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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 02/ 1/2011

Line change: Best way to restore power for Caps?

By Washington Post sports editors

As the second half of the season opens tonight against Montreal, the Capitals are confronting some serious, though seemingly fixable, issues. High among them is reviving a power play that was once the most feared in the NHL. As Katie Carrera noted earlier today, Washington is just 9 for 88 with the man advantage in its past 27 games.

Readers of this blog have suggested a variety of potential solutions.

pkme put forth the following unconvetional solution: "Why not put all of the grinders on the power play. The Stars can not get it done. The result could not be much worse. All that cute passing and trying to set up the perfect goal. Charge the net and irritate the goalie. Put the guys out there that will work hard and go to the net."

mikebrady1 responded: "Because if we don't find a way to get the stars back on track, we are sunk. Grinders on the powerplay ain't gonna cut it long term."

Both arguments have merit. So there's the question: Should Bruce Boudreau keep his top scorers on the ice for long power-play shifts in the hopes of shaking them out of their dolrums? Or does he go with the players who have been scoring the most at even strength? Or is this drought like a batting slump in baseball -- the more you talk and think about it, the worse it gets?

By Washington Post sports editors  | February 1, 2011; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Power play  
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Next: Capitals seek to add power back into their power play

Comments

Putting the grinders out on the power play has been tried recently. It didn't work. Granted it was at the end of a PP (last 30-45 secs). I don't recall the game, but I think it was on VS. The commentators discussed it and wondered if a message was being sent. I was all for it at the time. But, the grinders had the same issues getting the puck in the zone and getting the PP set up and creating chances as the regular units did.

To answer the question, short PP shifts for the 1st PP unit.

Posted by: BetterOffWithFedorov | February 1, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

What should BB do? Think like Opposite George.
Pass less. Shoot more.
As a token suggestion, use Green and Carlson on the blueline, (so that just one defensive shooter can't be nullified by a single PK player time and time again), feed them the puck with instructions to SHOOT. Then have the forwards look for rebounds and retrieve the puck. And I'm not saying 'just stand there'. After two or three point shots, the PK will be scrambling a bit, getting out of position from blocking shots, and getting tired. At that point, space will open up down low. Apply skill then, rather than initially, where it ends up being a lot of passing and "you shoot," "nah, I got nothing, here, you shoot," "lemme see, nah i got nothing either, here how about..Whoops! Hold on I'll be right back, gotta go get that..."
Basically, simplify. The best way to start scoring on the PP is to shoot more. What I don't get is, if everyone has to be able to play with everyone to generate offense in this mad-scrambling-line-change compulsion of BB's, then why is there only one PP unit to blow it 9 times out of 10? Maybe not being on the PP so much would help the players get better when they ARE out there. Betcha its worth a try.

Posted by: oo7 | February 1, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

This year there has been an emphasis on grinders on the power play Last year, Semin, Backstrom, Ovechkin, and Green were on the first unit, with Flash on the second. We almost never see that first unit this year and the Laichs, Hendricks, and Fehrs don't have the quickness and skill to keep the puck in the zone...

Posted by: RedLitYogi | February 1, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

What I don't get is, if everyone has to be able to play with everyone to generate offense in this mad-scrambling-line-change compulsion of BB's, then why is there only one PP unit to blow it 9 times out of 10?
------------

Good point. If even an in-his-prime Peter Forsberg never played the full two mins on a PP, I'm really not sure why Green and Ovie are there for the full two, every two. In fact, puck movement slows to a standstill when Green gets the puck back there these days. Both the puck - and the players - need to be moving on a good PP; otherwise it is too easy for the PK to hold the box and shut it down.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 1, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

There is NO magic line combination out there. This is such an overrated subject, the same with "systems".

At the end of the day it comes down to the personnel, the ability to execute and to play with intensity and urgency on every shift.

They just need to start shipping a few of those players who don't do that every night outta here.

