Through the first 22 games of the 2016-17 season, the Capitals’ power play has been awful and what was once one of their biggest strengths has now become one of their biggest weaknesses. And the Capitals cannot make excuses anymore.
Aside from a few good power plays this season, the Caps have looked sluggish and unmotivated on the man-advantage. They’ve had trouble keeping the puck in the offensive zone and shots have been few and far between. Aside from captain Alex Ovechkin, no other player seems willing to shoot the puck. The Caps look as though they’re trying for the perfect setup, and that usually means an Ovechkin one-timer from the faceoff circle.
In the past two games, the Caps are 0-10 with the extra man, an inexcusable stat considering the amount of firepower the Capitals have at their disposal. Defensemen John Carlson and Matt Niskanen, usually significant power play weapons, have yet to score a goal this season, and center Evgeny Kuznetsov has been ice cold through the first quarter of the campaign.
Head coach Barry Trotz and the coaching staff have already shuffled the power play units up several times this season, but they’ve gotten nothing out of a historically good power play that ranks just 24th in the league with a mediocre success rate of 14.29%. For the majority of the Ovechkin era, the Capitals’ power play has been at or near the top of the NHL, including a fifth-best unit last season.
So what changes need to be made? For starters, Trotz has reshuffled the two units again, with recent callup Jakub Vrana being moved to the second unit in just his second practice in the NHL in favor of Andre Burakovsky. Marcus Johansson and John Carlson have been moved back onto the first unit, while Evgeny Kuznetsov has been moved to the second unit. The Caps must find a way to get their power play back to being dominant.
The fact of the matter is that the Caps should be scoring far more with the extra man than they have been. Players not named Ovechkin need to step up and shoot the puck more, and trying to give the captain the puck every time is not going to work as much, as teams have caught on to that. If the Capitals do that, they should have success. If they don’t, they have no one to blame but themselves and no more excuses to fall back on.
By Michael Fleetwood