Grabovski impresses Oates in opener
Last season, the Capitals’ power play was the most lethal the NHL has seen in 23 years.
Much of the credit for that success went to Mike Ribeiro, who led the NHL with 21 power-play assists.
But can this year’s unit of Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer and newcomer Mikhail Grabovski be even better?
If Tuesday night’s season-opening 6-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks is any indication, the answer is yes. Grabovski scored twice on the man-advantage and assisted on Ovechkin’s power-play goal as the Caps converted on 3 of their 6 advantages.
“I think you need to rely heavily on the power play, especially when you have the unit with the capability we do,” said Brouwer. “We don’t want to be known as a team that only scores on the power play, but we want to be feared as a power play team that teams don’t want to take penalties against us.”
The introduction of Grabovski adds a whole new element to the Caps’ power play, which last season had a success rate of 26.8 percent. The 29-year-old center positions himself in the same spot as Ribeiro, along the right goal line.
But unlike Ribeiro, Grabovski likes to leave his spot and go to the net in search of rebounds and deflections. Both of Grabovski’s power-play goals Tuesday night came off deflections of Green shots from the point.
“It’s always dangerous when you go to the net and look for rebounds,” Grabovski said “How many goals do they score in Detroit when Nicklas Lidstrom shoots and [Tomas] Holmstrom puts in the rebound?
“When a defenseman has a great shot like Green, one of the best shots in the NHL, I go to the net.”
There are rules to the Caps’ 1-3-1 setup on the man-advantage. One of them, Brouwer points out, is for Grabovski to make himself available to hunt down loose pucks in the corner.
“He’s still learning right now,” Brouwer said. “His big thing is we don’t do a lot of movement and he’s always been used to movement. He’s supposed to go in front of the net but not planted in front of the net.
“I’m supposed to be the high screen, high tip, which is a difficult job to do, and we want to make sure he’s loose in front and not getting tied up with the D-man in front, so if there is a rebound and the puck goes in the corner he can go retrieve it.”
That said, Oates said he likes Grabovski’s willingness to go to the net. And he believes his ice vision is comparable to that of Ribeiro.
“Our power play has certain rules and that’s a tough job because we need that guy on the goal line to be able to give [Backstrom] an out,” Oates said. “Yet when it goes to [Green] he has to time it to get in front and make their D accountable for him and their goalie.”
Caps claim defenseman: The Caps have claimed 22-year-old defenseman Alexander Urbom off waivers from the New Jersey Devils.
Last season, Urbom [6-foot-4, 215 pounds] recorded eight assists and 64 penalty minutes in 68 games with the Albany Devils of the AHL. A left-handed shooter from Stockholm, Sweden, has played in 14 career NHL games and collected two goals and nine penalty minutes.
It is unclear whether Urbom will be added to the Caps' NHL roster. He carries a cap hit of $869,167 and the team would need to remove a player from its 23-man roster to make room for him.