Caps Need a Power SurgePosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Although they are without a power play goal in nine playoff games this spring, and although their penalty kill has been mediocre, the Boston Bruins are heading home for Games 3 and 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal Series with the Philadelphia Flyers owning a 2-0 series lead. Despite a dormant power play, the Bruins aren’t lacking for goals. They’ve scored 27 goals, including 25 in 5-on-5 play, one 4-on-4 and one empty-netter. With 29 goals, only the Tampa Bay Lightning has scored more goals in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs than the Bruins. Washington is tied for 12th on that list. All the teams south of the Capitals on the ledger (Pittsburgh, Phoenix and the Rangers) have been eliminated from the playoffs already, as has the team with which Washington is tied (Montreal) as have two of the teams directly above it (Buffalo and Anaheim). Tampa Bay has yet to allow more than three goals in any one of its nine playoff games this spring. Of the teams still in the playoffs, Tampa Bay has allowed the fewest power play goals (one) while Washington has allowed the second fewest (three). You’re getting the picture now. Two of the three power play goals the Caps have allowed in their seven playoff games have come against the Lightning. Those two tallies – both in the final minute of play in a period, too – have been huge in what have essentially been two one-goal games. Even if they were to benefit from a shutout performance from goalkeeper Michal Neuvirth, the Caps have to generate some offense. Washington has outplayed Tampa Bay at even-strength in this series. In order to dig their way out of this 0-2 series hole, that must continue. But the Caps also have to find a way to solve Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson on the power play. The Lightning don’t ooze discipline. They’ve gone shorthanded eight more times than every other team in the playoffs. Having to kill 46 penalties in nine games is a tall, tall order. The Lightning penalty killing corps has succeeded on an incredible total of 45 of those missions. The Bolts have spent 79:08 on the penalty kill during the playoffs. Washington has been effective at drawing penalties; they had five power play chances in Game 1 and six more in Game 2. The Caps haven’t enjoyed that sort of power play largesse much this season. The last time they had five or more extra-man chances in consecutive games was a three-game run from Dec. 19-23, more than half a season ago. That tells you that it might be expecting a lot to expect the Caps to get as many as five more chances with the man advantage tonight. That said, the Caps need to make the most of whatever chances they do get. And they need to cash in. “I think maybe generating shots, get a few more pucks to the net,” says Caps right wing Mike Knuble, who has scored one of the Caps’ three power play goals this spring. “I think we can get more pucks to the net, and second and third chances right around the net. I think that would be something that would benefit us.” Another element that would benefit the Caps is increased zone time on the power play. Washington hasn’t had much sustained attack zone time with the extra man, and that enables the Lightning to get frequent changes and keep their busy penalty killing corps relatively fresh. “They’ve been hanging on to it and working it around a little bit more than we have,” says Knuble. “I don’t know if we’ve been as good at recovering pucks after the first shot as we could be. Obviously, you’re not scoring. There’s probably a number of things that you could do better.” Certainly shooting the puck more is chief among the things Washington can do better, followed by puck retrieval, generating second chance opportunities and keeping their feet moving. If the Lightning want to pressure the Washington’s point men, that should open something up for the Caps down low, and they’ve got to be able to expose that. “For the most part, you’ve got to be dangerous down low and you’ve got to be dangerous up top,” says Caps center Jason Arnott. “If you only have one or the other element, it’s pretty easy to defend. Right now, I think we’re trying to focus on getting shots from up top, and we haven’t done a great job of attacking the net down low. “Maybe that’s something that we’ve got to look at a little closer or just talk about in the dressing room a little bit better. When you get that threat down low, it makes them collapse a little bit. Then you get the shot from up top. If we’re always just trying to shoot it from up top, it’s pretty easy to defend.” “If they’re going to move around and then their top two forwards will drop under at times when the puck moves across, so there are seams there,” Knuble says. “We’ve seen it on tape where we can probably expose some seams. It’s just a question of executing it a little bit better.” Down 2-0 in the series and playing against a team that’s every bit as stingy as they are defensively, that’s what it comes down to for the Capitals. Execute, or be executed.
I can remember a lot of happy moments in the visiting locker room at the St. Pete Times Forum. The Caps won the first two games of their first round series against the Lightning in Tampa back in 2003, and a winning locker room is always a happy place, even more so in the playoffs. The first