Posted by: joek443 | February 1, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

the only solution is to fire the coaching staff. they are the ones who can't get it done.

Posted by: dingram3 | February 1, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

They could try having them practice the PP every once in awhile.

Posted by: Hatfield223 | February 1, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Putting all the grinders on the power play is just stupid. The only reason to do so would be to motivate the star guys.

What has been ailing our power play is how static it is. Faster puck movement, and more importantly faster decisions. The players out there should know what they're gonna do BEFORE they receive the puck. That's how you get a penalty unit scrambling, which results in chances and ultimately goals.

Also our entries need some work and NOBODY should be coasting enough to be able to be on the ice for the whole two minutes.

Posted by: GoUnited | February 1, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Huh? Because I said Ovechkin is the most iconic athlete the DC area has had in an incredibly long time(Joe Gibbs would be a sports figure, but wasn't a player).

I will say it again, I wouldn't trade Ovechkin to any team for anybody. I enjoy everything about his style and watching him play.

IMO, the last few years have been, by far, the most fun years to watch and follow the Caps. Hockey is entertainment and I have been more entertained by the Caps the past few years than ever before. This has a lot to do with the presence of Ovechkin. I want to see the Caps try to win with him and hopefully they do.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 1, 2011 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Nah, it's was possibly sarcastic comment with regards to Hendricks, etc. I worry more that your team's 3rd and 4th lines are going to show up against my Habs because the Habs can't handle too much physicality without folding real quick.

Posted by: slurpeesarecool | February 1, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Not sure anyone is seeing this but the one big factor I know is OV on the PP. Remember last year when OV would play the point and then sneak down the left wing and, key here, ONE TIME the pass at the goalie. Remember those days? Then we would keep the penalty killers honest and would switch it up and pass the other side to Greenie sneaking down...One timer..GOAL. Guess who's doing that exact same PP we did last year and it's working with the shot from that left side? The Lightning. Look at most of Stamkos' PP goals...One timers from the spot OV used to visit. Just get back to one timing shots...That wing play worked and it is currently working for others...Goalies can't react to a shot that fast and once you have the goalies guessing to move over sooner on the PP he gets out of position. I can't remember the last time I saw OV take a one timer? Anyone? It really is that simple. Why would BB go away from that play that worked so well last year?

Posted by: gianthatr | February 1, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Another big problem has been the inability of the people in front to cash in on rebounds.

Laich is just wonderful at shooting the puck into the goalies stomach on rebound attempts and setting up in a position near the goalie in which he does not interfere at all with the goalie's vision when shots are taken.

Pretty much Laich just hangs around near the net contribtuing nothing.

Unfortunately for Laich you don't get any points for hitting the logo on the goalie's jersey.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 1, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Ovi should be in the slot like Stamkos and stop taking 2 minute shifts. BB should at least give the guys 4 games to play on the same line so they can develop chemistry. All the line shuffling is ridiculous...I know injuries etc, but there is no chemistry. Knuble is a 3rd - 4th line guy at this point, and we do not have legit 2nd line center.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | February 1, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

It's not a coincidence that the Caps PP woes have been even worse with Semin out. He's an excellent passer who can control the puck on the wall and has a great shot. That has made the Caps PP very predictable with Backstrom being the only setup man. Ovechkin playing at the left point on the PP is a poor usage of his talents and exposes the Caps to odd man rushes when he has difficulty keeping the puck in at the point. He should be in the slot or in front of the net creating havoc. I'd bet the Caps give up more shorthanded odd man rushes than any team in the league and that's a coaching issue.

Another poster suggested having BOTH Green and Carlsson at the point to have two shooters which is a great idea. Problem is that Carlsson is a righthanded shot which points him at a disadvantage. Almost all of the teams with a strong power play have a lefthanded shot at the point. The Caps have no one such as this on their roster which begs the question why GMGM hasn't recognized that he has enough "stay at home" defenseman with limited offensive skills. Some teams have a lefthanded shooting center/forward to alleviate this problem.

