The Capitals’ performance in a 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Friday night was a tad deceptive from what the final score showed.
Shots favored Washington 27-24. The Capitals out-attempted the Blues 41-36 at five-on-five. High-danger chances favored the Blues 9-5, but the Capitals were a few bounces away from taking a big lead and putting the Blues in a hole in the first 10 minutes of the game. In total, it certainly wasn't the Capitals' worst loss the season despite the lopsided score.
What wasn’t deceptive, though, was the Capitals’ powerplay, which continued a bitter cold streak that has lasted since just after Thanksgiving.
Washington went 0-for-3 on the man-advantage and mustered just one shot on net in six minutes of powerplay time. The no-goal performance was a sign that the Capitals still are looking for what ails them nearly halfway into the season.
Including a game against the Panthers on Nov. 30, the Capitals are now 2-for-34 on the powerplay in their last 13 games, as they dropped to 15-for-103 (14.56%) on the powerplay this season. That drops them to 30th in the league, ahead of just the Red Wings (14%) and Canadiens (11%).
The powerplay outage has affected everyone, as the last non-Alex Ovechkin powerplay goal was scored by Dmitry Orlov against the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 28. No forward has scored a powerplay goal since Nov. 14, when Tom Wilson scored against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Ovechkin was responsible for both powerplay goals in the month of December, one of which came against the Detroit Red Wings as the powerplay was expiring. Coincidentally, as it turned out, that goal gave him the record for most powerplay tallies (275) of anyone in NHL history.
Still, while the Capitals know they have to be better when given the opportunity, there are still a few valid reasons why the unit hasn’t performed up to snuff this season.
Firstly, the team has been without Anthony Mantha since early November, and Nicklas Backstrom’s noted passing ability has graced the lineup just three times this season due to injury and illnesses.
It’s not a coincidence that in Backstrom’s last two games (on Dec. 29 and 31 against the Nashville Predators and Red Wings) that the Capitals totaled 19 shots in 17:23 of powerplay time. In the next two games against the New Jersey Devils and Blues, he wasn’t in the lineup and they mustered just two combined shots in eight minutes. In those three games he's played this season, he has two powerplay points.
T.J. Oshie has also played in just 16 of the team’s 35 games and just two (Ovechkin and John Carlson) members of the team’s top unit haven’t missed time at some point this season. Relatedly, that hasn’t allowed the team much opportunity to get rolling with so many players in and out of the lineup for various reasons throughout the year.
But no matter the reasons for the powerplay struggles this season, and specifically over the last six weeks, they simply haven’t been good enough to what has been expected of them — even without some key options.