On Tuesday, Capitals head coach Todd Reirden spoke to the media about changes he intends to make to special teams for the 2019-20 season. Of particular note was that Jakub Vrana, who signed a two-year, $6.7 million bridge contract with the Capitals over the summer, should see more time on the power-play.
“I think obviously Jakub’s done a lot of damage offensively five-on-five,” Reirden said. “I think for him to be able to contribute to special teams would be (good). The second unit, that would allow us to get some more production out of them.”
Reirden’s comments on special teams begin at 4:04.
Vrana’s career-best 2018-19 season saw 22 of his 24 goals come during five-on-five play. It was the first time that Vrana has ever cracked 20 NHL goals, but just one of them came with the second power-play unit, which generated goals at a third of the rate of the team’s first unit. With Evgeny Kuznetsov due to sit out the first three games of the regular season, the power-play will be in flux, providing Vrana an opportunity to step up and showcase his offensive abilities on the second power-play unit.
“We’ll see how these first few games (go),” Reirden said. “Obviously we won’t have Kuznetsov for those first three games so we’ll have a different look. We’ll react after those first three regular season games. We’ll take a look at a couple of things in the next three exhibition games, but ultimately we need to get some good combinations [going] for the start of the season.”
Over the summer, the Capitals added Scott Arniel as an Assistant Head Coach. Arniel, who joined the Capitals following a five-year stint as the associate coach of the New York Rangers, and former head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, brings offensive experience to the coaching staff, where both Reirden and former Hershey Bears associate coach Reid Cashman have more experience with defense.
“We’re always trying to get better and improve. Both special teams were points of emphasis yesterday and today,” Reirden said. “You know, looking back on the season, the special teams are spots then can improve. Where we ranked in the league – that’s easy to see that there’s room for improvement — so we’ll keep working at trying to get better.”
Reirden also noted that both Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson could see their minutes on the penalty kill reduced, likely in favor of some of the signings added to the Capitals over the summer.
“I would like to dial back, a little bit, on their penalty kill minutes,” Reirden said. Maybe that’s even Tom who gets some penalty kill minutes (deducted). He’s one of our top guys as well. But as these players continue to be relied upon in top six roles and playing on power-play and doing different things, you have to make sure you’re using your whole bench, keeping in mind it’s a long season. I feel extremely comfortable when Nick and TJ are out there. That’s something where we’d like to have other guys fill that void but at the end of the day, it’s about who can get the job done because special teams is an important element of the game. We’re looking at different options, but at the end of the day, I always know what those two can do.”
Headline photo: NBC Sports Washington
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