If you’ve been with us here all season, you know that we’ve been advocates of the Caps’ new and improved power play since before the season even started. The addition of Mike Ribeiro to the roster, the rearranging of some of the pieces and the tutelage of assistant coach Blaine Forsythe have all been integral in the unit’s overwhelming success this season.
The Caps were 18th in the NHL at 16.7% on the power play in 2011-12, the team’s lowest standing and worst percentage since 2006-07.
Washington’s power play was the league’s best during the 48-game 2012-13 regular season. The Caps scored 44 power play goals in 164 extra-man chances, leading the NHL in extra-man goals and in proficiency with a 26.8% success rate.
That figure is the best for any league-leading power play unit in the NHL since the 1989-90 Calgary Flames’ extra-man unit tallied at a rate of 27.7%.
The Caps weren’t just proficient on the power play in 2012-13; they were also consistent. The Capitals’ longest stretch without scoring on the power play was an 0-for-12 run in late February-early March. The shortest drought for every other team in the NHL was longer than Washington’s.
Late in March, The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg authored a piece suggesting that the Caps’ power play might be too one-dimensional. The Caps were actually better on the power play (18-for-58, 31%) in the 17 games after that piece appeared than they were before.
Also, six of Washington’s 11 games with multiple power-play goals came in those final 17 games of the season. Included in that group was an outburst of three power-play goals against the Boston Bruins in the regular season finale. Heading into that final game, the Bruins boasted the league’s best penalty-killing unit.
Washington torched Boston for three goals in five tries with the extra man in Saturday night’s game, and with that dent in their penalty-killing armor, the Bruins ended up fourth in the NHL in penalty-killing prowess. Including the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Capitals are the first team to score as many as three power-play goals in a single game against Boston’s penalty killing corps in a span of 91 contests.
Twenty-nine of Washington’s 44 extra-man tallies came from the trio of Alex Ovechkin (16), Troy Brouwer (seven) and Mike Ribeiro (six). Ten different Capitals scored on the power play this season with eight of them collecting at least two extra-man tallies. At his clip of 16 power-play goals in 48 games, Ovechkin would have scored 27 in a full 82-game season. That would shatter the single-season club mark of 22 established by Peter Bondra in 2000-01 (with Caps coach Adam Oates setting him up) and matched by Ovechkin in 2007-08.
One of the additional positive aspects of Washington’s power play was that it was a useful weapon even when it did not score goals. The Caps were often able to use the pressure they generated with the extra man to soften teams up and wear them down for later exploitation in five-in-five play.
“We get scoring chances and shots on net,” says Ribeiro, “and that’s the most important thing on the power play. People want you to score. But to create that momentum and chances of scoring it helps your team to get a boost. And to be able to score obviously helps the team.
“I just think it’s good to have a top power play. It’s just more things for [the opposition to have] to creep in and think about how to stop us on the power play and change probably what they do on the PK.”
For what it’s worth, the Caps were 1-for-10 with the extra man in their three games against the Rangers during the 2012-13 regular season.
The Rangers’ extra-man outfit finished 23rd in the league this season with a 15.7% success rate. The Blueshirts scored just 24 power-play goals in 48 games this season, New York’s power play featured 11 different scorers, but only five had two or more goals. Ryan Callahan led the Rangers with six power-play strikes.
New York scored a power-play goal in each of its three games against Washington in 2012-13, going 3-for-9 with the extra man in those games.
The Rangers were a bit warmer with the extra man during their 10-3-1 run in the month of April. The Blueshirts went 9-for-49 (18.4%) with the extra man during that span. They scored a power-play goal in only five of their 14 April game, tallying multiple times with the extra man in three of those five contests.
Washington finished the season at 77.9% on the penalty kill, ranking 27th in the NHL in that department. The Caps allowed 36 power-play goals on the season, with 15 of those (41.7%) coming in the first 11 games of the campaign. Over the final 37 games of the season, Washington’s penalty-killing outfit clicked at a rate of 81.3%. If maintained over a full season, that rate would have landed the Caps in 15th place on the league’s penalty killing ledger.
The Caps successfully killed off 21 of their last 23 (91.3%) penalty killing missions of the season and they’ll hope to carry that momentum into the playoffs.
The Rangers ranked 15th in the NHL in penalty killing at 81.1%. In the month of April, New York killed off 31 of 37 for a kill rate of 83.8%.
New York is one of the league’s most disciplined teams; the Rangers took 156 minor penalties in the 48 games, fourth fewest in the NHL and two shy of league lead. The Blueshirts’ total of regular season minors is the fewest of all Eastern Conference playoff teams. New York finished tied with Chicago for the fewest total penalty minutes in the NHL.
For the Caps, the trick is to get the disciplined Rangers to take enough penalties to enable Washington’s power play unit to be a factor in the series.
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