GMGM has a couple of major spots to fill: a true 2nd line center and a lefthanded shooting defenseman with some offensive skills. Unless the Caps fill those holes, I can't seem them getting out of the 1st round.

Posted by: wizfan89 | February 1, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

hey sgm, stop using words like "iconic" till the guy's been around for at least a decade and has helped the team win a f-ing championship.

Like I said, you're beginning to sound like vermont.

Posted by: joek443 | February 1, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Go review the recent Atlanta game to see exactly what is wrong. Ramsay clogged the slot with all his players when on PK and even 5-on-5. The Caps have no answer but bombs away from the point. Ramsay has taken the Jacques Martin manual "How to Beat the Caps in 7 Easy Steps" and perfected it (now down to 5 easy steps). If the Caps don't cycle the puck and work down low they are doomed. The Caps are like a BB team that only takes three-pointers and then bemoans bad luck when they can't score. They need to force the opposing D to unclog and the way to do that is to cycle and work puck to point and then behind net. Make the defenders work and turn around. Put them off balance. If the Caps can't do this, the next 31 games will be just like the past 31 games. Don't worry, though, we can always blame the "hot goalie."

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 1, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Laich is just wonderful at shooting the puck into the goalies stomach
----------------

Nothing special about that, I've been doing it my entire life!

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 1, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

The reason Ovi doesn't do one-timers is every time he tries, he WHIFFS.

The washington Post needs to do a full, undercover investigation of WHIFFGATE. Specifically, why every time Ovi tries to shoot, pass or stickhandle he WHIFFS or simply loses the puck. Then he falls down. Where did the bull go that he used to be? Is it, like with Samson, that the haircut and shave robbed him of his power? Is there some other, perhaps more sinister, explanation?

WHIFFGATE needs to be explained.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 1, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Why not just say what everyone else thinks? We are overrated...maybe last year's regular season was a blurb...their true colors were exposed in the playoffs and now this year. This is an average team...stop buying the hype.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | February 1, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

@ Lyle. I tend to agree. We're good. We're not great. Our talent falls off significantly after our top line and our top D pairing.

Solid, sure. But not great and not balanced.

Until we've proven otherwise, we're a middle of the pack team.

Posted by: Jordan_Kitts | February 1, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I would trade Ovie for Crysby in a second. That trade would have us winning Stanley Cups. Nobody works harder than Cindy. Now after admitting that, I have to go throw up.

Posted by: chriscaps | February 1, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

@joek443

Ovechkin is a more iconic player than Toews or Brad Richards or any other current NHL player other than Crosby.

It's a combination of fame and accomplishments. They blend together.

But when you look at Ovechkin's two MVPs, three player of the year awards voted by the players, huge goal totals, and being elected to the All-NHL first team LW 5 times, all in his first 5 seasons. Then you combine those accomplishments with his flair, style, and how he plays the game. Well, he is iconic.

His goal totals in his first 5 years puts him in a small group of Bossy, Lemiuex and Gretzky.

Ovechkin is only player EVER to be voted to the 1st team All-NHL team in his first 5 seasons.

Ovechkin is only the 2nd player ever to win 3 consecutve Ted Linsday(Lester B. Pearson) awards. The other being Wayne Gretzky.

He is, by far, the most famous Washington Capital ever. Studies have been done that show Ovechkin is the 2nd most recognizable name in the NHL today behind Crosby. His name recognition is only increasing also.

I know people are disappointed with how he has performed so far this season, but don't let that interfere with your judgment when you look at what Ovechkin has accomplished in his career and how he is viewed by the public.

Ovechkin is an iconic hockey player. Just because you don't like it doesn't make it not so.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 1, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

"Ovechkin is only the 2nd player ever to win 3 consecutve Ted Linsday(Lester B. Pearson) awards. The other being Wayne Gretzky."

