Throughout the season, the Capitals’ play at even strength has been a glaring weakness.
Washington, which ranked 23rd in total five-on-five goals as of Monday, is on pace to finish with roughly 138. That would be the Capitals’ lowest output in a full season since 2005-06, when they finished 27th in the NHL standings.
The Capitals’ even-strength woes have been magnified over the past month as they fight for a playoff spot. Washington’s top-six forwards have failed to produce any offense during five-on-five play as the season winds down.
Alex Ovechkin, currently in a curious partnership with defensive-minded center Jay Beagle, was held without a single even-strength point in March. His ongoing 15-game drought without an even-strength goal is the longest of his career.
Excluding an empty-netter, Troy Brouwer scored his first five-on-five goal since returning from the Olympic break Sunday against the Predators. Nicklas Backstrom has been held without an even-strength goal since Feb. 27, while Marcus Johansson has scored two all season.
Outside of the Capitals’ third line featuring Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr and Joel Ward, the rest of the team has not mustered consistent offense at even strength.
“We need more from everyone five-on-five and our best players have got to be our best players,” Chimera said Saturday. “We can’t just rely on [the] power play.”
Washington has become heavily dependent on its top-ranked power play. Forty percent of the Capitals’ offense in the past 16 games has come from the power play, rendering them one-dimensional.
The Capitals are 12-17-8 when failing to score on the power play this season, which formulates a simple game plan for opponents: remain disciplined and force Washington to gain traction at even strength.
And with power-play opportunities harder to come by in the postseason, if the Capitals get there, finding five-on-five success becomes even more vital.
With seven games left, the Capitals’ grip on a seventh straight playoff appearance is becoming more tenuous by the day, and the disappearance of even-strength production hasn’t helped.