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The Washington Capitals have had a lot of success in the first half of the 2019-20 regular season. Through 40 games, the Capitals have only 8 regulation losses. The Capitals have a +25 goal differential so far, and have one of the top offenses in the NHL.
The Capitals have been blessed with plenty of highly skilled talent in the Ovechkin era. Alex Ovechkin has been the focal point of the Capitals powerplay for many years, and he is still among the league’s best at putting pucks in the net. With Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson, and T.J. Oshie alongside the Great 8, the Capitals are a tough matchup on special teams.
The powerplay has continued to show signs of sputtering dating back to last season. In Saturday night’s loss to Carolina, the Capitals powerplay was 2 for 5, but also surrendered a shorthanded goal. In Friday night’s overtime win versus Columbus, the Capitals powerplay was just 1 for 5 in the game.
The recent powerplay sputters are showing in the overall standings. While the Capitals usually hover in the top 5 among all NHL teams in powerplay efficiency, the Capitals have slipped up in the standings in that regard. The Capitals powerplay is now 21.6 efficient, which is ranked 10th best in the NHL.
The Capitals powerplay struggles in critical moments in games. It noticeably struggles to extend 1-goal leads and it struggles when the team gets down by a couple of goals in games. These moments that the opportunities are missed add up and contribute to losses.
A prime example of this took place on Saturday night against Carolina. The Capitals had a powerplay chance in the second period where they could have tied the game at 3. Instead, the Capitals powerplay surrendered a shorthanded goal off a bad pass at the point. This bad pass led to an odd-man rush toward the Capitals net. Carolina made the Capitals pay shorthanded, and extended their lead 4-2 in the game. Surrendering shorthanded goals in games are backbreakers for teams that are trying to crawl back from a deficit.
The coaching staff must find ways to add new wrinkles into the Capitals powerplay. They must create some set plays for other players.
While most teams focus on Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals must find ways to get their other stars open on their powerplay chances. Instead of setting up Alex Ovechkin all the time, the Capitals should find ways to set up John Carlson and his big point shot. They can also add more wrinkles to free up T.J. Oshie in the circle area.
With the amount of high-end skill the Capitals have, they can afford to shift the powerplay away from Ovechkin in order to create more space for him. The coaching staff must add these little tweaks in order for the Capitals to maintain success in the second half of the regular season.
By: George Foussekis