The Washington Capitals held a short practice after their scrimmage on Thursday. It was there they worked on their special teams for the first time.
Despite the Washington Capitals’ power play taking a step back last season, new head coach Peter Laviolette and longtime Capitals assistant coach Blaine Forsythe are not making any personnel changes to the first unit.
Via The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir, here’s who landed on PP1 and PP2.
Power play units in today's #Caps controlled scrimmage/practice:
PP1: Ovechkin, Carlson, Backstrom, Kuznetsov and Oshie (shocking, I know)
PP2: Schultz, Orlov, Wilson, Vrana and Panik
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) January 7, 2021
The Capitals’ first unit will feature four forwards and one defenseman, John Carlson, while the second unit has undergone some tinkering. The group does not technically have a center — though Tom Wilson can take faceoffs (won 31.6 percent of his 57 FOs last season). Wilson is joined on the unit by young sniper Jakub Vrana, bottom sixer Richard Panik, offseason signing Justin Schultz, and first-pairing defenseman Dmitry Orlov. Zdeno Chara, and his 108 MPH slap shot, will be relegated to the team’s penalty-kill unit.
The Capitals connected on 19.4 percent of their power-play opportunities last season, good for only 17th best in the NHL. Laviolette said he evaluated all of the team’s assistants before rehiring them and said, “I feel really comfortable and fortunate to be with the guys that I’m working with.”
Laviolette defended keeping Forsythe, who has been around since the Adam Oates era, in a recent interview with the press.
“Blaine, he’s been in charge of the power play for a long time,” Laviolette said. “Last year, the power play dipped just a little bit from where it had been. I think that happens on every team with regard to any stat that you might have. There might be a year where you’re not in the top ten anymore but you had been in the top ten.
“Evaluating everything that Blaine has done here, he’s been in charge of one of the top and most lethal units in the National Hockey League. And for me, I didn’t see a reason to make a change there. When I met with him and he talked about the things he wanted to change and wanted to correct, I had full confidence that he would be able to do that.”
The Capitals’ first power-play unit is led by Alex Ovechkin, who has the third-most PPGs (260) in NHL history and could end up overtaking first-place Dave Andreychuk this season (274). The Capitals utilize a version of the 1-3-1 power play, which pumps one-timers through Ovechkin in the left circle. Despite everyone knowing what’s coming, Ovechkin continues to score at a blistering rate (13 or more PPGs in 14 of his 15 seasons) due to his hard and unpredictable shot.
It’s unclear how much different the unit’s strategy will be this season as it looks to improve upon its flagging effectiveness.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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