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Capitals’ power play starts season in 0-for-8 slump

“We have the skill, and we know each other well,” Alex Ovechkin said of the Caps’ early power-play struggles. “Sometimes, it just didn’t work out.” (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Two games into the regular season is too soon to judge just about anything accurately regarding these Washington Capitals, but with their typically potent power play struggling to start the year, it’s fair at least to ask what might be causing the trouble.

Washington’s man-advantage unit is now 0 for 8 through two games, after failing to score on its five opportunities in a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders. In fairness, the Capitals’ competition thus far, the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, had penalty-kill units ranked in the league’s top five last season. And while Washington is disappointed with its power play’s drought to start the season, the team has some reason to be encouraged, too.

“They’ve had some good looks,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said. “I mean, all around the net, they’ve had some unfortunate luck. Pucks are bouncing right now. But our power play has a lot of order to it. It’s very organized. Just stick with it; they’re capable of getting three [goals] one night, and we’ll be back on track. I’m not worried about them. The power play is in good hands with the personnel that we have on both groups and the people handling it, so they’ll get going.”

“How many did we have tonight? Five? I would say that three of them, we did whatever we wanted out there,” defenseman John Carlson said after Saturday’s victory. “We created all of the chances that you can imagine and just didn’t score. There was a lot of mistakes, and there was some mishaps and stuff that we certainly need to clean up, but if we get five power plays and three of them are really, really solid, it goes for that, too, not just five-on-five when we get those opportunities.”

The Capitals’ power play was ranked fifth in the NHL last season, scoring 21.9 percent of the time, and it has consistently been among the league’s most efficient units since 2012. The early struggles are strange considering there’s been very little personnel change from last year, with the top unit exactly the same. On the second unit, Andre Burakovsky has replaced Jason Chimera as the player on the goal line and at the net front, while defenseman Dmitry Orlov has been manning the point instead of Matt Niskanen, who has taken over Alex Ovechkin’s spot in the left faceoff circle.

“We have the skill, and we know each other well,” Ovechkin said. “Sometimes, it just didn’t work out. Tried to play, maybe, more casual than we used to play. We have to figure it out and play better, obviously.”

The Capitals had seven shots on goal when on the power play, and zone entries didn’t appear to be an issue. Where they seemed to struggle was when they got into formation, plagued by some sloppy passes that made everything seem disjointed.

“I think when you see us move the puck around like we can, it’s tough to defend,” Carlson said. “But if we’re bobbling the pucks or giving bad passes, you lose momentum, you lose the perfect pucks with possession or whatever you want to call it, when the guy has it on his tape dictating the play versus if it bounces or it’s a bad pass. Then we’ve got to regroup and get that full possession again. That makes it harder, and we can do a lot better with that.”