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Like almost everything else, the Caps' power play is on fire, too

Like almost everything else, the Caps' power play is on fire, too

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.

RELATED: Caps crush Canes with six unanswered goals

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.”

MORE CAPS: Defense is stepping up big

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Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

DALLAS — Hours after being named head coach of the New York Islanders on Thursday, Barry Trotz made his first public comments since stepping down in Washington earlier in the week.

And, from the sounds of it, his departure was mostly a business decision.

“Yeah, obviously, I love the D.C. area,” he told reporters on a conference call. “But when it came to the business aspect, from my standpoint, I felt that it wasn’t really sincere [given] what we did together. So I decided that it was better to just move on.”

“I thank the fans,” he added. “I’m glad we could get it done. I said we could get it done in four years, and we did.”

Although the value of his contract with the Islanders has not been publicly disclosed, Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Trotz is set to earn “at least $4 million” per year—or more than twice what he was earning in Washington.

A source told NBC Sports Washington earlier this week that Trotz, who directed the Caps to their first Stanley Cup two weeks ago, sought $5 million per season for five seasons. The five-year term, that source said, was a non-starter as far as the Caps were concerned, given the relatively short shelf life of NHL coaches and the fact that Trotz had already been in Washington for four seasons.

When it became clear that the sides weren’t going to close the considerable gap between their positions, Trotz offered to step down and the resignation was accepted, making the 55-year-old a free agent.

When “I got the [counteroffer], I guess I knew it was time to go in a different direction,” he said.

In New York, Trotz replaces Doug Weight, who was fired earlier this month along with GM Garth Snow. Lou Lamoriello, a longtime NHL executive, took over for Snow and immediately started a search for a new head coach.

Once Trotz became available, it didn’t take Lamoriello to zero in on the NHL's fifth all-time winningest coach. The two met, exchanged ideas and quickly realized that they had found a good fit in one another. Trotz said he's already reached out to the Islanders' star captain, John Tavares, who could become the biggest prize on the free agent market on July 1. 

And, like that, Trotz now is the coach of a Metropolitan Division foe. The Caps and Isles will face off four times next season, beginning with a Nov. 26meeting in New York.

It’ll be weird, for sure. But professional sports is a business. And all sides involved in the Trotz saga were served a painful reminder of that this week.

Asked if he felt wanted in Washington, Trotz said: “Well, I’ll leave that up to the Caps to answer that. I think, absolutely. We just won a cup together and so I don't think that was an issue. I think it was more principle.”

In the end, Trotz wanted to be compensated like one of the top coaches in the game. And now he will, settling in behind big market coaches such as Toronto’s Mike Babcock ($6.25 million per year), Chicago’s Joel Quenneville ($6 million) and Montreal’s Claude Julien ($5 million).

“It’s good to be wanted,” he said. “It happened really quickly because you go from one emotion of winning the cup to the next emotion of leaving the team that you just won the Cup with, and you have to make some quick decisions. I know the timing of it—end of the season, the draft coming up, free agency [and] all that—there was some urgency on that. Both parties knew that, so we went to work at it and got it done.”


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The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?


The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

The NHL released the salary cap range for the 2018-19 season on Thursday. That sound you hear is the general managers frantically typing numbers into adding machines to figure out which of their players they can afford and which they are going to have to let walk.

The cap ceiling will rise from last year's $75 million all the way up to $79.5 million with the cap floor set at $58.8 million.

So what does this mean for the Capitals?

Here's a look at the team's pending free agents:

Unrestricted free agents: Jay Beagle, John Carlson, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Wayne Simpson

Restricted free agents: Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, Travis Boyd, Adam Carlson, Philipp Grubauer, Tim McGauley, Liam O'Brien, Devante Smith-Pelly, Tom Wilson

We will not know exactly who will make the roster, so to project how much money the Caps will have to work with, let's assume Nathan Walker makes the team and Shane Gersich goes to the AHL. That will give the Caps a little less than $14.8 million with which to work.

Considering the team will need to use about half of that number if not more to re-sign Carlson, that's not a whole lot to work with.

Is $7 million enough to re-sign Beagle, Kempny, Bowey, Smith-Pelly and Wilson? Probably not and that does not even account for prospects who will try to compete for the NHL roster such as Barber and Boyd.

Here's what the cap ceiling tells us:

  • The team's entire offseason will depend on if the team can re-sign Carlson and for how much.
  • Carlson's cap hit last season was just under $4 million. A $4.5 million increase in the salary cap ceiling doesn't mean much when Carlson is going to get a raise of $3 million or more.
  • Grubauer will almost certainly be traded because he is an asset and because there won't be enough money for the team to commit $1.5 million or more to the backup goalie like they did last season.
  • If Carlson returns, fan favorite Beagle has almost certainly played his last game as a Cap. Everyone wants him back, but he would have to take a severe discount for the Caps to fit him and even then, he would be taking away a roster spot from a young prospect ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Free agency opens July 1.