“The whole thing really didn’t happen for us last night,” said Justin Williams and that is a great summation of last night’s Capitals game against the Florida Panthers. The Capitals, having played only one game in the previous 14 days, were just flat. While they had plenty of looks, eight chances on the power play, and 38 shots on goal, the Caps could not leverage control of the ice and overtake the Panthers.
Like many teams, strength on the power play is crucial to the Capitals’ success. The Caps led the NHL with a 25.3 power play percentage, but were unable to cash in on any of the eight (yes, eight) power play opportunities against the Panthers.
However, coach Barry Trotz said, “The power plays were quite different tonight, with 40 percent of your number one power players out with Alex [Ovechkin] and JoJo [Marcus Johansson].” And their absence was sorely felt last night. “Alex has got the gift to get pucks to the net, to make plays and all of those things,” said Trotz. In fact, Ovechkin scored 11 of his 38 goals this season on power plays and he is fourth in the league for scoring power play goals.
While the Caps certainly need to knock the rust off their skates and get back to business, not all was bad in their game against the Panthers. First, they were creating power play opportunities. This ability gives them the opportunity to play to their known strength and getting the power play is just half the battle, “we’ve got to find a way to make it happen” said Williams. Defensively, the Caps significantly limited the Panthers to a mere 19 total shots on goal for the night. Finally, the Caps second line – Andre Burakovsky, Evengy Kuznetsov and Justin Williams are starting to gel. “We’re finding each other really well out there,” said Burakovsky, “all three of us have good speed and good sense of the game and all of us can score goals and pass the puck. I think it’s a good match.” And what better evidence to this good match is needed than the five goals that Burakovsky has scored on this line since January?
Despite the debacle of the Capitals performance against the Panthers, Trotz blames the winter storm for putting, “a lot of rust in our game” adding that we put up 38 shots against the best defensive team in the east. The Capitals will learn from their mistakes, get back to playing their game and bounce back.
By Stephanie Judge