After struggling to find consistency over the season's first two-plus months, the Capitals’ power play has finally returned to its previously prolific self.
In the past eight games, in fact, the unit has scored a least one goal seven times. During that span, Alex Ovechkin and Co. have connected on nine of 18 opportunities for a ridiculous 50-percent effectiveness rate.
No team has scored more power play goals during that timeframe.
For comparison’s skate, in the eight games prior to the current torrid stretch, the Caps’ power play connected on just one of 24 opportunities.
The latest example of the unit's resurgence came during Monday’s 6-1 romp over the visiting Hurricanes. Washington got just two chances—but defenseman Dmitry Orlov made sure the unit did not go home empty handed, ripping a one-timer from the top of the circles that tipped off of Jordan Staal’s stick before eluding goalie Cam Ward. The first of Orlov's two goals, it pulled the Caps even with the scuffling 'Canes, 1-1.
The Hurricanes, meantime, came into the game with the NHL’s top-rated penalty kill.
Barry Trotz acknowledged that his assistants have made some opponent-specific tweaks in recent weeks. But the head coach also credited the group’s crisper execution, especially around the net, for the turnaround.
“We made some adjustments,” Totz said. “They’re [also] playing with some pace. They’re shooting. And their execution is much better. We’re more net hungry. There’s a lot of pride in it. They know that they can inch their way better and be a big part of it and be a weapon for us.”
Overall, the unit is up to 14th in the NHL at 20.7-percent after languishing in the bottom third earlier this season.
Something else notable about the power play’s sudden surge? It’s getting contributions from all over the place. Since the hot stretch began eigth games ago, six different players have scored with the man advantage—Ovechkin (three times), T.J. Oshie (twice), Justin Williams, Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky and Orlov.
Orlov said he believes the uptick has less to do with X’s and O’s and more to do with the aforementioned execution. And, in particular, putting pucks on net.
“We just maybe start to hit more net and get more luck, you know?” the Russian defenseman said. “That’s why we’re having success right now.”
Oshie agreed with much of Orlov’s assessment.
“I think we were getting a lot of good looks earlier [in the season] but we were missing the net a lot,” he said. “We just weren’t capitalizing, and now we’re finding ways to score, finding different ways to run the power play. My unit is not that much different, just some different reads here and there. The other unit can bring two different looks at you.”
“So,” Oshie added, “I think it’s harder for penalty kills to read what we’re going to do. And anytime Ovi taking is getting one timers on that side, it’s always a good thing; it opens up a lot for us.”
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