Through the first two games of the season, the Washington Capitals’ power play, normally among the top of the NHL class, has sputtered on every extra man opportunity of the season: the Caps are 0 for 8 through the first two games.
For comparison, over the last five seasons, the Capitals have scored on 22.6 percent of their power play opportunities — the highest percentage in the league over that span and a full 2 percentage points higher than the second-most lethal team on the power play since 2012, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So far, the lack of power in the power play hasn’t raised any flags on the Capitals’ end. Instead, there’s an understanding that sometimes the puck just doesn’t go your way.
“They’ve had some good looks all around the net,” coach Barry Trotz said. “They’ve had unfortunate luck — you know, pucks are bouncing right now.”
The Capitals still have complete trust in their units. With the unique positioning of Alex Ovechkin, who bumps out to a defensive position to prime himself for one-timer opportunities, few teams — if any — can display the same level of skill. And the team essentially returns the exact top power play unit — Ovechkin, John Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson and T.J. Oshie — as they had last year.
Ovechkin said the unit may even be too comfortable with one another.
“Obviously we have the skill and we know each other well,” Ovechkin said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Maybe [we] play more casual than how we used to play. We have to figure out and play better.”
Carlson has played a big role on the power play for the last few seasons. His position is at the point, where he’s primarily responsible for serving Ovechkin his one-timers and occasionally stepping into the shooting lanes for a shot. In total, Carlson has recorded 10 goals and 42 assists on the power play over the last three seasons. Carlson said that the power play unit was still doing a few things well, including getting the puck back into the offensive zone after a clearance.
“It’s not the start we wanted, but I would still say with three of [the five against the New York Islanders], we did what we wanted out there,” Carlson said. “We created all the chances that you could imagine, and we just didn’t score.”
But Carlson acknowledged play needs to improve. While there have been some positives to the unit during the first two games, failing to score on the power play is eating at the Caps’ confidence in their game.
“It’s certainly something that we need to get better at,” Carlson said. “I mean, we need to score. We need to generate a lot of mojo, a lot of chances are way to sway the momentum. And that’s what we’re out there for, so when we do have good power plays, we need to score.”
The Capitals have, however, scored at even-strength, 5 on 5 this year, a point of emphasis heading into the season. Through those two games, the Capitals have four even-strength goals, right on pace with their even-strength production just last year, a year in which they recorded a league-leading 56 wins and 120 points.
The time to panic about the Capitals power play isn’t now. Ultimately, the Capitals have walked away with three points against some of the top opponents in their Metropolitan Division in the Penguins and Islanders.
Instead, the team is preaching patience when it comes to their power play.
“Our power play has got a lot of order to it,” Trotz said. “It’s very organized. They’re capable of getting three one night and they’ll be back on track. So, I’m not worried about it. The power plays in good hands with the personnel that we have on both groups and the people handling it. They’ll get going.”