Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post
Capitals fans have enjoyed a historic season in the making this year. Braden Holtby is amongst the league leaders in wins, save percentage, and goals against. Alex Ovechkin has 40 goals again this season, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Lastly Evgeny Kuznetzov has catapulted himself into superstardom, and Brooks Orpik has shown no signs of the effects of the lower body injury that he sustained earlier this year. The list goes on and on with how exciting this team has been this year. However; there is some cause for concern in our nation’s capital: the power play.
While the Capitals are leading the league with a 23.7 % efficiency on the power play, the Capitals have had a bit of a power outage of late. The Capitals have scored only 8 goals in 52 chances in the month of February, for a 15.4% rating on the power play. Contrast that with 10 goals in 31 chances in the month of January, which was a blistering 32.3% efficiency with the man advantage.
However; one could take into consideration that the Capitals have had key members (such as Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin to name a few) of their power play out due to various reasons in the month of February, but is this downward slide an indication a cause for alarm? Do the Capitals need to shake things up on the power play? Have teams finally caught on to covering Ovechkin on the wing?
The latest power play woes began at the beginning of the month when the team visited the Florida Panthers. The team was a paltry 0-8 with the extra man advantage that night. Of course it could be argued that the team did not have Alex Ovechkin’s booming shot from the wing to help create chances and or score a goal that night, but the team should have enough depth and flexibility (such as moving someone to the off-wing) to have someone fill in this spot when the occasional suspension, injury, or illness does happen.
While observing the Capitals recent woes on the power play, something glaring has become obvious: too much passing. While this team does have a good balance of grit and finesse, often times the Capitals were victims of too much passing in the offensive zone on the power play. This has led defending teams to reach out and poke check said passes out towards the neutral zone, and has forced the team to regroup before attempting to shoot again. It is imperative that the Capitals do pass the puck, but must shoot it more and create more traffic in front of the net to clean up the loose change that is in front of the net, in order to create scoring chances and become successful on said chances.
As for shooting, Capitals fans know all about Oveckin’s incredible one-timer from the wing. Ovechkin’s booming shot continues to elude many a goaltender in the league these days. Out of the 40 goals Ovechkin has scored this season, only 16 have come on the power play, which leads Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars by two. However; the amount of points scored by Ovechkin is only good for 19th overall in the league, as he has only 20 points with the extra man advantage. While this may be reassuring for Caps fans that there isn’t anything wrong with the power play, and may indicate that teams still do not know how to shut down an Ovechkin blast, think again.
In 14 playoff games last year, Ovechkin only had 1 power play goal, clearly an indication that teams knew how to shut him down, and the Capitals must learn how to reverse this trend when the team heads into the playoffs in a few short weeks.
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The power play improved recently when Carlson went on IR. Niskanen is a better choice on the point and can get the puck in Ovi’s wheelhouse more often. Net presence is extremely important and the pp would thrive with more net presence.
I agree Jerry. Not sure if it is a coincidence, or there is more to it than that.