As the Capitals enter Wednesday’s tilt against the Ottawa Senators, the fifth game since the coaching change, they will still be looking for their first power-play goal under Dale Hunter.
Washington is 0 for 9 with the man advantage in the first four contests of Hunter’s tenure behind the bench, but it wasn’t functioning much better prior to his arrival. In the past 15 games, a stretch during which they’ve gone 4-10-1, the Capitals are a dreadful 4 for 54 (7.4 percent) on the power play.
The Capitals head into Wednesday’s game the owners of the 23rd-ranked power play in the league, with a 14.7 percent success rate on the year.
“We’re too good to have that shaky of a power play,” said Mike Knuble, who has seen at least 2 minutes 15 seconds of power-play time in each of the past three games. “It’s probably a big part of why we’re foundering a little bit.”
Power-play struggles are not new for the Capitals. Not anymore, at least. Last season the once-lethal unit fell from its spot at the top of the league the previous two years to the middle of the pack at just 17.5 percent (ranked 16th in the NHL).
Many of the same players remain from when the unit dominated the NHL and whether playing for Bruce Boudreau or now Hunter, the message, in their minds, stays the same — keep things simple, and get pucks to the net. Against Florida on Monday, Washington was credited with five shots on goal on their two man advantages.
“Last game we finally get puck into zone, we control the puck but we don’t get success,” said Alex Ovechkin, who hasn’t scored a power-play goal since Oct. 29 at Vancouver. “It’s coming, I think.”
Hunter says he sees the progress as well, and that when the unit doesn’t have any opportunities is when he will worry.
“We’re getting chances,” Hunter said. “As long as you’re getting chances on your power play eventually they’ll go in with a lot of traffic in front. We haven’t had many, either; we had [two, four and two] in the last three games. It makes it a little tougher when you don’t have as much time on it.”
Asked about the changes Hunter was trying to make, Knuble said that the Capitals are trying to incorporate more movement into the power play along with the keep-it-simple attitude. The faster the Capitals can get the power play back on track, or at least return it to more of a legitimate threat, the faster they may work themselves out of this funk.
“The power play in the past has been a strength of this team,” Brooks Laich said. “It made other teams back off defensively and not play as aggressive against us because they didn’t want to take penalties because our power play was very strong. We have to get back to that.”