- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Washington Capitals’ power play: an area of constant worry and woe since December 2010. And while the calendar still says September and there is no reason to panic in preseason, exhibition numbers tell a tale that problems still exist.

In five preseason games so far, the Caps are 2-for-18 on the power play, including an 0-for-5 performance Wednesday night at the Nashville Predators. Those numbers make it unsurprising that the Caps are 1-3-1 going into Friday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres at Verizon Center.

“It’d be nice just to see some goals go in,” defenseman Mike Green said. “It was one of the areas last year that we fell off the map a little bit with the ranking, where we ended up. If we’re going to be a successful team, our power play has got to be up there. That’s how you win games.”

The two power-play goals came in the Caps’ only preseason game, on a Dennis Wideman point shot and a point-blank wrister by Mathieu Perreault from the side of the crease. Other than that, Washington has come up empty with the man advantage.

Wednesday provided perhaps the most frustrating example in recent weeks of a powerless power play. Much of it could be attributed to the Predators’ defensive-minded team style of blocking as many shots as humanly possible, but coach Bruce Boudreau was less than thrilled with how his units (playing without Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson, mind you) executed.

“That part is getting three guys in and competing and winning battles, getting it back to the point, then taking the shot and then opening things up,” he said. “The last few, we had some really good looks and some good chances when we got down to playing the way we’re supposed to be playing.”

Several players criticized themselves and the entire group on the power play in recent weeks and dating to last season for being too cute. Boudreau lamented too many guys looking for the “perfect shot” Wednesday.

But at least the Caps think they realize what they’re doing wrong.

“We just have to create, and right now we’re kind of just passing around the perimeter,” Green said. “We need to use a little more creativity and use our skill.”

A popular hockey cliche is that players “squeeze their sticks” tighter when struggling to score. It might go beyond that for the Caps, but gaining some confidence with a few goals could go a long way toward curing what ails the power play.

“It’s a big part of our team. Not only that is when we do score goals on the power play, it creates energy for the five-on-five and PK,” Green said. “It’d be nice to get going here and get this thing going.”

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