Photo credit: Alex Brandon
Last season, the Capitals power play was one of the few things that kept the team out of the cellar, accounting for nearly one third of the team’s goals. This year, the Caps don’t stink, but their power play, run by lone coaching holdover Blaine Forsythe, has remained one of the league’s top units. But in December, as the Caps soared up the standings, their power play was impotent.
The team made a few minor changes throughout the streak, putting Mike Green back on the point and Marcus Johansson on the first unit, but it didn’t make much difference. Last month, they converted on just six of their 43 opportunities. Since the Winter Classic, however, the power play has been back on track, scoring in four of the five games the team has played in the new year.
“We’re still running into a little bit of trouble here and there, but we’re making better reads,” Troy Brouwer told me. “The coaches emphasize a lot on our puck battles and being able to recover them so we’re not going back in our zone. All those combined help create more opportunities. We’re not forcing too much so we’re not turning pucks over.”
Despite being a better team five-on-five than last year, there may be more pressure on the Caps to convert on the man advantage this season. Last year, the Caps were second in the league in power play opportunities. This season, however, the team has had just 122 power plays, the sixth lowest total in the league. Other than the Boston Bruins, the Caps have spent the fewest minutes on the PP of any team in the league. Washington doesn’t have much margin for error. But in 2015, that problem has been diminished.
On Saturday, Brouwer kept the Capitals power play near the top of the league with a goal less than two minutes into the game, when Jimmy Howard put the puck on a tee behind the net and hurt his groin trying to fly back to the crease. Brouwer’s goal marked Washington’s fourth power play goal this month.
“We’re finding ways to get ourselves open,” Brouwer said.
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