Arlington, Va. — When trying to explain the Caps’ recent struggles, many point their finger at the power play. Against the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders, Washington failed to score on ten opportunities with the extra man. The result was two losses.
On Friday, the Capitals only scored once on six chances, but it was a critical goal as it tied the game in the third period and forced overtime. Then on Monday, the power play came through again with a third-period goal on the team’s third chance to force overtime.
Two games with no power play goals and the team lost both. Now, however, the Caps have scored critical goals in their past two games and the result is three points.
“I think they're getting their confidence back,” Trotz said. “They've been difference makers. I know for quite awhile the power play's been a focus of a lot of articles, but they've come through big for us in the last couple games and that's what you want is the power play to come through big.”
Overall, the numbers still aren’t great. Washington ranks 23rd in the NHL with only a 15.2-percent power play. Considering the offensive talent this team boasts, it’s hard to believe they sit among the bottom ten in the NHL and that may actually be part of the problem.
“If you look at it, for the last couple years we've been so successful in power play, we haven't had any really downs with it,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “I don't know, sometimes it's going to happen, they get into the slump in power play and that's now. So you just have to get out of it. You have to work hard and get out of it and make sure we do something about it.”
The Caps have boasted one of the top power plays in the NHL for four years, never finishing the season outside of the top five since the 2011-12 season. When facing the first prolonged power play slump in recent memory, the Caps lost that killer instinct and have been working to restore that mentality ever since.
“For a while there, we were pass around, we were getting chances, but we weren't really getting goals,” Trotz said. “We're getting chances, let's get some goals. And I think that mindset’s changing. We can be a difference in a game and you need to have some success to have that mindset sort of take root, take hold.”
Now with two goals in their past nine opportunities, the power play is showing signs of life again. It also appears like it’s going to get a big boost in the form of T.J. Oshie who practiced fully on Tuesday and will likely be back in the lineup Wednesday against the Boston Bruins.
“He's a great player and a big key in the middle there for us,” Backstrom said. “It's huge.”
“Without a doubt, I think [Oshie] in that diamond spot is as good as anybody in the National Hockey League,” Trotz said. “I think he's tenacious, I think he understands that position, especially on our power play. I think his retrievals of keeping pucks alive for sustained pressure is exceptional and then his hand skills to make something out of nothing to keep that power play alive is one of the best.”
That’s good news for a power play unit that may finally be turning things around.
MORE CAPITALS: Caps return Carey to Hershey