To say the Capitals’ power play is ineffective these days is being generous. Washington can hardly contain the puck in the offensive zone long enough to create scoring chances and rather than manufacturing its own opportunities, the unit gives up quality ones to the opposing penalty kill.
In the past 10 games, dating back to Feb. 12 at New York, the Capitals’ power play has gone 2 for 34. Worse, they’ve allowed four short-handed tallies during that span.
Opposing teams are growing increasingly aware of the number of short-handed goals and breakaways Washington allows, and they’re increasing pressure on the penalty kill to exploit that weakness.
“We’ve got to play as a unit out there, I think we try to do too much individual wise and not only that, we’ve given up some odd man rushes and teams are starting to see that and they’re a little more aggressive on us,” Mike Green said. “It’s harder for us to create because they don’t feel we’re a threat and they force so much that it’s hard to make plays. We’ve got to overcome that.”
The latest example came in Friday night’s 5-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Already trailing by four, Washington received a power-play chance in the second period. The Capitals failed to get a shot on goal during the man advantage and instead Dainius Zubrus poke checked Brooks Laich along left side boards, springing himself and Patrik Elias on an odd-man rush the other way.
Dennis Wideman hustled to get back in the play but couldn’t prevent Zubrus’s pass from reaching Elias, who chipped the puck past Neuvirth to make it 5-0.
“Our power play is killing us. Absolutely killing us,” Wideman said Friday night. “We’re making wrong reads, we’re not backing each other up when there’s a bouncing puck. We’re giving up breakaways and goals every game and we’re not scoring or even creating a chance. Our power play is absolutely killing us. If we score on that power play it’s a different game. Instead we let them score.”
Wideman took the blame for the odd man rush by the Devils that led to Elias’s goal, saying that he should have covered Laich better when he saw the puck come toward his teammate. “I’ve got to pull out earlier than what I did,” Wideman said. “That’s the way it is, we’re just not getting it done.”
Coach Dale Hunter said that he plans to make a few adjustments to the unit for Sunday’s game against the Flyers. First, he’s going to move Alex Ovechkin to the half-board wall off his usual spot at the point.
Early this season, former coach Bruce Boudreau moved Ovechkin to the half-wall in order to make it tougher for opponents to limit his option but before too long the star left wing petitioned to return to his customary spot on the point. Under Hunter, Ovechkin has typically manned the point but occasionally shifted into the slot but the coach said he plans to try the left wing on the half-wall against Philadelphia.
As for the point, the Capitals plan to use defensemen exclusively to man that location in an effort to cut down on the number of shorthanded odd-man rushes they’re allowing.
“They can defend a one-on-one better, they’re just more calmer back there than having Brooksie or Ovi back there it’s tougher on a forward cause you’re not comfortable there,” Hunter said. “And so we’ll put them up front and we’ve got four pretty good offensive D so we’ll use it.”