The Caps have had one of the best power plays in the league for years. There are obvious reasons for the success, such as Alex Ovechkin’s booming shot. The Caps also have continued success on the power play because they periodically add new wrinkles to their plan of attack.
Two seasons ago, Jason Chimera racked up a bunch of goals with one such wrinkle: he’d abandon his position below the net and come out front to bank home an Evgeny Kuznetosv pass. There have also been times when Ovechkin has responded to being shadowed by positioning himself down by the goal line, off the the left side, essentially giving the Caps a mini 4-on-3.
This year, a slight adjustment has to do with where the slot player, mainly TJ Oshie, is positioned when the Caps have control of the puck in the zone.
We all know the classic TJ Oshie power play goal. He sets up in the middle of the diamond and rips one-timers that he’s fed from the player below the goal line (Marcus Johansson before this season, now Kuznetsov), or Nick Backstrom along the half wall. Oshie’s second goal against Tampa Bay on Monday night was scored from this bread-and-butter play.
Through the first three games of the season, Oshie still sets up in the same area for this play often. However, there are also times when he sets up closer to the front of the net. Here’s a screen grab from the second game of the season that shows how low Oshie can get in the offensive zone.
This positioning allows the Caps to create new high-quality scoring chances on the man advantage.
One is a pass from the half-wall to Oshie for a quick redirect, instead of his usual power play one-timer from a few feet further out. The Caps tried this a few times against Montreal.
This led to the Montreal penalty killers becoming more and more preoccupied with Oshie as the power play went on. As a result, a guy named Ovechkin was given more room to operate. We know how that ends.
Oshie’s new positioning played a role in his first goal against Tampa Bay. While Oshie sometimes looks for redirects on points shots from his more usual positioning towards the upper hash mark, positioning himself a few feet (or more, at times) lower in the zone gives the goalie less time to react to a deflection and also allows Oshie to create more effective screens. Here’s the goal again Tampa Bay.
The Caps have a serious advantage over most teams on the power play because of the elite talent they are able to put on the ice. But this is the best league in the world and, given enough time, teams will adapt to more effectively defend any power play, no matter how talented. New wrinkles like this one will help to keep the Caps power play among the best in the league.
Headline image: Scott Audette
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