Power Outage

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

In a series with as little five-on-five real estate as there seems to be in the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers, a well-timed power-play goal could make all the difference in a game and perhaps in the series. The Caps scored just three power-play goals in their first-round series with the Boston Bruins, but two of those extra-man strikes were game-winners and the other was the first goal of the game. The team that scored first won six of the seven games in the Washington-Boston series, so those were three well-timed power play goals. Washington had a chance to make a difference with its extra-man unit in Game 1 against the Rangers, drawing four power plays in the first half of the game, and having a two-man advantage of 34 seconds in length while the game was still scoreless near the midpoint of the middle frame. The Caps could not convert, and New York jumped out to a lead in the game just minutes after killing off the 5-on-3. The Rangers went on to a 3-1 win to take a 1-0 lead in the series. “Just make a simple play,” laments Caps captain Alex Ovechkin of the team’s struggling power play, which is 3-for-23 in eight playoff games this spring. “[The Rangers love to block shots. If you have an opportunity to maybe fake it, and they go down on one knee or go down [all the way], maybe give a pass back to an open guy. “Five-on-three, I had two opportunities to shoot the puck, one opportunity I missed the net. It was an empty corner, I just missed it. The second one, one of the players blocked the shot. It has to be simple.” The Caps were 0-for-4 on the power play in Saturday’s series opener, continuing what has become a troubling playoff trend in recent springs. Washington’s current series with the New York Rangers is the Capitals’ eighth postseason series since 2008. When the Capitals made it back to the playoffs after a five-year absence in 2008, they drew the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. The Caps netted eight power play goals in 35 attempts (22.7%) in that series against Philly, and that’s the most power play goals they have scored in any of the seven-plus postseason series in which they’ve played in the last five springs. In their three postseason series in 2008-09 (a total of 21 games), the Caps went 19-for-87 (21.8%) with the extra man. In their four-plus postseason series since (a total of 24 games), the Capitals are an anemic 9-for-91 (9.9%) with the extra man. Washington had 19 power-play goals on 125 shots in the 2008 and 2009 playoffs for a 15.2% shooting efficiency rate. In the 2010, 2011 and 2012 playoffs, the Caps have nine power-play goals on 140 shots for a dismal 6.4% rate. The Capitals have not scored more than three power-play goals in any of their last four full playoff series, and they have now gone 32 straight postseason games without scoring more than one power-play goal in a game. Thirty of Washington’s 45 playoff games in the last five springs have been decided by a single goal. The Caps are only slightly better (7-8) in one-goal games in which they scored at least one power-play goal than in games in which they failed with the man advantage (6-9). “The power play is usually the difference in tight series like this,” says Caps right wing Troy Brouwer. “There’s going to be a lot of blocked shots. Combined, we barely eclipsed 30 shots last game. It’s going to be tight. We had a 5-on-3 that we needed to capitalize on. I think we lost a lot of momentum when they blocked shots and killed it off. For us, we need to make sure that our power play is making smart decisions, not turning pucks over and not giving them momentum.” When the Caps were shocked by eighth-seeded Montreal in the first round of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, they were 1-for-33 with the extra man in those seven games, and 1-for-61 in power-play shots on goal. Each of their last three losses in that series was by the margin of a single goal. Just one more extra-man strike somewhere in those last three games might have been the difference between winning and losing that series. “The power play definitely has to be better,” says Caps center Brooks Laich. “The guys on it have to take a tremendous amount of pride in it and make it better, and we’ve got to get more looks at the net. I think we’re looking for the one slam-dunk play a little bit too much and we’re not going to get that. Their [penalty] killers do a good job of taking away lanes and blocking shots, but we have to find more ways to get pucks to the net and get bodies around the net. We’re probably going to find our goals that way rather than a slam-dunk tap-in play.”

next up:

Fast Start, Forechecking Key to Keeping Home Ice

January 14, 2013

The Caps might not have played their best hockey in the first two games of the Eastern Conference semifinal series with the New York Rangers, but they played well in those contests. More importantly, they played well enough to wrangle home ice advantage away from the top regular season team in the

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Mike Vogel on Twitter

  • Mike Vogel @vogscaps

    GAME RECAP: #Caps Lack Finish, Lose 2-1 - One of Caps' 76 shot bids gets past Enroth; Caps drop 7th of 11 at home: http://t.co/zoxUYZKHcT

    Posted 11 hours ago
  • Mike Vogel @vogscaps

    #Caps lose this one 2-1 to the Sabres, who have won three straight. Caps have won four of first 11 home games, needed OT/SO for two of 'em.

    Posted 12 hours ago
  • Mike Vogel @vogscaps

    And there's the first time shorthanded for Caps in about 140 minutes. Backstrom tripping in o-zone. #Caps to PK, down 2-1 with 4:28 left.

    Posted 13 hours ago
  • Mike Vogel @vogscaps

    Sabres call timeout after an icing with 4:36 left, third. #Caps trail 2-1. #CapsSabres

    Posted 13 hours ago

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