Less Than Even

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

Much has been made of the Caps’ failure to score on the power play in Thursday’s 3-0 loss to the Florida Panthers. Washington was 0-for-8 with the extra man in that game, failing to score on any of the single-game season high 17 power play shots it generated in 13:54 of extra man time. The Caps spent 2:06 of that time with a two-man advantage. Washington’s recent 4-5-2 run in its last 11 games is its worst record over any 11 games of the Bruce Boudreau era. Certainly, a lack of timely offense has contributed to that mediocre mark. The Caps have scored 25 times in those 11 games, but it’s been feast or famine. Eighteen of those goals have come in the four games during that span in which Washington has scored four or more goals in a game. They’re 2-0-2 in those four games. The Caps have tallied just three times in the five games in which they’ve scored one or no goals, and as you’d expect, they’re 0-5 in those contests. During the last 11 games, there have been five in which the power play has been dormant. When you get shutout three times, there are no goals on the power play or at even strength. In one of the other games in which the extra-man unit was blanked, the Caps had just one power play chance. Overall however, the Caps’ power play has produced at a rate of 20.9% over the last 11 games. That mark is short of Washington’s full-season rate of 22% to date, but it would be good for ninth in the NHL this season. Washington’s penalty killers have allowed a power play goal in each of the last four games, but they’ve killed 41 of 48 (85.4%) opposition power plays over the last 11 contests. That rate would be sixth in the league and is better than the team’s 84.2% PK rate on the season. If you’re following along, you can see that the root of Washington’s recent woes is at even strength. The Caps have been outscored 27-16 at even strength in their last 11, and that’s exactly a goal per game. Colorado comes into tonight’s game with a plus-15 (68-53) differential in five-on-five play. “Five-on-five is very important,” says Caps forward Brooks Laich, “but the special teams can swing it. For our team, usually our five-on-five coincides with our power play. If our power play is clicking and we’re scoring on the power play, we’re scoring five-on-five. If we’re not scoring five-on-five, usually we’re not scoring on the power play. They just usually go together. “As a player, when you can get a goal on the power play, now you’re thinking offense more. You’ve already got one, now you’re thinking, ‘Where am I going to get two?’ You’re on a little bit more of a roll where everything seems to go your way.” Boudreau called out his top players after Thursday’s loss to Florida, but Alex Ovechkin, Mike Knuble and Nicklas Backstrom are three of only four forwards (among those who have played in at least five of the last 11 games) who have been on the ice for more even-strength goals for than even-strength goals against. Ovechkin has a 9-to-7 even-strength goals for/against ratio in the last 11 games. Backstrom is at 8/7. Knuble is 5/3, but missed three games with a broken jaw. The other is 20-year-old rookie center Marcus Johansson, who will be a healthy scratch tonight. Johansson has been on the ice for exactly one even-strength goal in the last 11 games, Brandon Segal’s game-winning flutter puck that eluded Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth on Dec. 2 in Dallas. Johansson has been on the ice for three even strength goals for in the last 11. “Five-on-five I think is a strength of our hockey team,” says Laich. “You look at our club last year, five-on-five play was tremendous. It has to come around and be better for us again.” Laich and ex-Caps forward Tomas Fleischmann first became teammates in Fleischmann’s first year as a pro, in 2004-05 with the AHL’s Portland Pirates. This season, the two had been road roommates prior to the Nov. 30 trade that sent Fleischmann to Colorado for Scott Hannan. Tonight, the two will but heads for the first time since 2002-03 when Laich skated for Seattle and Fleischmann for Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League. “It’s going to be different to see Tommy on the other side," says Laich. "Really, really good friend of mine. It was tough to see him go when he got traded. He was my roommate on the road this year. I think I’ve been with him for seven years, won the championship with him in Hershey, played with him before that in Portland and five years in the NHL. “There’s a lot of history between myself and that guy. When he got traded, I said ‘Best of luck,’ and we’ll remain friends for sure. So I wish him the best of luck, just not tonight.”

next up:

Streak Gets Longer, Memories Shorter

January 14, 2013

In his first season as Caps head coach – and a partial season at that – Bruce Boudreau won the Jack Adams Award as “the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.” When the Caps concluded that 2007-08 season with a seven-game winning streak that propelled them into the


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