The Washington Capitals were without John Carlson at their morning skate on Tuesday and according to Caps head coach Peter Laviolette, they will be without him for the foreseeable future. Carlson was placed on injured reserve by the team on Tuesday after getting hit in the head by a slap shot last week.
The Carlson news, on top of losing TJ Oshie to another injury four games ago, means the Capitals are having to debut new looks on both of their man-advantage units.
Here is how the team’s coaching staff had them lined up before Tuesday night’s matchup with the New York Rangers per The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell.
Ovechkin – Strome – Kuznetsov
TVR – Sheary – Mantha
Gustafsson will quarterback the power play with Carlson out – a role he used to have with the Chicago Blackhawks. Gustafsson has been a recent inclusion on the first unit in the last three games after Oshie’s injury and his role will only grow now with both Oshie and Carlson out. Marcus Johansson will also return to full-time first-unit duty.
The most notable change in terms of strategy of the first unit PP is that it appears the team will employ just one right-handed shot in Alex Ovechkin. The normal player in the bumper spot (TJ Oshie’s position) tends to always be right-handed when healthy. That strategy allows lefties like Evgeny Kuznetsov (half wall) and Dylan Strome (down low) to more easily feed them for one-time shots.
Since the 2015-16 season, no player other than Alex Ovechkin (116) has scored more power-play goals for the Capitals than TJ Oshie (64). That season was Oshie’s first with the team and he has done the vast majority of his damage from that bumper position. The team had been testing the right-shooting Carlson in that spot in recent games.
Carlson’s average of 4:21 of time on ice per game with a man advantage is second on the team only to Ovechkin (5:29). The 32-year-old blueliner is also just four power-play points shy of tying Calle Johansson (228) for the fourth-most in franchise history. The only active Caps players ahead of him on the list are Nicklas Backstrom (410) and Ovechkin (543). Finding a way to fill that sort of hole in the team’s lineup is something head coach Peter Laviolette commented on after Tuesday’s morning skate.
“He’s certainly an important player,” Laviolette said of Carlson. “We talked about it this morning. Our guys have to be ready for this challenge. To give more, to do more, and to keep things moving.
“Other guys will step up,” he continued. “That’s how we’ve done it the entire year. We’ve needed guys to step up, fill shoes, and fill minutes. It’s no different here with John.”
When Carlson was out with a lower-body injury earlier in the season for six games, the team was able to still operate successfully on their power play. In 22 opportunities they converted 7 times for the league’s eighth-best conversion rate during that timeframe. Gustafsson had four power-play assists in those six games which led the team.
The second unit will likely see increased roles for three players who have played less than nine total minutes of power-play time over the past 10 games in Orlov (4:01), Mantha (3:31), and van Riemsdyk (0:31).
Sheary (6.9) and Milano (6.5) are second and third in total points per 60 minutes on the power play this season and could add much-needed secondary scoring. Milano in particular has been hot lately with six points in his last five games overall.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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