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Posted at 10:24 AM ET, 03/19/2012

What's to blame for the Capitals’ lack of power-play opportunities?


STATISTICAL ANALYSIS | Power-play opportunities are down league wide and have been for some time. In the 2005-06 season after the lockout, a team saw an average of 5.8 power plays per game. That average is now down to 3.3 per game after a steady decline.

Washington has seen a consistent drop as well over the years, having drawn the fourth-lowest power plays in the league this season with just 217 opportunities in 72 games.


Forwards Mike Knuble and Brooks Laich feel playing a more conservative style under Coach Dale Hunter might be contributing to the lack of power play opportunities, and they may be right.

Since the team abandoned the run-and-gun offense that was so successful during the 2009-10 regular season, they have been drawing fewer restraining fouls, which include hooking, holding, tripping and non-goaltender interference.


The decline in restraining penalties drawn per game becomes more pronounced when you look at this season's split under the two coaches.


Washington is seeing one fewer restraining penalties per game under Hunter than they did when former coach Bruce Boudreau was behind the bench earlier in the year.

However, the reduced opportunities are not the result of drawing fewer holding and hooking penalties as Laich suspected, but instead because they are drawing fewer tripping penalties.


Almost the entire shortfall of restraining penalties per game appears to be Hunter's system reducing the need for the opposing team to trip Washington's skaters. Among the Capitals tripped most often, only Ovechkin has seen more in aggregate under Hunter (six) than Boudreau (five). Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson each drew four tripping calls under Boudreau, but just one and two under Hunter respectively.

One way to get more power-play opportunities is to possess the puck more, and that starts with moving the puck into the offensive zone. If the Capitals can generate more offensive-zone time utilizing Hunter's conservative system, not only will that allow them to create more scoring chances, they might be able to produce another power play per game as well.

Follow Neil on Twitter: @ngreenberg | Capitals scoring chances

By Neil Greenberg  |  10:24 AM ET, 03/19/2012

 
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