There is no debate that the element missing from the Capitals’ game in this series is power play success. It’s impossible to know if the first two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning would have turned out differently if Washington would have scored on any of its 11 power play chances, but in two essentially one-goal games (save the empty net tally in Game 1) it’s an unacceptable deficiency.
Washington’s power play was inconsistent at best this year and finished the regular season with a 17.5 percent success rate (46 for 263). In the first round against the Rangers, the Capitals went 3 for 16 which was enough to provide a boost in several close games. And that’s the edge that any team looks for.
For the Capitals’ it doesn’t go unnoticed that for a second consecutive postseason the biggest problem isn’t preventing goals but scoring them particularly on the power play.
“It’s really frustrating,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “And believe me, we’re not just sitting there as a group of coaches and saying, ‘Oh, OK. It’s not working.’ We’re going over these things with a fine-toothed comb. We’re trying to make adjustments as we go, but it’s those guys that have to do it.”
The Capitals have tried many configurations on the power play including but not limited to, using five forwards, putting two defensemen (usually Mike Green and John Carlson) on the points, moving Alex Ovechkin from the point to the half-wall or in front of the net. Asked if there are things that he’s seen on the power play that he likes and wants to see more of, Boudreau said yes but expressed how it’s disconcerting that the unit doesn’t always adhere to the necessary execution.
“If it doesn’t work the first time, even though it worked well [previously], and we didn’t score, then instead of going back to the well and trying it, we figure we have to try something else,” Boudreau said. “And I’m sitting there, saying, ‘If this is what works, and we’re getting chances, let’s do it again and again and again, and eventually we’ll score.’”
Several players noted that the Capitals would have power play meetings both Monday and Tuesday prior to Game 3. While part of Washington’s inability to score on the power play is a credit to Tampa Bay’s nearly blemish-free penalty killing unit that has thwarted 45 of 46 chances against it this postseason, the players know there are opportunities to generate offense available.
“They move around and their top two forwards drop under at times when the puck moves across, so there’s seams there,” Mike Knuble said. “We’ve seen it on tape when we can probably expose some seams, it’s just a question of executing it better.
“I think we can get more pucks to the net,” Knuble continued. “The second and third chances right around the net – that would be stuff that would benefit us.”