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Like almost everything else, the Caps' power play is on fire, too

Like almost everything else, the Caps' power play is on fire, too

After struggling to find consistency over the season's first two-plus months, the Capitals’ power play has finally returned to its previously prolific self.

In the past eight games, in fact, the unit has scored a least one goal seven times. During that span, Alex Ovechkin and Co. have connected on nine of 18 opportunities for a ridiculous 50-percent effectiveness rate.

No team has scored more power play goals during that timeframe.

For comparison’s skate, in the eight games prior to the current torrid stretch, the Caps’ power play connected on just one of 24 opportunities.

The latest example of the unit's resurgence came during Monday’s 6-1 romp over the visiting Hurricanes. Washington got just two chances—but defenseman Dmitry Orlov made sure the unit did not go home empty handed, ripping a one-timer from the top of the circles that tipped off of Jordan Staal’s stick before eluding goalie Cam Ward. The first of Orlov's two goals, it pulled the Caps even with the scuffling 'Canes, 1-1.

The Hurricanes, meantime, came into the game with the NHL’s top-rated penalty kill.

RELATED: Caps crush Canes with six unanswered goals

Barry Trotz acknowledged that his assistants have made some opponent-specific tweaks in recent weeks. But the head coach also credited the group’s crisper execution, especially around the net, for the turnaround.

“We made some adjustments,” Totz said. “They’re [also] playing with some pace. They’re shooting. And their execution is much better. We’re more net hungry. There’s a lot of pride in it. They know that they can inch their way better and be a big part of it and be a weapon for us.”

Overall, the unit is up to 14th in the NHL at 20.7-percent after languishing in the bottom third earlier this season.

Something else notable about the power play’s sudden surge? It’s getting contributions from all over the place. Since the hot stretch began eigth games ago, six different players have scored with the man advantage—Ovechkin (three times), T.J. Oshie (twice), Justin Williams, Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky and Orlov.  

Orlov said he believes the uptick has less to do with X’s and O’s and more to do with the aforementioned execution. And, in particular, putting pucks on net.

“We just maybe start to hit more net and get more luck, you know?” the Russian defenseman said. “That’s why we’re having success right now.”

Oshie agreed with much of Orlov’s assessment.

“I think we were getting a lot of good looks earlier [in the season] but we were missing the net a lot,” he said. “We just weren’t capitalizing, and now we’re finding ways to score, finding different ways to run the power play. My unit is not that much different, just some different reads here and there. The other unit can bring two different looks at you.”

“So,” Oshie added, “I think it’s harder for penalty kills to read what we’re going to do. And anytime Ovi taking is getting one timers on that side, it’s always a good thing; it opens up a lot for us.”

MORE CAPS: Defense is stepping up big

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We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington


We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”

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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

USA Today Sports

NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

We are down to the home stretch. Only 10 games remain in the Capitals' regular season. Those 10 games will ultimately decide if the Caps finish in first place in the Metropolitan Division and who they will play in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington currently sits in first place in the division, two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers. Of those 10 remaining games, only three come against teams currently in playoff position. The most critical of these comes on April 1 when the Caps travel to Pittsburgh in a game that could ultimately decide the division.

The Caps still hold a narrow lead in the standings, but where do they stand in the rankings? See this week's updated NHL Power Rankings here.