Today’s grade: Special teams
JJ: Through the first month of the season, the Caps were producing on the power play at an incredible rate of 37.1-percent. That was absolutely unsustainable so you expected it to come down, but considering how dominant the power play has been in the Alex Ovechkin era, no one expected it to look quite this bad. After the first month of the season, the Caps are producing at just 17-percent, good for 19th in the league. Overall they rank 10th at 21.8-percent, but that really does not reflect how much the team has struggled with the extra man of late.
It’s not hard to see what the problem is. When the power play gets set up it looks as dangerous as ever. Once the puck clears the blue line, however, Washington suddenly can’t seem to figure out how to get it back into the offensive zone.
The penalty kill was one of the main aspects Todd Reirden wanted to change this season and the results have not been great. For the season, the Caps rank 25th at 77.3-percent. It feels like it has improved over the course of the season, but the stats don’t bear that out. Here’s a month by month breakdown of where Washington ranked on the PK for that month: 25th in October, 13th in November, 26th in December, 23rd in January. So besides November, the penalty kill has not been good.
One month of a dominant power play and one month of an average penalty kill isn’t going to cut it.
Brian: The Caps’ vaunted power play went ice-cold for a month, which eventually caught up to them. They dropped to 14thin the league at one point, which is not normal. They are back up to 10th (21.8 percent) with two power-play goals in the final two games before the All-Star break. But they’ll need to get going in that area again and soon. Still – if after a bad month you are still 10 - and given all that talent, they should be fine. This is still a decided advantage for them most nights and that boosts the overall grade. A good week and this team is back in the top five and that can happen.
Not so on the penalty kill, where they are 25that 77.3 percent. It’s been a roller-coaster there and the return of defenseman Brooks Orpik hasn’t changed that much. The Caps gave up four power-play goals in the final three games before the break. They have to figure this out. One way to take some pressure off the PK, of course, is take fewer penalties. Four times in the past nine games Washington has taken five penalties in a game. Discipline is an issue.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- How to Watch: Caps take on Flames for first game after break
- Capitals Mailbag: Improving out of the bye
- Easier Said Than Done: Caps finding out how hard it is to repeat as Cup champs