The Washington Capitals are one of just three teams in the NHL that is yet to score a goal on a power play this season. Through three games, the Capitals have been put on their man advantage eight times and have come up with nothing.
Head coach Spencer Carbery, who ran a highly successful power play with the Toronto Maple Leafs the past two seasons, believes he knows what the problem is and how to fix it. The rookie bench boss spoke with assembled media in Montreal on Saturday ahead of his squad’s game against the Canadiens.
Carbery was first prompted to come up with what exactly the power play needs to do better. According to him, it’s a shift in mindset that has been difficult for his players to grasp early on that is causing most of their issues.
“Faceoffs, entries were a little bit better last game, and our puck play when we do gain possession or recovery needs to be a lot cleaner and crisper,” Carbery said. “And then it’s gotta be an attack mentality with the puck recovery, get it back, and do it again. What happens for us, what I’ve noticed, is if you’re so reliant on one possession that one puck becomes your only chance to score. When that is what your power play’s mindset becomes, now you’re looking for perfect plays and now you’re hesitating when you should maybe potentially just throw a puck in to look for a high tip.”
There is statistical evidence to back up what Carbery outlines in terms of his team trying too hard to make the perfect play when the more simple play could be the better option. The Capitals have just eight shots on goal in their eight power play attempts. No single player has more than two of those shots.
While the Capitals are clearly at the bottom of the league in terms of overall effectiveness, they are still generating chances. The team ranks 12th in scoring chances per 60 minutes (64.1) and ninth in high-danger chances per 60 minutes (28.1). The “cleanness and crispness” as Carbery said, just hasn’t been there.
Veteran center Nicklas Backstrom added his own similar opinion. “I think it’s a confidence thing,” Backstrom said. “We haven’t scored any power-play goals. I think that’s something we’re trying to work through and getting better at every day. Hopefully it’s going to come. We just need to be more urgent out there.”
One of the more glaring problems that jumps off the stat sheet is that Alex Ovechkin leads the team on the power play with eight individual shot attempts but not a single one of those shot attempts has turned into a shot on goal.
Ovechkin’s shots are not getting through as the team relies on a set play that the entire rest of the league has seen for over a decade. Carbery is fully aware of that.
“You have to reinvent yourself as a power play and that’s probably one of the things that we’re trying to do and there’s some growing pains early with it,” Carbery said. “You’ve gotta find different things that you do well. If you just stick to two options that you’ve done for 10 years and look for those two options, guess what? The other 31 teams know those two options.”
During the preseason and their three regular season games, the new work that Carbery and assistant coach Kirk Muller have put in is apparent but has not yet been executed by their players. On the ice, it’s evident that new looks via constant interchanging and keeping the puck in motion are being emphasized.
But, even with that, Carbery believes his team is still settling into old habits far too often.
“What’s your third, fourth, fifth [option],” Carbery said. “Well, we don’t have one. What do you mean you don’t have one? That’s what we’re challenging our power play group to come up with. We need to have three, four [options]. If they take [Ovechkin] away, what do we do? There’s a lot of different things that go into. It’s reinventing ourselves to be able to do multiple things – finding different ways to attack and adjust when penalty kills are on to what we are doing.”
The Capitals’ eight attempts on the power play this season are the fewest in the league. They’ll look to draw more calls to get more game reps and then score on the ensuing man advantages for the first time this season on Saturday in Montreal.
Puck drop against the Canadiens is at 7 pm.
Screenshot via @Capitals/X
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