When a team's power play is awful at home, it's usually for one reason: The players get too fancy with the puck in front of their fans. They make too many passes and too few shots. That theory applies to the Washington Capitals, who have the NHL's worst home power play.
Last night they came through on the man advantage for a change, tying the game in the second period (1 for 3 in the game) and winning a 3-2 overtime game against Pittsburgh. That's been a rarity this season. The Capitals have just six power-play goals through their 16 home games, scoring on less than nine percent of their opportunities. It's something the players would like to forget, but they are well aware of their futility. It seems most of them have identified the same cause of the problem. Fixing it is a bit more difficult.
"I am aware of it, and it's terrible," defenseman Calle Johansson said. "But I guess the good thing is you can only get better from there. We need to get on a roll, but unless you make yourself get on a roll you won't do it. It won't be handed to you, you have to go out and do it.
"We make it too hard on ourselves. We don't shoot the puck enough, and we also seem to . . . let our guard down and take it too easy, more easy then we should. Instead of going out and making sure you score, we go out and think, 'We've got plenty of time, okay, we'll get a couple of chances.' "
The Capitals brought a 1-for-15 home slump into the game against the Penguins; they have scored power-play goals in just five home games. An extra goal or two could mean precious points in the standings: 12 of their 16 home games have been decided by one goal or ended in a tie, and all but one home game have been decided by two goals or fewer. Overall, their power play ranks 19th in a 28-team league--they are scoring at a 19 percent clip on the road, among the league leaders.
"We have to just get the puck to the point and shoot," winger Steve Konowalchuk said. "We're trying to make the fancy plays and you feel more pressure at home. When you get a power play at home and think you have to score every time and that backfires on you.
"Teams are so close nowadays, and if you get a power-play goal early or late in a game it turns the whole game around. Games are so even and that can be the difference. You've got to have a good power play and a good penalty kill."
Right now, the Capitals are living up to just half that equation.
They have allowed just seven power-play goals at home this season in 59 chances. They allowed six of those seven in their first three home games and are 45 for 46 since.