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John Carlson reveals a major factor in the Capitals’ power play struggles

John Carlson reveals a major factor in the Capitals’ power play struggles

Wednesday’s contest between the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins was decided by the narrowest of margins. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana both beat goalie Matt Murray, but were denied by the post and a late shot by Lars Eller trickled past Pittsburgh’s netminder and onto the goal line before getting swept away by a diving Marcus Pettersson. Pittsburgh eked out a 2-1 win with the game-winning goal coming off a bizarre play that saw the puck bounce around in the crease and into the net.

Both teams played an incredibly even game with neither side seemingly taking control over the course of 60 minutes. So what proved to be the difference in such a close game?

Special teams.

Washington largely held the Penguins’ power play in check, but gave up one goal on four power plays. The Caps, meanwhile, left empty-handed as they squandered all five of their power play opportunities.

Just one goal would have completely changed the game, but the power play was unable to take advantage.

“A couple too many failed entries,” John Carlson said of the power play. “I think we got some good chances, some good looks like we’re used to, but missing the net a little too much. We’re not putting it in the right spots if you’re not trying to score and those become easy clears for them where they don’t really have to work for them. Too many of those.”

The failed entries were the most glaring issue for the power play on Wednesday. When the Caps were able to get into the offensive zone and set up the power play, they were able to generate chances. The issue was just getting the puck to that end of the ice.

Whenever Washington tried to transition the puck up the ice, they were harassed by Pittsburgh’s penalty kill to such a degree that they struggled not just to get it past the blue line, but even to transition out of their own defensive zone.

“They pressured up ice and were able to disrupt our timing a little bit,” head coach Todd Reirden said.

That pressure gave the Caps fits. Two or three Caps players always looked to be ahead of the play while Pittsburgh sent forecheckers after the puck. The result was Washington looked outnumbered on its own power play as the forecheckers wreaked havoc on the few Caps players left behind looking to transition.

As Carlson revealed, however, this was partly by design.

“Against teams like that we’ve done in the past where we try to get above them and essentially have a three-on-two, four-on-two situation. We count on ourselves and rely on ourselves to execute those plays and it just didn’t happen tonight.”

Against aggressive teams like the Penguins, the Caps send in players ahead of the play to get in behind the forecheckers. That creates the opportunity for odd-man breaks once the players bringing the puck up the ice are able to get it past the forecheckers and up to those players.

That strategy backfired on Wednesday as Pittsburgh was able to undercut the breakout attempts and bottle up the power play in both the neutral and the defensive zone.

Clearly some adjustments are needed, but according to Carlson the main issue on Wednesday was just simple execution. They knew what Pittsburgh wanted to do and they had a plan in place to counter it, they just were not able to carry it out.

“We’d love to have everyone come back all the time, but it works both ways,” he said. “When we can get above, that's our main goal. To give ourselves four-on-twos, that's a pretty good opportunity when a team is that aggressive down ice. Tonight, [we] didn't execute.”


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Braden Holtby, Tom Wilson make strong statements in support of Black Lives Matter protesters

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Braden Holtby, Tom Wilson make strong statements in support of Black Lives Matter protesters

As protests have taken place in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., to raise the issue of racial injustice in the U.S., Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and forward Tom Wilson have mulled how to use their platforms in order to help the cause.

On Wednesday, both veteran stars released statements voicing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which has been in the national spotlight since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in an arrest that was captured on video May 25.

Holtby, whose wife Brandi posted a message on Twitter from both of them Tuesday, encouraged protestors to continue spreading their message and ridiculed the country’s current climate for its “injustice and hatred infused power.”

Wilson vowed to donate to the East Of The River Mutual Aid Fund and the Fort Dupont Cannons, who are based in D.C. and known to be the oldest minority hockey program in the U.S. He closed out his statement by writing, “I am contributing to these funds today, but I am committing to learn, to listen and to support going forward.”

Holtby and Wilson were the latest Capitals to weigh in on the protests after defenseman John Carlson committed to being “a part of the solution” and forward Alex Ovechkin called for everyone to “respect and love each other no matter what we look like.”


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Former Capitals forward Brett Connolly offers options to take tangible action against racism

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Former Capitals forward Brett Connolly offers options to take tangible action against racism

The senseless murder of George Floyd has shed light on the racism that still exists within America. In the wake of his tragic death, there are many who want to take action but are not sure how. Brett Connolly is here to help.

The former Capitals forward tweeted out a heartfelt message on Tuesday in response to a Tweet from J.T. Brown.

Connolly then took the extra step of Tweeting out a number of ways to take tangible action against racism including organizations you can support and donate to, places you can contact and movies you can watch to learn more.

Connolly was largely a soft-spoken player in his three seasons in Washington, but he did decline an invite to the White House extended to the Capitals as Stanley Cup champions. Connolly would not go into detail on why.

Connolly left Washington as a free agent in the summer and is in his first season with the Florida Panthers.