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More shots could be cure for Capitals’ power play
There’s one sound that’s prevalent during just about every home power play in hockey: fans yelling at their team to “Shoot!”
With the Capitals, they’re right.
Not enough shooting seems to be what’s ailing the Caps’ struggling power play, which has gone 1-for-16 over the past six games. Bruce Boudreau is concerned, given how good his team has been with the man advantage in recent seasons.
“When you’re not No. 1 [in the league], you worry,” the coach said. “We were No. 1 for last year, No. 2 the year before and then obviously something’s happened, so it bugs the hell outta me that we’re not where we should be.”
Getting more pucks on net is the goal. The Caps managed just six shots in six minutes of penalty time in Tuesday night’s shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. That’s not ideal, but at least it was an improvement over the four shots they mustered in eight minutes against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday or the five in six minutes against the Ottawa Senators on Friday.
Jeff Schultz said from afar it looks like his teammates are trying to do a little too much - making the extra pass instead of battling for rebounds.
“Pretty plays are few and far between, maybe one every so often,” Jason Arnott said. “Usually, it’s a shot from the point, screen, rebound and bang it in. If we capitalize on that and shoot more we’re gonna be more successful.”
With open ice available, teams tend to try to be too cute on the power play, looking for the perfect pass. But from a penalty-killer’s perspective, Karl Alzner knows what he doesn’t want to see out of opponents - and it’s the same thing the Caps are trying to do.
“You see the teams that are successful - they get the puck, they move the puck and they shoot it right away. As a penalty kill, it’s tough to defend against those,” the young defenseman said. “When pucks come at the net and there’s a scramble in front of the net, that’s never a position you wanna be in as a defenseman.”
Having Arnott and Alex Ovechkin back should help. As Schultz said, those are two guys who like to shoot the puck, so that could solve a lot of issues with not getting enough pucks on net. But now Dennis Wideman (lower-body injury, day-to-day) could miss time, so Boudreau is experimenting with different options at his spot.
One is Eric Fehr, who admitted when he was back there against Carolina last week that he wasn’t entirely comfortable. He might stay there as Boudreau tweaks the power play to find the right combinations.
“He’s got a good shot. He hadn’t played it, so it was an experiment,” Boudreau said. “He can handle the puck; he’s got good vision. So I said, ‘Why not? Let’s see what he can do in there.’ “
The Caps have a lot of moving parts there with Mike Green still out of the lineup with no timetable to return from a concussion.
“We all feel each other out, but when Greenie’s back it’s gonna be a little different and who knows what it’s gonna take to get us to mesh,” defenseman John Carlson said. “But it can’t hurt you having a guy like Mike Green in your lineup every night. I think we’re really looking forward to that.”
For now, it might just be a matter of the Caps listening to the fans - and coaches, too - by just letting it fly.
“We have to know that we’re going out to score a goal,” Arnott said. “We can’t have it in our minds that we’re gonna go out and play panicky. We gotta go out, play confident and shoot pucks to score.”
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