Edit: Ovechkin is the 3rd player to do so. The others were Gretzky and Guy Lafleur.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 1, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Roll the whole 3rd and 4th line forwards and keep a combo of Green, Schultz, Carlson and Alzner. At the very least it would send a message. And at the most it could actually work. The only problem is those guys do not get a lot of time in practice or game time in executing on the PP. You would have to give it time to work. These guys will crash the net every single time. There are very few pretty fabulous goals for the Caps this year. Playing on the PP is not a right but something you got to earn. I mean it is broken at this point and something needs to change. As far as I can tell the games we are winning are because of our defense and the grinders.

Posted by: pkme | February 1, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

The best way to jump start the power play is to replace the coach. All of BB's "chosen ones" would start playing for the new coach like their jobs depend on it (because their jobs would depend on it). The Ovie at the point experiment (which has be a total failure) would end at the moment BB hits the street. This is your answer, Katie put this one on the front page if you dare.

Posted by: chriscaps | February 1, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Put BB on the power play...move OV off defence...cut the first line PP shifts to 60 seconds max. Fire BB.

Posted by: capper3 | February 1, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

1. Teach the screener to use his body to screen the Goalie and keep his stick on the ice.
2. Put Ovie on the wing.
3. Pass the puck at lightning speed not hold it and then pass slowly.
4. Put one screener in front of the Goalie and the other 10 feet in front to look for rebounds.
5. Shoot..do not stick handle!

Posted by: CB28031 | February 1, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

"the only solution is to fire the coaching staff. they are the ones who can't get it done."

I hear that Bruce tells all his players to try behind-the-back passes, cough up the puck, or give up on board battles. Obviously it's all his fault.

Posted by: sabredc | February 1, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

It used to be, we could just blame Nylander.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | February 1, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

It used to be, we could just blame Nylander.

Posted by: tominsocal1

I miss those days.

Posted by: sgm3 | February 1, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Watch what Chicago, Anaheim, Vancouver, San Jose, Detroit, and Minnesota are doing. (Why are the top 6 teams in power play percentage all in the Western Conference? TBL is 7th).

Then do what they're doing.

Posted by: OakdenWolf | February 1, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

The first change is relatively simple... to move Ovechkin back to the wing on the power play and have him "set up shop" on the far side of the left circle. During his best offensive years he was a terror from this position, getting off his one-timer off a pass from the far side. Goaltenders simply could not get across the crease in time to stop his shot. Tampa has used this same setup the past two years with St. Louis floating passes across to Stamkos in that same position, which is why Stamkos is having another monster scoring year. Nicklas Backstrom can make the same passes St. Louis makes to Ovechkin.

Doing this improves the power play offensively while getting Ovechkin off the point, where his tendency to break sticks and/or fight his way through pressure produce far too many shorthanded chances against. The Capitals have Green and Carlson along with Poti (when healthy) as offensive defensemen that are more than capable of manning the point on the pp. The Caps have shown that they move the puck more quickly and distribute it better when they are not running the powerplay through Ovie at the point, and he has shown that nobody can stop his rocket one-timer from the outside hash marks.

Posted by: DerekRock | February 1, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

@DerekRock - tough to disagree with any of that, my man.

Totally agree Ovie needs to move off the point, he's a wing for crying out loud, not a d-man. The guy's a natural sniper, use him like one!

And Carlson absolutely needs to be out there on one of the points [good point about Poti as well - no reason for Green to be out there for the full two, every two - other than being BB's chosen one].

Posted by: Timbo_1 | February 1, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

We should be able to decline the penalties and continue the 5 on 5. It's been since last years playoffs that we haven't had am offense. I don't know how to fix it and apparently BB doesn't either. 1/2 a season left and I wouldn't wait long to fix it he has had his time to figure this out he'll have to go or we won't make the playoffs. We are not that far ahead they way we are playing

Posted by: fs02 | February 1, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

@sgm3

Ovi can't hold Toews socks right now. Toews turned out to be a play off beast
(punch bowl and MVP)

Ovi has had his chances. Scores on Fleury in the first period during the break away in game 7. May be we advance.

