Amid the jubilation over Saturday’s home opening win against the New York Islanders, there was one stat that marred the Capitals' performance: 0-for-5.
Washington was given five opportunities on the man advantage on Saturday and failed to strike in any of them, allowing the Islanders to stay in the game.
“They've had some good looks,” head coach Barry Trotz said of his power play unit following the game. “I mean, all around the net they've had some unfortunate luck. Pucks are bouncing right now.”
This early in the season, it may be unfair to label any particular statistic as “concerning.” Considering the Caps return most of the same personnel on the power play unit, however, it is a bit surprising to see the team struggle with the man advantage.
In the past four seasons, the Caps have led the league twice and finished no worse than fifth in power play percentage. In fact, in the past four seasons combined, the Capitals' success on the power play is 24.1 percent which leads the NHL by a wide margin. The Pittsburgh Penguins have had the second most effective power play at 21.0 percent.
“They're capable of getting three one night and we'll be back on track,” Trotz said. “I'm not worried about them. The power play's in good hands with the personnel that we have on both groups and the people handling it. They'll get going.”
When asked about their early struggles, the key cog of the power play, Alex Ovechkin, said, “Obviously we have skill and we know each other well. Sometimes it just didn't work out. Maybe [we] play more casual than how we used to play. We have to figure [it] out and play better obviously.”
But there may be a silver lining to the team’s lack of power play success as the team's effectiveness with the man advantage has at times masked their weaknesses on offense.
In the 2012-13 season, the Capitals led the NHL in power play percentage with a whopping 26.8 percentage. Ovechkin led the NHL in goals with 32 (in a 47-game lockout-shortened season). Of those 32, however, exactly half of them came on the power play.
The team was completely over reliant on the power play, but in the playoffs power plays are harder to come by and the opponents tend to be among the stronger teams in terms of the penalty kill.
In that 2012-13 season, the Capitals would go on to lose to the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. Ovechkin managed only two points, a goal and an assist, both of which came on the power play. In seven games, Ovechkin did not tally a single even-strength point.
Adding scoring depth was a major focus for the Capitals in the offseason. If they can’t score on the power play, than they are about to find out just how much scoring depth they actually have.
“We're finding ways to win without the power play,” Trotz said. “We wanted to improve our 5-on-5 scoring so we're going to have to do it and we're going to have to do it through depth and I think we're capable of doing that.”
MORE CAPITALS: Chimera thanks 'first-class' Caps fans