The Washington Capitals dressed a veteran-laden lineup against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday in part so that their new look power play could get some minutes together. The Caps’ man advantage unit, coached by new assistant Kirk Muller, got three tries against the Wings and potted one goal in the 4-3 victory.
While much of the foundation initially installed by Adam Oates in 2012 and later run by former assistant Blaine Forsythe remains, Muller and new head coach Spencer Carbery have already added their own wrinkles to try and freshen things up.
The rookie bench boss discussed postgame what he saw from his top special teams group.
“I thought they set the table for our second unit to score,” Carbery said, praising the first unit. “A couple things I liked, were the entries were good, [and that’s] a really important yet underrated part of a power play. If you’re not able to gain entry or puck possession and you’re constantly having to go back and breakout and breakout, that causes [trouble]. I thought our entries were good and then mixing up the look a little bit and changing sides which you guys obviously saw.”
Overall the Caps got 5:05 of ice time up a man in the game. During those five minutes they recorded 11 shot attempts, six shots on goal, eight scoring chances, and five-high danger chances. Detroit did not have a single shot attempt shorthanded, which is notable as the Caps gave up 25 shorthanded goals during Peter Laviolette’s tenure in charge — the fifth-worst mark in the NHL.
The Caps are placing significant importance on getting clean carry-ins into the zone. On the first unit, Evgeny Kuznetsov was still primarily responsible for those duties while on the second unit that fell to Connor McMichael, who served as the Hershey Bears’ power-play quarterback last season. Both Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom also made a few calculated, direct dump-ins off the back boards to hard-charging teammates.
Changes to how the main unit operated were noticeable despite having some similarities from last year like Alex Ovechkin being out for almost the entirety of the team’s power play and the slingshot remaining the primary first step of the team’s zone entry. Those changes included more movement and less stagnation; attempts at quicker, bang-bang plays instead of constant circling along the half boards; and TJ Oshie rotating sides of the net while the Caps were in possession of the puck in their setup.
Carbery specifically pointed out Oshie’s involvement.
“All of a sudden we’re set on the right side there where Osh drops off as a right stick, they’re going to have to respect that,” he said. “If they want to let a lefty take one-timers, Nick gets a really good chance there. Those are good looks for us. They’re not going to go in 90 percent of the time but those are dangerous, dangerous shots. We have to force teams to defend more scenarios than just [Ovechkin] on the flank.”
While the first unit made up of Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Ovechkin, Oshie, and Carlson created most of the chances and pressure, the team’s second unit put the lone extra-man goal in. That unit, which included McMichael, Rasmus Sandin, Andrew Cristall, Ivan Miroshnichenko, and Tom Wilson struck in the third period to give the Caps a 3-1 lead.
seeing-eye sandy shot pic.twitter.com/k10WG4SwbK
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 29, 2023
Sandin sent the seeing-eye wrister towards the goal from the point which seemed to click off Wilson’s skate and deflect by the Red Wings’ screened netminder. Sandin was ultimately credited with the goal and Cristall and Wilson recorded the assists.
McMichael and Oshie finished the game with the most stat-sheet, power-play activity. Both players recorded two individual shot attempts, two individual scoring chances, and one individual high-danger chance while up a man.
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