Movement. Lots of movement. Crisp passes. A lot of times, the puck winds up in the net.
That’s the Red Wings’ power play, which the Capitals will venture to stop Saturday night. It’s really a dilemma, given not only Detroit’s talent level but how beautiful and efficient it can be with the man advantage.
“Detroit’s power play is so good. It’s a really tough call for any of our penalty killers,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “If you’re overly aggressive, they can make you look real bad. If you’re tentative they can make you look real bad. If you give them too much time they make you look bad. They can just put so many guys out there. They do things so right.”
Sounds … right. Detroit went 3-for-5 on the power play Friday night against a struggling Blue Jackets team – a breakout performance for a unit that had been 1-for-19. Still, that’s a small sample size, especially considering the Red Wings have consistently been ranked in the top 10 on the power play.
Most of the same players are still around, like Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Oh, and Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula.
As seen here in this five-on-three power-play goal Friday, movement + talent = easy Lidstrom goal:
On the previous couple power-play goals, the Red Wings also cycled around as much without the puck as with it, a dangerous thing for opposing penalty-killing units.
“From playing against them all the time, they have skilled players and they can move the puck, they can make the pass,” defenseman Roman Hamrlik said. “They’ve got some guys that can shoot the puck. Just don’t give them inside. Try to push them outside. Try to forecheck as fast as we can. Don’t give them any time because those players, they can make the plays.”
From the defensemen, there’s a need not to overcommit – something the Caps have been a little guilty of on the kill. Hamrlik said he and his teammates have to be careful but still follow an aggressive style.
“You have to read the play. Obviously when you see the puck bounce or he turn to face the boards, I think it’s the right time to jump and one guy start forcing,” he said. “The other three guys, they have to read and start rotating.”
How aggressive can the Caps’ forwards be, though? Marcus Johansson in particular has the speed and instincts to go the other way for short-handed chances, but he might need to ease back a bit against a stacked power play like Detroit’s.
Boudreau praised Johansson’s improvements on the kill, and he could be a vital weapon against the Red Wings. If he has any tricks planned, he’s not telling – the 21-year-old flashed a mischievous smile when declining to go into too much detail about counteracting the Red Wings’ power play.
And while the Caps have only allowed three power-play goals-against this year, there’s a very simple mantra that Boudreau said will be mentioned before the game between the last two unbeaten teams in the league: Don’t give Detroit chances.
“The best advice would be stay [out of] the box,” Hamrlik said. “Don’t do any bad penalties and try to play five-on-five.”
But, hey, that might not even be a flawless strategy. The Red Wings only had one power-play goal until Friday and still hadn’t lost.
“I was trying to really focus, actually, on watching their highlights from last night just to see how they were scoring some of their goals,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “No matter how much you study them or what you know about them, they’re still going to be good and still going to be hard to play against.”