Pondering the Power Play: Should the Capitals Give Their Young Players More Opportunities On the Man-Advantage This Season?

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Five seconds. That number is the average amount of time Washington Capitals forward and former first-round draft pick Connor McMichael averaged on the power play last season for Head Coach Peter Laviolette. And for a team that has emphasized increasing the presence of youth on their roster as it moves forward, it simply won’t do.

Certainly I am not suggesting that Laviolette and his coaching staff completely overhaul the power play units, however, with Nicklas Backstrom shelved indefinitely following major hip surgery and Tom Wilson looking at missing a good chunk of the start of the season while recovering from knee surgery, the opportunities for the likes of McMichael (arguably the key piece in the team’s future lineup) and Joe Snively (to name a few) will be there for some experimenting.

The free agency decisions on offense (see Dylan Strome and return of Marcus Johansson) will likely play some part in one of Assistant Coach Blaine Forsythe’s units, however with young prospects such as Hendrix Lapierre, Alexander Alexeyev (currently recovering from shoulder surgery), and Lucas Johansen figuring to be in the fold at some point (likely delayed after the summer of personnel decisions), there can’t be any harm in seeing how they can handle the man-advantage if an opening arises and they prove themselves capable of doing so.

Last season, the Caps’ power play unit (long considered one of their biggest strengths) ranked 23rd, with an 18.8% effectiveness. There were many times during the 2021-22 season in which I was hoping that McMichael, Brett Leason, or Joe Snively (prior to being injured) among other young players who saw extended time in the NHL, would get more of a chance to showcase themselves on the power play. While he played just 35 games with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears before being recalled by Washington, Snively finished the regular season ranked fourth on the Bears’ roster in power play goals with four, and fourth in power play helpers with eight. In McMichael’s lone season in the AHL, he finished tied for first on the Bears’ roster in power play tallies in 33 Games Played with six, and second with seven assists (13 points, which led the Chocolate and White on the season). While a small sample size, McMichael is likely headed for an increased role this coming season, per General Manager Brian MacLellan, and assuming that remains the case going into training camp, an increased look on the man-advantage should be in the cards. Strome, a former first-round pick and still just 25, recorded 16 power play points in 69 Games Played with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps have relied upon Alex Ovechkin’s renowned one-timer for years, and while The Great Eight showed no signs of slowing down last season, there will come a day in the future when the youth movement must fully be embraced. I am not suggesting that Ovechkin and the rest of the current power play units are on the decline nor should the players signed this summer be kept out of the equation, however I do believe that if the man-advantage fails to improve upon their effectiveness last season, different players should be given the chance to try and help turn it around.

I would love your thoughts on this Caps fans. Should the coaching staff give McMichael and Co. some extended looks if the power play fails to get going? Or something else given the additions to the team this summer?

By Michael Fleetwood

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. His favorite player became former Capital Nate Schmidt after he met Schmidt in a Hershey hotel while in Hershey PA to see the Bears play, shortly after Schmidt was injured during a conditioning stint. Michael is also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Orioles, and enjoys photography, watching WildEarth TV's SafariLive live safaris, and watching animals in his spare time. (Photo by Adam Vingan in 2014 at the Capitals Development Camp).
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7 Responses to Pondering the Power Play: Should the Capitals Give Their Young Players More Opportunities On the Man-Advantage This Season?

  1. Whatever is most effective this season should be stuck with, however I would like McMichael, Snively, etc, get more of a look by Lavy and the coaching staff if they prove themselves responsible enough for it.

  2. Jon Sorensen says:

    McMichael’s strength is bouncing pucks in the crease. Former Bears head coach Spencer Carbery said the puck always seems to find him. In reality, he has elite-level reaction times to bouncing pucks. If you slow down his play in front of the net you can see he recognizes and begins pursuit of a bouncing puck before all other players react. Put him on the bumper in PP2, stat!

  3. DWGie26 says:

    Would love to see McMichael on the PP (and yes in the bumper spot). The bigger question is who will play the point on PP2 with Schultz gone (yeah). I think we could see 2 min PP with both JC74 and OV8 out there. But it would be real interesting is they could run a completely different PP2 that sets up on the left or employs a different system.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think this depends on many factors…
    I see the same standings as last year….
    Thus, not sure much time free for CM on the PP…
    I do think DS will have 25 goals and 40 ass…

  5. novafyre says:

    I think we need to try something different in the PP. What we did last year failed. I would try our faster, younger players in a more gun and fun PP. If it doesn’t work, we can try something else.

    However, putting our young players in the old PP scheme is not going to accomplish much. The idea is not for them to emulate slow veterans but to take advantage of their youth. Putting them on the ice without changing our scheme is worthless.

    Unlike football, where you can have entire squads who just play special teams, our PP players have to play the 5on5 as well. So that means building lines to take advantage of their strengths and minimize their weaknesses throughout the game.

    Lavi won’t do it. Our youth will play in Hershey.

  6. steven says:

    One thins that this team is known for is NOT changing anything so with no change in coaching and Forsythe still here I dont see any changes as he has the ability to change or do something different not at all. Also the HC does not play young players so there will be none or only 1 on the team.

    However I think that changing the PP woth younger player and different shenes would benefit this team. Yes Ovie can still score from his office but he probably would score more often if there were different looks and also shots from different players. For a team that has players that can score to only have an 18.8% PP last year speaks highly of the inability of the coach both HC and coach in charge of the PP to make changes. Just another reason that this team needs to move on from the present coach and staff. Isnt it time that Ted realizes that this is not a game of I like you and will give you a good contract and keepyou around but a game where you are to win and if you dont it is time to move people like the GM, HC and staff and even players if necessary to WIN!!

    I would love to see something other than the same old setup on the PPand yes some of the younger more creative players!

  7. DWGie26 says:

    I did see them try a new scheme last year but it didn’t work so well in part because it led to less zone time. Basically what I saw is that they tried to spring people into the zone for an odd man rush style (versus a setup). They would maybe get a good shot but then couldn’t keep the puck in so retrieve and start over. I think it is a pretty good look, but different personnel would help. Enter CMM. And I think Strome would play well in that as well. Brown doesn’t usually play on PP i don’t think, but he is a good puck retriever so maybe they can try him. In short, play with speed versus the traditional setup and slow play for a shot. If they can clean up the puck recovery and keep the zone, that could work.

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