Capitals

Woeful power play holding Caps back from dominating Metro

Capitals

In the grand scheme of things, the Washington Capitals don’t have much to complain about this season. 

They’re tied with Carolina for the most points in the NHL, their captain has been setting the league on fire (at age 36 no less), and their rookies have given the team a massive boost in the face of overwhelming roster depletion.

But one glaring problem has plagued the team of late, hampering their ability to dominate the Metropolitan division: the inability to score on the power play.

In Washington’s 3-2 loss to Los Angeles on Sunday, the Capitals had six power-play opportunities, and failed to score on any of them. To make matters worse, they conceded their fourth shorthanded goal of the season, which is tied for the second-worst mark in the league.

“We had a lot of opportunities on the power play and just couldn’t find another [goal] there,” defenseman Justin Schultz said after the Kings game. “They got some energy there from that shorthanded goal and a lucky bounce on that goal in the third [period] there. We had our chances—I don’t know, just didn’t have the juice tonight.”

Insufficient work on the man advantage is nothing new to the Capitals: they’ve posted the league’s 11th-worst mark of just 14 goals during power plays this season. A paltry success rate of 15.56% on the power play is the fifth-worst in the NHL.

 

Granted, there is one obvious caveat to criticizing Washington’s power play this season: They are missing a ton of players. Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson—the usual go-to guys on the man advantage—have all missed extended time this year. Without them, it might even be impressive that the Capitals have been able to score on 15% of power plays.

“It’s tough, you got guys coming in and out and you don’t know what your lineup is until the puck drops,” Schultz said. “It’s crazy right now, but no excuses here. Gotta find the way to get wins.”

But still, the point remains that a lack of offensive pressure on the power play has doomed the Capitals so far in the 2021-22 campaign. In Washington’s last four losses, they’ve gone 1-for-12 on the man advantage. They lost those four games by a combined five goals, and in each contest, a boost on the power play could’ve changed the overall outlook of the game.

Carolina and the New York Rangers are currently vying with the Capitals for the top spot in the Metro division. The most glaring difference between the three teams offensively is that while Washington’s power play has festered, New York’s (25.58%) and Carolina’s (22.47%) have thrived this season.

Washington, though, posts more goals per game (3.42) than any team in the Metro. The Caps have also been stellar defensively, allowing just 2.58 goals per game—a category in which three Metropolitan teams are in the top six league-wide.

Simply put, the Capitals are on par or better than their division rivals in almost every offensive category this season, save special teams. The power play is the only real differentiator between the Caps and the Hurricanes, Rangers, Penguins and others in which Washington finds themselves the butt of the joke.

If Washington is able to fix their power play—which undoubtedly will be helped by the return of nearly a half-dozen key players—they could be primed to dominate the Metropolitan division down the stretch. It will take time, but it should be a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ the Capitals get the man advantage in gear.