Last season, the Washington Capitals had the best power play in the NHL. This season, they are picking up where they left off in that department with seven of their 10 goals coming on the man advantage. Yet, that proves that their five-on-five scoring is lacking with only three goals at full strength from their 64 total shots.
The problem is one that’s been around for a while in Washington. The players are often guilty of going for a tricky move instead of a standard move. Coach Adam Oates iterated as much after the Caps’ Monday practice.
“Obviously, we’re making mistakes at times in certain areas,” Oates said. “I thought the other night [the Caps’ 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars], there were moments where we turned it over too many times, trying to get cute instead of making the obvious play and getting it deep and trying to wear them out, which is part of the plan…Five-on-five hockey’s tough to score. You’ve got to wait for your turns.”
The Caps are only three games into this season, and there are significant signs that the team will have a good year. The power play is efficient, they have new talent in Mikhail Grabovski and a healthy Mike Green (knock on wood). However, turnovers are increasing as the defense has trouble getting a clear-away pass to the offense, often resulting in a change of possession and opposition goals.
“We’re not making smart plays,” said right wing Troy Brouwer on Monday. “We spend half the game skating after the puck rather than possessing the puck. It starts with our D-men, it finishes with our forwards being able to handle passes and being able to make the second pass and get out of our zone cleanly.”
All the teams that the Caps will face this season will get the same pre-game speech from their respective head coaches. It will include the statement: “Keep the penalties down.”
Every team knows how good the Caps’ power play is, and that’s why Washington must play its “A” game at even strength. It means cutting down on mistakes, keeping the puck, staying strong on the fore-check and effectively clearing its own zone.
Team captain Alex Ovechkin said it best after the team’s practice on Monday:
“We can’t wait for the power play all the time, that’s what we’ve been talking about, and we just have to make changes in the five-on-five game. Of course, we still have chances to score goals, but we have to use it, we have to score.”
The Capitals will hopefully be strong in all areas of play at their next game on Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Verizon Center.