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After slow start, Caps' power play reclaims a spot among NHL's elite units

After slow start, Caps' power play reclaims a spot among NHL's elite units

After an uncharacteristically sluggish start to the season, the Capitals’ power play has slowly but surely reclaimed its rightful spot among the NHL’s elite units.

In fact, entering Saturday’s game against the Ducks, Alex Ovechkin and Co. had climbed into a tie for 6th with a 21.9-percent success rate. Last season, the unit finished fifth at 21.9-percent.

The Caps’ surge can be traced back to a power play goal scored by Ovechkin in Montreal on Jan. 9. Including that goal, the Caps have scored 16 times with the man advantage over the past 16 games.

RELATED: Nicklas Backstrom closing in on NHL points lead

No team in the NHL has had more success (38.1-percent) on the power play during that span.

For comparison’s sake, Washington’s power play was clicking at just 16.4-percent (19th) from opening night through Jan. 8.

Ovechkin is now tied for second in the league in power play goals with 11. The Caps' captain has also led his team's recent charge with five power play goals over the past 16 contests. But he's gotten plenty of help, too, from all over the lineup and across both units. In all, seven players not named Ovechkin have also found the back of the net since Jan. 9th.

Coach Barry Trotz attributed the uptick to some minor tweaks and an increase in precision.

“We’re executing [and] we’re executing with pace and with a little more precision,” Trotz said. “There have been a few adjustments for each [unit] and they seem to be grasping on it.”

The players have also grasped the fact that they’ve got to bear down when they do get an opportunity. During their 16-game hot spell, their 42 power play opportunities are 14th most. For the season, their 164 power plays rank 18th.

“The fact that we’re not getting a lot of power plays—I know the coaches have [said], ‘We don’t get many so make them count,” Trotz said.

MORE CAPITALS: What does Burakovsky's injury mean for Capitals?

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!