Ovi missed on several great scoring chances during overtime against the Flyers. Boucher should not bounce us from the playoffs in game 7. He's not that good.

Somehow we got down 1-3 to a very poor Rags team. Brads and Feds needed to bail us out.

As Captain, Ovi needed to kick his friend Semin in the rear to start playing play off hockey against the Habs. Semin was AWOL. The Highlight clips Alan May showed of Semin's lack of effort after game 7 were horrific.

Ovi needed to start playing hockey sooner in Habs game 5. He didn't start really playing until panic had set in. My jaw was on the floor at the Phone Booth the way they came out in a an elim game.

Right now, I would pick Toews to be my Captain if I was entering the war that is the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Ovi has done nothing to be considered "iconic". Right now, All I can say is that he HAD the nastiest wrist shot I've ever seen, but was a big part of "epic" play off failures.

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | February 1, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

No one and I mean NO ONE should play more than 60 seconds on the power play.

Get Ovie off the point. How many times does BB have to see the puck dribble off his stick to center ice? Answer - apparently not enough yet. Sheesh!

Posted by: ebolean1 | February 1, 2011 6:55 PM | Report abuse

The answer is, fire Boudreau.

Hockey is a demanding game. The players know BB will not make any real demands on them, so they are coasting. If BB were a real coach, he would be telling these guys, "This is what we're doing on the PP" and sending his best talent out there to do it. If they then followed his advice and succeeded, great. But if they didn't do both, then they'd sit until they got the message that not producing is unacceptable. BB doesn't do that. Instead, he constantly whines about luck and bad breaks, then promises to bench guys and make changes if things don't get better. Then he either does nothing at all, or juggles the lines for a period and then goes back to status quo. The players have zero respect for him at this point, and it's obvious in how the play the PP and everything else. How can that not be the case at this point?

Boudreau is like the bad parent who threatens to ground the kid but never does. I've seen what that's done to my 8-year-old cousin, and we can all see what it's done to the Caps.

I would take out a 30-year mortgage I can't afford if it meant getting a Hitchcock or (while I'm dreaming) Mike Keenan behind the bench for this team. The guys would hate it but it just might make men out of them.

Posted by: fanzee71 | February 2, 2011 8:17 AM | Report abuse

The answer is, fire Boudreau.

Hockey is a demanding game. The players know BB will not make any real demands on them, so they are coasting. If BB were a real coach, he would be telling these guys, "This is what we're doing on the PP" and sending his best talent out there to do it. If they then followed his advice and succeeded, great. But if they didn't do both, then they'd sit until they got the message that not producing is unacceptable. BB doesn't do that. Instead, he constantly whines about luck and bad breaks, then promises to bench guys and make changes if things don't get better. Then he either does nothing at all, or juggles the lines for a period and then goes back to status quo. The players have zero respect for him at this point, and it's obvious in how the play the PP and everything else. How can that not be the case at this point?

Boudreau is like the bad parent who threatens to ground the kid but never does. I've seen what that's done to my 8-year-old cousin, and we can all see what it's done to the Caps.

I would take out a 30-year mortgage I can't afford if it meant getting a Hitchcock or (while I'm dreaming) Mike Keenan behind the bench for this team. The guys would hate it but it just might make men out of them.

Posted by: fanzee71 | February 2, 2011 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I think it's like a batting slump in baseball the more you talk about it and think about it the worse it gets. They are way overthinking this whole power play mess. They spend so much time watching film and analyzing it to the point that all the players can do out there on the powerplay is think and not react. They have been shooting and scoring since they were kids and the powerplay with basically the same personnel was working fine last year until the playoffs...it's like riding a bicycle you never really forget but you have to let your body just react, not think about it. They just need to go back to shooting the puck and crashing the net for the rebounds and they will score on the powerplay and stop this incessisant passing on the perimeter!!

Posted by: theresa21 | February 2, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

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