While having a potent power play is always good, its importance can be magnified in the tight-checking playoffs.
Right now, the Caps have one of the postseason’s most productive power play units. Among the teams remaining, in fact, only New Jersey’s 20.9-percent success rate is better than Washington’s 18.4-percent, a figure bolstered by the unit’s recent surge.
Alex Ovechkin’s power play tally at 1:28 of the first period of Game 6 marked the third consecutive contest in which the unit has struck. The power play has scored in four of the past five games, a stretch in which it has converted 26.6 percent of its opportunities.
In all, the Capitals are 5-2 when the power play scores a goal this postseason.
The key this series, players said, has been quick and decisive puck movement against a Rangers’ penalty kill that is more aggressive, particularly up top, than Boston’s.
The effect of fast, crisp passes was never more apparent than it was on Ovechkin’s goal Wednesday.
“The [Rangers] force hard, so you got to move the puck quick,” forward Keith Aucoin said. “If you move the puck quick, you’ll get lanes to the net.”
Added Coach Dale Hunter: When “Alex scored, he was wide open there because [Callahan] fell. Greenie and Wides did a good job of moving the puck and making them work, and that’s how come he fell and opened up a seam.”
In addition to quick puck movement, Hunter noted that the Capitals are also focused on firing pucks when the opportunity present itself. Against the Rangers, the Caps are averaging 5.2 shots on the power play, an increase of about a shot per power play over the Bruins’ series.
“We’re shooting the puck more,” Hunter said. “And getting more point shots.”
The Caps are also throwing a different looks at the Rangers. One of the biggest variations has been the placement of Ovechkin. While moving Ovechkin around is nothing new, it seems to be working well against New York.
“We have him on the point, we have him in front and we’ve got him in front of the net,” Aucoin said. “Depends on the time of the game. Late in the game, we might have two defensemen [on the point] so you don’t give any odd man rushes. It’s tough to match up when you’re giving different looks like we’ve been doing.”
Another factor stats don’t account for, Aucoin added, is the unit’s growing confidence.
“When you’re not scoring, you get frustrated. But when you’re going good, you might not score on the first one, but you feel confident going into the next one. Power plays have a lot to do with confidence, and we have that right now.”
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