Any time an opponent sizes up the Washington Capitals and looks for a way to stop them, the power play is on the agenda.
It’s easy to see why: the Capitals have had a top-five power play in each of the past four seasons and can throw star-studded groups featuring Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and John Carlson onto the ice. But through two games Washington is 0 for 8 on the power play and lacking the finish that has been the hallmark of their longstanding success with the man advantage.
“We just really didn’t click these first two games but it takes a little bit of time, too, to get back in that mode,” forward Marcus Johansson said. “I think enough’s enough now. We’ve got to step up a little bit and if we get that many chances we’ve got to score a couple goals.”
It’s too early to worry about the power play, and coach Barry Trotz said he isn’t concerned. Practice Monday brought plenty of special teams work but no changes to the units, a sign that the team believes more repetitions will fix the problems for the Capitals’ game Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche.
Ovechkin said the power play has been more “casual” than it should be early on. The puck movement has been crisp, but the killer instinct to cash in on chances hasn’t been there.
“It’s hard to tell right now, but I think we have to put more pucks on the net,” Kuznetsov said. “All we have to do is do the right things and probably make more simple plays.”
The most effective play the Capitals have on the power play is getting the puck to the NHL’s perennial leading goal scorer. Ovechkin led the league in power-play goals the past four seasons, and his one-timer from the faceoff circle is one of the most patented moves around and difficult to stop.
Whether it’s Ovechkin from his “spot” or something else, one of the keys to the Capitals getting him and the power play going is drawing more penalties to get extra opportunities. They did that Saturday against the New York Islanders, which Johansson pointed out means they’re working hard 5-on-5.
The next challenge is doing continuing that to 5-on-4 to generate offense.
“One thing when you go on the power play you can’t stop working hard because you’re one man more than the other team,” Johansson said. “You have to keep working, work just as hard to be able to use that momentum and advantage you have. We just have to work a little harder for each other, I think, maybe, and we’ll get a couple bounces our way to get a little confidence back and then we’ll get going.”
Kuznetsov said “it’s not frustrating” to score on the power play, and Carlson pointed to the amount of quality chances Saturday as a source of satisfaction. No one’s panicking, but Trotz wants players to focus on the little things that make a big difference, especially against aggressive penalty-killing units.
“It’s just bearing down, staying detailed in routes and being a foot here or a foot there,” Trotz said. “You have to be in your spot and you have to execute that play and you can’t flip a puck and hope that it goes to the right guy. I think you have to be sharper.”
The Capitals are 1-0-1 despite the power-play outage, which is a good sign for down the road. But with so much talent on display, they’d like to see the puck go in the net every once in a while.
“Just stick with it,” Trotz said. “They’re capable of getting three one night and we’ll be back on track.”