It’s no secret that one of the areas where the Capitals will be looking to start fresh this season is the power play. The talent-laden unit, which finished in the league’s top two in both 2008-09 and 2009-10, sputtered to 16th place (17.5 percent) last season despite using most of the same players who brought previous success.
Tonight in Baltimore we might get the first look at the Capitals’ power play this year, which in drills Monday featured one very noticeable change – Alex Ovechkin playing on the half board rather than his usual spot on the point.
To be certain, this is the preseason and everything is open for experimentation and subject to change but given the number of offensive-minded defensemen on Washington’s roster – Mike Green, Dennis Wideman, John Carlson and left-handed shot Roman Hamrlik – it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ovechkin off the blueline more often.
“I think right now we have lots of D who can play on the point and me and [Coach] Bruce [Boudreau] talk about which position for me better to play in,” said Ovechkin, who recorded just seven power-play goals in the regular season last year. “This time I can play the half boards, because lots of times I have more pressure [from penalty killers] than anybody on the team.”
Ovechkin will always draw extra pressure from opposing penalty kills, but if he’s not on the blueline he should have more options to pursue, from shot selection to open passing lanes as well.
“If I control the puck more than I was on the blueline, of course I have more options,” Ovechkin said. “I can move in the middle and take a shot or I can give a pass down low and take a couple steps in the middle. If the D didn’t see me I’ll be wide open.”
There will be times where we see Ovechkin on the point, but right now, the star left wing is embracing the challenge of growing familiar with a new spot on the power play – a switch that may help push the Capitals’ totals back up the chart.
“It’s something that I play like five years on the point,” Ovechkin continued. “Right now [playing the half-board is] something probably new for me, but again, it’s good because I don’t wanna be like the guy who only stay on the point and wait for one-timer or find that space to empty net. It’s challenging for me again and I like the challenge.”