With the Capitals (14-5-1, 29 points) set to take on the Winnipeg Jets (10-10-2, 22 points) tonight at Verizon Center (6:30 pregame, CSN), here’s a look at our AAA Keys to the Game:
Uncorking Ovi: Through his first 19 games, Alex Ovechkin has nine even-strength goals on 65 even-strength shots, but just one power-play goal on 36 power-play shots. Capitals coach Barry Trotz has a theory on why.
“Everybody’s catching on to what we do and goalies are getting over there quicker,” Trotz said. “He’s missed on a few in close but I think (he needs) a little more elevation.
“A lot of his shots last year were at least above the pad, where (goalies) have to get over and use their hands and seal it off. They get their legs over there first.
“When he has hit the upper part of the net he’s missed the inside post a few times, but when he’s hitting the net it seems to be on the ice a little bit more.”
Could Ovechkin simply be adjusting to defenseman John Carlson, who has taken over full-time point duties from current Red Wing Mike Green?
Ovechkin has had 55 attempts on the power play, missing the net 19 times without getting a shot blocked. But thanks to eight other players contributing at least one power-play goal the Caps rank eighth in the NHL on the man-advantage (13-for-62).
“It’s not as sharp as it has been in years’ past, but I think it’s right there and ready to break open,” said T.J. Oshie, who has two power-play tallies. “Teams have three, four, five years of video built up to try to see how to shut him down.
“He’s always going to find ways to score but a couple other players, myself included, haven’t capitalized on some golden opportunities. Once that happens I get a feeling things will open back up.”
“I guarantee you he’s going to score a lot of goals on the power play, I just don’t know when,” Troitz said. “But they’re going to come in bunches when they start going in.”
Nisky business: Defenseman Matt Niskanen saw some time in Ovechkin’s spot on the Caps’ second power-play unit on Wednesday morning, with Dmitry Orlov at the point, Evgeny Kuznetsov on the half wall, Justin Williams in the slot and Jason Chimera down low on the goal line and in the crease.
“I’m definitely not Ovi, so maybe I’ll do some different things than he does,” Niskanen said. “If we go that way.”
Cooling their Jets: Winnipeg is the most penalized team in the NHL with 122 penalties and 316 penalty minutes through 22 games. They have been shorthanded an NHL-high 91 times and rank 19th in penalty killing.
Big hitters: The Jets also rank seventh in the NHL with 587 hits, led by center Adam Lowry (69), defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (67) and defenseman Mark Stuart (66 hits). The Caps rank 21st with 447, led by Tom Wilson (57) and Ovechkin (50)..
"They're a tough team to play against," Oshie said. "They play hard, they play physical and they never seem to go away. If you're not mentally ready to be in a physical battle, they're going to take advantage of you and they're going to turn a lot of pucks over."
Conversely …: The Jets generate a lot of their offense from their defense, especially right defensemen Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba. The tradeoff, Caps coach Barry Trotz says, is they are also prone to mistakes.
Trotz says there will need to be an awareness by the Caps’ left wingers to pay special attention to the Jet’s right defensemen.
Oshie said that is sometimes wasier said rthan done, especiually when it comes to the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Byfuglien.
“He’s hard to get the puck from, hard to go around,” Oshie said. “He can make you look foolish at times and he’s very strong. He’s hard to play against.”
Here are the projected lineups for tonight:
Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)
Scratches: Stanislav Galiev