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Friday Six-Pack: Why hasn't Ovi scored on the power play?

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Friday Six-Pack: Why hasn't Ovi scored on the power play?

Welcome to our Friday six-pack, where we address your most pressing questions on the Washington Capitals. Some good questions this week. Let’s get started: 

It’s certainly unusual that after 12 games, each of Alex Ovechkin’s seven goals have come at even strength. Every coaching staff in the NHL game plans against stopping Ovechkin on the power play. You see it at every opposing morning skate, teams putting a player in Ovechkin’s favorite spot in the left circle, and making sure he is covered like a blanket. Yet over the past two seasons Ovi has led the league with 24 and 25 power-play goals.  I don’t see much in the way of defensive adjustments from opposing teams and I don’t see any real problems with John Carlson getting pucks to Ovi’s sweet spot. (Carlson and Ovechkin practiced one-timers from the top of the left circle after practice today, much to the delight of their teammates and a smattering of fans along the glass). It should be noted that with the addition of T.J. Oshie, some of the power-play goal distribution will change this season. Through 12 games, Oshie and Carlson each have two power-play goals and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson and Matt Niskanen each have one. With those offensive weapons -- we saw Kuznetsov replace Johansson on the top unit Thursday night – Ovechkin’s  power-play numbers may dip this season, but I don’t anticipate a prolonged slump on the man-advantage.

I don’t know if I’d call them stars just yet, but you’re right. Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt are coming off perhaps their best game as a pair and bring a lot to the table in terms of speed and offensive upside. I asked Barry Trotz about them today. “Orlov is continuing to play at the level I think he exited before the (wrist) injury. He’s able to defend, making the right reads offensively and defensively and when you’re making good decisions with that skill set, that really makes the game pretty easy for everybody. I think Schmitty’s biggest assets are his legs. He’s using his legs to pressure, to create offense. He’s got a lot of jump in his step right now. He’s not watching the game, he’s playing the game.” According to Puckalytics.com, Orlov has a Corsi For percentage of 55.4 and Schmidt is at 51.6. Together they are at 62.3 percent. If both players can make the steps Todd Reirden thinks they can make this season the Caps should have a solid defensive six as they head toward the post-season.

A lot can happen between now and the NHL’s Feb. 29 trade deadline, especially when it comes to injuries. Last season the Caps were remarkably healthy throughout most of the season and they’ve started this season the same way. The next three months should determine whether the Capitals need to address that third defense pairing or not. I like the progress Schmidt and Orlov have shown in the early part of this season and I think keeping them together will help stabilize both of them. The Caps seem to have found some good penalty kill pairs as well. One question that may need addressing is the fourth line. What kind of identity would Trotz like to have on that unit? Ideally, he says, he’d like it to be gritty and capable of playing in all three zones, like the Islanders’ fourth line of Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas. If Justin Williams winds up on the Caps’ third line, they could have a gritty fourth unit of Tom Wilson, Michael Latta/Chandler Stephenson and Brooks Laich. But if a piece is missing that could make that line better, I could see the Caps addressing it in February, maybe at the center position.

Nope. In fact, Michael Latta’s fight with Tyler Randell Thursday night was the Caps’ first of the season. Through the first month of the season fighting is down roughly 40 percent from last season at this time, with more than half the fights occurring in the opening period. The biggest reason is that on most nights, two teams do not employ one-dimensional players and the few that still exist are hesitant to put their teams at a disadvantage by taking instigator penalties. Some players, including Brooks Orpik, believes the game is better than ever without an excess of fisticuffs and while I like the occasional unscripted scrap, I agree.

No. Although I love the skill set Evgeny Kuznetsov brings to the table, I see him more as a setup guy than a finisher, especially if he stays with a pair of snipers like Ovechkin and Oshie. I’ve had scouts from other teams tell me they think Kuznetsov is very capable of putting up point-a-game numbers and with 14 points in 12 games (5 goals, 9 assists), he’s proving them right. At his current scoring pace, Kuznetsov would finish the season with 34 goals, 62 assists and 96 points. I think that’s unreasonable, but 30 goals and 50 assists are within reason. As for Ovi, he’s on pace for 52 goals and 52 assists for 104 points. I don’t see that pace continuing, but I do think 50 goals and 35-40 assists are attainable for Ovechkin.

