The Capitals proved last season that all the offensive creativity in the world does not guarantee success on the power play, especially if you become predictable.
The Capitals became just that last season, and it showed, as they fell to the 16th in the NHL with a success rate of 17.5 percent.
Thanks to a few changes in personnel and a few wrinkles in execution, the Caps have netted at least one power-play in six of their seven games this season all of them victories and lead the NHL with a 29.6 percent success rate.
Were moving the puck quick. We get them running around, and that creates openings, Capitals defenseman Mike Green said after matching his career high with a four-point night in Saturday nights 7-1 rout of the previously unbeaten Detroit Red Wings. In the past, wed sit around waiting for other guys to get open.
Both of Greens power-play goals Saturday night served as perfect illustrations.
On his first, a quick pass from Alex Ovechkin to Nicklas Backstrom gave Backstrom enough time and space to spot Green sneaking into the slot for a one-timer.
On Greens second goal, Dennis Wideman got the Detroit penalty killers moving with a pass from the right point to Ovechkin along the half wall. Ovechkin immediately snapped a cross-ice feed to Green, who again cracked a one-timer past goaltender Ty Conklin.
But along with excellent puck movement, there was another dynamic at work on both power plays. Troy Brouwer, who did not pick up a point on either goal, was harassing Conklin from the crease on both goals.
If you look at those goals on the power play, he was in front of Conklin where he couldnt see it, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. Thats his spot; hes good at it. I think hes found a home.
At 6 feet 3, 213 pounds, Brouwer gives the Capitals another crease-clogging power-play specialist with the size and hand-eye coordination of Mike Knuble. In his previous two seasons with Chicago, 14 of Brouwers 39 goals came on the man-advantage.
The first day he got here I was shooting pucks and he was tipping them, Green said. Hes so good with hand-eye coordination; hes a bigger guy and he covers the goal. Hes been good so far. No need to move him.
Through seven games, Brouwer has just one even-strength goal and two assists and was told by Boudreau that if he didn't start crowding the crease hed find someone else (Joel Ward?) to take his place. Brouwer took the words to heart and is now being used on a top unit with Backstrom, Ovechkin, Green and Wideman.
That has allowed Boudreau to assemble an egually dangerous second unit of Knuble, Alex Semin, Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich and Roman Hamrlik.
Bruce has told me that I need to do that if I want to stay with that top unit, Brouwer said. I like to do it. I did it with Chicago.I did it in junior. I just feel comfortable there. I have a big body, I can battle in front, I can screen the goalie as much as possible. And I can go in the corner and get loose pucks back. Hopefully, I can continue.