The Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins combined for some scintillating offense in Games 1 and 2 at TD Garden: a total of four goals. This series is expected to be low-scoring, and chances five-on-five are hard to come by.
Which just makes power plays that much more valuable.
“We haven’t got our power play going, and they haven’t either, but if we’re going to win this series we’ve got to start scoring on the PP too,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “That’s a big key to our game.”
It’s been a big void for the Caps’ offense dating to March 22, as the Caps are 2-for-29 since then, including 0-for-5 in this series. Boston is 0-for-6. The Caps have just nine shots on the power play.
Dale Hunter and his coaching staff have tinkered with things a lot, and power-play work in practice has been common recently.
“We just have to simplifies our game,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “Everybody knows exactly what they’re going to do. We just do our thing right now, PP practicing. I hope it’s going to work.”
It comes down to two simple elements: shots and traffic. As Hunter pointed out time and again, Tim Thomas is a good goalie (.964 save percentage in this series) and isn’t likely to let one that he sees get by him.
“You’ve got to try to get more shots, get the shots through, traffic in front of the net,” Backstrom said. “All the shots we’ve been taking right now, he’s seen all the shots. We’ve got to create traffic and screen the goalie a little bit more.”
That’s what Brooks Laich is for on the first unit, along with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Mike Green. That’s what Troy Brouwer is for on the second unit, along with Marcus Johansson, Keith Aucoin, Dennis Wideman and John Carlson.
Aucoin, all 5-foot-8 of him, said he’s willing to get in front, too. Even though Thomas can see over Aucoin, it helps if he brings 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara or 6-foot-2 Johnny Boychuk with him.
“A lot of times, the defense in front of the net is worried about you,” Aucoin said. “They’re not even looking at the puck. They get in front of the goalie and they don’t even realize it.”
But Hunter said that’s up to the Caps to create screens and traffic. It’s something they’ve talked about all season and that every team talks about all the time.
“You do what you say you’re going to do. They’re shading on Ovi a little bit, taking him away, so that opens up the other side for Mike and Nicky to start shooting,” Brouwer said. “You got to have a good net presence and Brooksie’s a good guy for it. Just crash that net, get pucks to the net. That’s how we scored both our goals was guys going to the net last game.”
Even with traffic, it’s no good unless pucks start flying at Thomas from the right spots: quantity and quality.
“I think once we get the puck in zone, and move it around and get shots, more things will open up,” Aucoin said. “We have to get skilled guys on the units that once things open up that will find guys open for better shots.”
But it starts with puck possession and goes from there.
“The breakout, it’s very important for us. If we have a good breakout, we have pretty good chance to stand up out there,” Ovechkin said. “On PP it’s all about, I think, your skills and luck and simple plays. If you’re going to do something fancy and maybe try to jump too high, you’re not going to do it. We just have to make simple plays, shots pucks and find the rebound out there.”