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Capitals' normally dangerous power play falls silent to start the season

Capitals' normally dangerous power play falls silent to start the season

Amid the jubilation over Saturday’s home opening win against the New York Islanders, there was one stat that marred the Capitals' performance: 0-for-5.

Washington was given five opportunities on the man advantage on Saturday and failed to strike in any of them, allowing the Islanders to stay in the game.

“They've had some good looks,” head coach Barry Trotz said of his power play unit following the game. “I mean, all around the net they've had some unfortunate luck. Pucks are bouncing right now.”

This early in the season, it may be unfair to label any particular statistic as “concerning.” Considering the Caps return most of the same personnel on the power play unit, however, it is a bit surprising to see the team struggle with the man advantage.

RELATED: Capitals find the Winnik formula Saturday night

In the past four seasons, the Caps have led the league twice and finished no worse than fifth in power play percentage. In fact, in the past four seasons combined, the Capitals' success on the power play is 24.1 percent which leads the NHL by a wide margin. The Pittsburgh Penguins have had the second most effective power play at 21.0 percent.

“They're capable of getting three one night and we'll be back on track,” Trotz said. “I'm not worried about them. The power play's in good hands with the personnel that we have on both groups and the people handling it. They'll get going.”

When asked about their early struggles, the key cog of the power play, Alex Ovechkin, said, “Obviously we have skill and we know each other well. Sometimes it just didn't work out. Maybe [we] play more casual than how we used to play. We have to figure [it] out and play better obviously.”

But there may be a silver lining to the team’s lack of power play success as the team's effectiveness with the man advantage has at times masked their weaknesses on offense.

In the 2012-13 season, the Capitals led the NHL in power play percentage with a whopping 26.8 percentage. Ovechkin led the NHL in goals with 32 (in a 47-game lockout-shortened season). Of those 32, however, exactly half of them came on the power play.

The team was completely over reliant on the power play, but in the playoffs power plays are harder to come by and the opponents tend to be among the stronger teams in terms of the penalty kill.

In that 2012-13 season, the Capitals would go on to lose to the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. Ovechkin managed only two points, a goal and an assist, both of which came on the power play. In seven games, Ovechkin did not tally a single even-strength point.

Adding scoring depth was a major focus for the Capitals in the offseason. If they can’t score on the power play, than they are about to find out just how much scoring depth they actually have.

“We're finding ways to win without the power play,” Trotz said. “We wanted to improve our 5-on-5 scoring so we're going to have to do it and we're going to have to do it through depth and I think we're capable of doing that.”

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Game 58: Capitals at Blackhawks Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 58: Capitals at Blackhawks Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Where: United Center, Chicago, Ill.

When: 8:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blackhawks will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Blackhawks game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).


The Capitals (33-17-7) take on the Blackhawks (24-26-8) Saturday, February 17 at 8:30 p.m. ET in Chicago.


The Capitals-Blackhawks game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 7:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 8:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 11:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 12:30 a.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

7:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
8:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blackhawks
11:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
12:30 a.m. — Caps in 30


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Blackhawks game:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Alex Chiasson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Jakub Vrana, Taylor Chorney


The Capitals-Blackhawks game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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NHL Awards tracker: How Malkin is helping Ovechkin's case for the Hart


NHL Awards tracker: How Malkin is helping Ovechkin's case for the Hart

A week by week look at where the race for the major individual NHL awards stands and which Caps could be in contention.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been red-hot as of late and so has Evgeni Malkin. In his last nine games, Malkin has tallied a whopping 11 goals and 17 points. His current run has some people talking about him contending for the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.

But if you want to talk about Malkin for the Hart, you have to talk about Alex Ovechkin as well.

Malkin has 66 points this season, Ovechkin has 65. Even with his impressive goal run of late, Malkin still trails Ovechkin in the goal-scoring race 34-32. What's more, Ovechkin's Capitals still hold a three-point lead over Pittsburgh with two games in hand in the Metropolitan Division.

Granted all of this could change by next week. Perhaps Malkin will pass Ovechkin in goals or the Penguins will pass the Caps in the standings which will change the conversation. Until then, however, there's no way to push Malkin's Hart candidacy without thinking about Ovechkin. What he is doing at the age of 32 with a Capitals team in which no one really knew what to expect is more impressive than what the 31-year-old Malkin is doing with players like Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby with the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is third among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With two rookies on the blue line and an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.


Braden Holtby

In contention for: Vezina

Holtby is on pace to be a 40-win goalie for the fourth consecutive season. He would be the first goalie in NHL history to accomplish that feat.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

If Malkin is a Hart candidate, so is Ovechkin who has done more with less in Washington this season.

Barry Trotz

In contention for: Jack Adams

The Caps still hold a three-point lead in the Metropolitan Division despite having two rookies on the blue line, dealing with more injuries than they have seen in years and down offensive years for some of its top players. Trotz deserves a lot of credit for that.

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