EDMONTON, Alberta — The prospect of defensemen Mike Green and Dennis Wideman in the lineup and on the power play left the Capitals salivating. In theory, it was a dangerous combination, and in game action the duo proved to be all that and more.
Thursday night at the Edmonton Oilers, Washington began what it hopes is not a long stretch of games without Green, an All-Star. One of the biggest adjustments in his absence is the power play. Fortunately for the Capitals, the depth goes beyond Green and Wideman, extending to Roman Hamrlik and John Carlson.
“We’ve been pretty lucky so far. We haven’t had a whole lot of injuries,” Wideman said. “But it definitely helps to have some guys on the back end that are offensive-minded guys and can do well on the power play.”
Wideman said little things with the setup change, because Green’s wicked backdoor shot isn’t waiting if left wing Alex Ovechkin or center Nicklas Backstrom can find him in open ice. But most prominently, Green’s absence means bigger roles for Carlson and Hamrlik.
Carlson in particular hadn’t gotten a lot of power-play time, mostly because Washington counts on him and Karl Alzner to be a dominant shutdown pair.
“We’re fortunate that Carly can jump in there, and he’s a good offensive defenseman,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s accepted his role right now as a really good defensive defenseman; I’m sure every chance he gets to get on the power play, he’s going to relish it.”
Carlson has an offensive instinct much like Green and Wideman, but he said his game doesn’t change from five-on-five to the power play.
“I’m going to be the same player whether I’m trying to play defense or play offense,” he said. “I think I can do both, and I think I don’t go out there looking just to play defense or looking just to play offense. Just be confident in my abilities and hopefully that’ll take over.”
And while Hamrlik discussed how much the Caps miss Green, particularly on the power play, teammates expressed confidence in the 37-year-old. With the Montreal Canadiens last season, Hamrlik’s ice time with the man advantage increased when Andrei Markov was hurt.
“Hammer’s had his fair share of power plays. I’m sure he will be fine,” Wideman said. “Hammer’s more than capable of running a power play.”
With Ovechkin, Backstrom, Troy Brouwer, Alexander Semin, Marcus Johansson and Mike Knuble rotating in at the forward positions, the Caps still have plenty of weapons to succeed on the power play.
Those guys being out there and the Capitals having capable fill-ins for Green means they can continue the same sort of fundamentals that have - at least temporarily - quieted what Boudreau called “panic-ville” about the power play.
“If you keep it moving around, we obviously have an extra guy, so somebody’s going to be open,” Brouwer said. “All you have to do is move the puck around until you find that, and I think guys are really realizing that instead of looking for pretty plays or tough plays.”
And though Green’s production (three goals, three assists) will be missed, the idea stays the same.
“I don’t think it really changes anything. Obviously when Green’s in or Green’s out, we’re still trying to accomplish the same thing,” Wideman said.
Though the injury just means others are counted on to score the goals.