The Washington Capitals have started their season where they left off with regard to their power play. Through the first three games, they have already scored six goals with the man advantage.
Their leader and most dangerous weapon is, of course, the captain, Alex Ovechkin. Alex scored 16 goals on the power play last season in the lockout-shortened season.
If you extrapolated last season’s total, Ovi would have tallied 27 goals on the power play. This would have shattered his previous high of 22 power play goals in 2007-2008 when he won the Rocket Richard, scoring 65 goals in all.
Ovechkin has already buried three pucks in the back of the net and the Caps power play looks just as potent. Adam Oates’ system turned the Capitals power play unit around last year.
The biggest question with regard to the power play is whether it is too Ovechkin-centric. Neil Greenburg examined this last season. In the playoffs, the power play was exposed as teams simply keyed on Ovechkin and dared the rest of the Capitals to beat them.
This season, so far the Capitals have recalibrated their power play to adjust for Mike Riberio’s departure and it’s been working well. Backstrom is up in Riberio’s spot and has already shown himself to be a better scoring threat—scoring the game-winner against the Calgary Flames.
Keep in mind that from 2008-2010, Backstrom bagged 25 goals on the power play, second only to Ovi’s 32 in the same time frame.
Additionally, Mikhail Grabovski has been a phenomenal net presence but combines that with playmaking ability—a definite upgrade from Troy Brouwer.
All these factors, combined with Mike Green’s sniping from the point have made the Capitals power play much more balanced (___ goals for Grabovki, ___ goal for Backstrom so far).
The two main factors in assuming the Capitals power play would regress was that it was too one-dimensional and history (it simply is difficult for a team to maintain a league-leading power play).
However, the new aspects of the power play should serve to make the Capitals offer further threats and thus, while there may be some regression, I expect it to be a top five unit.
That being said, if the Capitals maintain their power play success, that can only mean good things for Ovechkin. Ovechkin’s position in the slot is something that Caps fans begged for in the Bruce Boudreau era and has now come to fruition.
Putting Ovechkin at the circles instead of the point maximizes his value and talents and I expect Ovi to shatter his personal best of 22. Just as a heads up, the all-time single season record is 34, set in 1985-1986 by Tim Kerr.
While no one expects Ovechkin to hit those heights, an optimistic venture at a guess would say that if everything fell right, he could get close to 30.
Power play goals are a huge driver of Ovechkin’s goal totals (his career high occurred when he scored 65 goals). If Ovechkin scores above 25 PPGs, he should be a shoo-in for over 50 goals.