I think the Andre Burakovsky at center experiment is over. Unless, of course, a center gets injured. Burakovsky saw some time on the Caps’ second line with Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson Thursday night and practiced there again on Friday. “I thought the skill sets of the players match. Justin has done a really good job in that role but I felt Bert’s (Burakovsky’s) skill set wasn’t being maximized with (Jay) Beagle and (Jason) Chimera," Trotz said. "They’re more of a three-man cycle versus a two-man, scissor cycle, where Bert is really good at cutbacks. It might not be permanent. It might be for just a game or two.” 

MORE CAPITALS: Galiev sent to Hershey, Burakovsky moved onto all-Swede line

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Being an Olympic hero is not all T.J. Oshie has in common with 2018 U.S. Women's hockey team

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Being an Olympic hero is not all T.J. Oshie has in common with 2018 U.S. Women's hockey team

Four years ago, Capitals forward T.J. Oshie was the shootout king in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. This time around Gigi Marvin was one of the Americans who provided the extra-time heroics for Team USA at Pyeongchang, carrying the women’s hockey team to the gold medal.

Ironically enough, they both were the King and Queen of their high school’s dance back in 2005.

Marvin and Oshie both went to Warroad High School in Minnesota. They graduated from the same class in 2005. Nearly every high school in the country would wish for just one Olympian, this one got two legends in one class.

Oshie famously took the puck six times for Team USA in a shootout to beat Russia back in 2014. Marvin scored the first tally of the shootout in the gold medal game against Canada. The United States would go on to win the match in seven rounds.

Oshie would go on to congratulate his fellow Warroad alum after the match.

Whoever cast the deciding votes, must have known that these two destined for glory. One could now call them the King and Queen of Olympic shootouts.

RELATED: USA WOMEN WIN GOLD OVER RIVAL CANADA

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Caps prospect watch: Boyd dedicates 4-goal performance to daughter after week in the hospital

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Caps prospect watch: Boyd dedicates 4-goal performance to daughter after week in the hospital

It would have been understandable if Travis Boyd struggled this past week. Something more important was on his mind.

Boyd spent the week in the hospital with his daughter, Hayden, who had been experiencing pain in her throat. He spent the enitre week in the hospital, not leaving until Hershey's game against Laval.

Boyd turned this trial into something incredible as he scored four goals Friday in Hershey's 6-3 win.

Boyd spoke about the ordeal with Zach Fisch of the Bears Radio Network (transcription via RMNB).

“It actually started after the game last Sunday against Rochester," he said. "I went straight from the rink to Urgent Care and then from Urgent Care to the ER. Never left the hospital until Friday morning. We had a successful surgery on Thursday night. Basically just a bad infection in her throat that had to be surgically removed. They had to surgically go in and kind of remove the bacteria and drain out the fluids. Everything went well. She’s doing well.”

Following the game, Boyd dedicated his performance to Hayden.

A four-goal game at the AHL level would have been an incredible accomplishment on its own. The fact that it came during such a trying time for him makes this a truly inspirational story.

You can watch highlights of the game including all four of Boyd's goals here:

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S UPDATED CAPS’ PROSPECT RANKINGS HERE

Other prospect notes:

  • In the Bears' game Friday against Laval, Riley Barber dropped the gloves with Markus Eisenchmid.  Barber was given an extra minor and game misconduct for instigating the fight in the final five minutes of the game. That penalty carries with it an automatic one-game suspension which Barber served Saturday. Here's a look at the fight.

  • Liam O'Brien had a pair of two-goal games over the week, scoring twice against Laval Friday and then two more against Toronto on Monday. Of his four goals, three of them were empty netters.
  • As the Capitals prepare for their Stadium Series game in Annapolis on March 3, Annapolis mayor Gavin Buckley—a native of Perth, Australia—made a plea to see Nathan Walker recalled for the game.  “I’ll have to put a quick shout out to the one Australian that’s playing for the Caps now, Nathan Walker. If you could just bring him up for this game, that’d be great. Because an Australian being in a hockey game is like a Jamaican bobsled team. It doesn’t happen very often.”

  • Brian Pinho was honored Friday in Providence College's Senior Night. He has served as captain of the team this season and as an assistant captain in his junior year. He spoke with The Cowl on what being a leader on the team means to him. "I think being a leader of this team is a great honor, but also a huge responsibility. I try to keep everything fun at the rink, while also bringing some intensity and competing hard every day.” You can read the full story here.
  • Goalie Adam Carlson, who was on loan to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL, was reassigned to the Kansas City Mavericks also of the ECHL. He started two games for his new team and turned aside 42 of the 48 total shots he faced.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in his week's updated rankings.