There was plenty to dislike about the Capitals' opening-night loss at Tampa Bay on Saturday. But the power play, which Adam Oates' crew worked on for several consecutive days at practice late last week, shouldn't be on the list. Washington scored one goal with the man advantage and in general looked dangerous throughout the night in a 6-3 loss.
After slipping to just 16.7 percent last season, the unit needed revamping. Long gone were the days the Caps could expect to convert more than 25 percent of their opportunities as they did in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Adding playmaking center Mike Ribeiro should help this season. Having a healthy Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) and Mike Green (groin) will, too.
And Oates is installing a 1-3-1 power play that uses a man in the high slot to distract opposing defenders. It worked as expected in the first period when defenseman Tom Poti chased a puck over to the left wall, saw he had some space and fired a bad-angle shot at Tampa Bay goalie Anders Lindback. He failed to corral the puck and left a tasty rebound in front for Joel Ward, who slammed down from the high slot to smash home a goal.
In all, Washington had four power-play chances. Only the last one was ineffective with limited scoring chances. The Caps logged 1:34, 1:36 and 56 seconds -- thanks to Ward's goal -- in the offensive zone on the first three. They managed seven shots on the power play out of 30 overall. The penalty kill was another story; they conceded three goals while a man down. But if Washington is going to get its offense cranking again, Oates believes it will start on the power play. So far, so good.
- Brian McNally