on TV, the posts on social media. The grinding in the corners, the work in front of the net, the getting under the skin of opponents, not so much. But that is the world in which fourth liners work, and Garnet Hathaway is a standout in that world, to the extent anyone in that job can stand out.
The 2021-2022 season was a career year for the seven-year veteran and an important element of what might have been the best fourth line in the NHL. Accounting for his role and ice time, he might have been a significant contributor across more statistical categories than any Capital this season.
Fearless’ Take… 14 goals. His previous high was 11 in 2018-2019, and those 14 goals in 76 games were almost equal to the combined total he had over the previous two seasons (15 in 122 games). 26 points. First time he finished a season with at least 20 points, his previous high being 19 in 2018-2019. Plus-19. Best rating of his career, topping the plus-14 he had in 2018-2019. 124 shots. A more than 50 percent improvement over his previous career high (80 in 2019-2020). 13:23. A career high in ice time, more than a minute more than his previous best (12:19 last season). 62 blocked shots. Career best, topping the 46 he had in 2019-2020. 250 credited hits. Another career high, 50 more than he had in 2018-2019. 23 takeaways. Tied a career high set in 2018-2019. Plus-19 goal differential at even strength. Best of his career, almost doubling the plus-10 he had in 2018-2019. Three first goals in games, most of his career. Two empty net goals and three empty net points, most of his career in both categories. And, despite his being something of an agitator, he did all this within the rules, the 0:45 in penalty minutes per game being second fewest in his career (0:44 in 2018-2019).
Cheerless’ Take… Hathaway had five or more hits in a game 20 times this season; the Caps were 10-8-2. He had two or more blocked shots 14 times; the Caps were 6-6-2. He took at least one penalty in 25 games; the Caps were 11-11-3. He missed six games this season; the Caps went 4-1-1 in those games. Maybe the effect of a fourth liner isn’t all that impactful as far as that gritty stuff goes.
Odd Hathaway Fact… In 373 career regular season games, Hathaway has yet to record a power play point. Only three active forwards – Pierre-Edouard Bellemaire, Nicolas Deslauriers, and Jay Beagle – have more games played without a power play point in their career.
Odd Hathaway Fact II… In 22 games in which Hathaway logged at least 14:38 in ice time, the Caps were 18-1-3.
Odd Hathaway Fact III… The 2021-2022 season was the first in which Hathaway logged any overtime ice time (1:20 total).
Game to Remember… February 17th at Philadelphia. It is tempting to remember the game in which Hathaway scored his 100th career point (April 18th at Colorado, a 3-2 win in which he opened the scoring with a first period goal for his 100th point), but his game against the Flyers in mid-February was a career game and the flip side of the “Game to Remember” we noted for Carl Hagelin. Hathaway assisted on the first goal of the game, Michal Kempny’s first of the season, in the first period. But the Flyers took a 3-2 lead with less than four minutes in regulation. Less than a minute after the Flyers took the lead, Hathaway got the Caps back to even when he darted between the hash marks with a Flyer defender draped on him and got enough in the way of a John Carlson drive to redirect it past goalie Martin Jones to make it a tie game. Less than two minutes later, Hathaway got the game-winner in a more conventional way, once more getting between the hash marks to take a pass from Hagelin and one-timing it past Jones to make it 4-3. The two goals and an assist added up to Hathaway’s first three-point game of his career and the first plus-4 game of his career.
Game to Forget… February 26th at Philadelphia. Nine days after his career game against the Flyers, he and the Caps returned to the same venue. Hathaway had what was largely an absentee effort. He skated just 9:27 in ice time, his second lowest ice time of the year. He did not record a point, had just one shot attempt (a miss), was not on ice for any of the three goals scored in a 2-1 Flyers win.
Postseason… Hathaway logged the most ice time per game in any of his four trips to the postseason (13:25), but it was a bumpy ride. He had a goal and an assist in the six-game loss to Florida, but he was on ice for nine goals against at even strength, most of any Caps forward and almost half of the even strength goals scored by the Panthers in the series (19). He had a goal differential at even strength of minus-6, which was worst among forwards and second-worst among all skaters for the Capitals. On the other hand, he was an important part of a penalty kill that shut out the Panthers’ power play, averaging 2:10 in shorthanded ice time per game, tied with T.J. Oshie for second-most among Caps forwards.
Looking Ahead… Hathaway will be entering his walk year with the Caps, carrying a $1.5 million cap hit into the last year of his current contract. In his three seasons with the Caps to date, he has expanded the range of his contributions. He improved his point totals in each year, and he reduced his penalty minutes load. He remains a physical player (five consecutive seasons with at least 150 credited hits), but he is also a player who can contribute on the scoreboard in a fourth line role. No player, especially a bottom six forward, is irreplaceable, but unless Hathaway’s game takes a severe southward turn in 2022-2023, the Caps could do worse than re-upping Hathaway for an extension.
In the End… It is hard to find much fault in Garnet Hathaway’s season, given his role with the team. He was the “energy” player usually attributed to fourth liners with a gift for getting under opponent’s skin. He was physical without taking himself out of games with penalties. And, he improved his offense to the extent that he and those with whom he played on the fourth line constituted what might have been the best fourth line in the league. He is not the kind of player who will show up on the highlight reels of NHL.com or ESPN, but that does little to diminish his contributions in what was, for him, a career year.