Oates, Caps going back to the same well

Oates, Caps going back to the same well
November 12, 2013, 12:45 pm
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Caps top 5 plays of the week: 11.11.13

Despite back-to-back losses in Phoenix and Colorado, Capitals coach Adam Oates will go with the same forward lines and defense pairings tonight when the Caps face the Columbus Blue Jackets at Verizon Center [6:30 p.m. Caps Central, CSN].

Why not switch things up and re-insert forwards Eric Fehr or Jay Beagle or give defenseman Dmitry Orlov his first game of the season?

“Because we won a bunch of games [four] in a row,” Oates said, “and we easily could have won both games on the weekend.”

Since Alex Ovechkin returned from an upper body injury on Nov. 5, Oates has gone with a top line of center Nicklas Backstrom between Marty Erat on the left and Ovechkin on the right. In four games together the trio has yet to record a goal at even strength.

“Marty hasn’t gotten [a goal] yet so I’m sure he’s feeling that,” Oates said. “And it’s his first time playing with Ovi, so there’s a certain pressure that goes along with that. Five-on-five hockey, it’s very difficult to score.”

The second line of Marcus Johansson between wingers Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer has also struggled offensively with one even-strength goal in its six games together.

Oates said that line is still figuring itself out and that it’s not etched in stone that they’ll stay together.

One reason it has remained intact is the success of the Capitals’ third line of center Mikhail Grabovski, right wing Joel Ward and let wing Jason Chimera, which has 11 even-strength goals in the last 11 games.

Troubling 5-on-3: The Caps have not scored on a 5-on-3 power play in 11 straight opportunities, dating back to last January.

“We want to get better and it and we should get better at it,” Backstrom said. “We’ve got to take advantage of it. We’re moving the puck all righ,t but the last pass … I can do a better job of that.”

If you notice, the Caps go to a different format with a two-man advantage, moving Alex Ovechkin from the left circle to the left point, with defenseman Mike Green on the right point, Joel Ward on the left goal line, Nicklas Backstrom roaming from the right half wall to the goal line and Troy Brouwer somewhere in the slot.

Oates says the formation is not the problem. It’s getting shots from the point to get opposing teams out of their inverted triangles and out of position. Ward said he thinks the Caps are “over-thinking” on the two-man-advantage.

“You instantly think pretty play,” Oates said. “… Part of the problem is you kind of flip the switch that, ‘I don’t want to throw a lousy shot on net. I need to get a perfect shot,’ and that ends up affecting your rotation a lot.”

Killer goals: The Caps have made a habit of allowing opponents to score quickly after they’ve scored goals. It happened again in Colorado when Ward scored to tie the score, only to see the Avs restore their lead on defenseman Nick Holden’s first NHL goal on the following shift.

“It was a bang, boom-boom play,” Ward said. “That was my guy [Holden] at the point. It’s just knowing after a goal what’s going to happen. I think physically we were ready. Mentally we shot ourselves in the foot.”

Oates said he kept the Ward-Chimera-Grabovski line on the ice following their goal because they had spent just four seconds out there before scoring. He said he has no perfect formula on which line to use after the Caps score a goal.

Through 18 games the Caps have allowed an opponent to score within a span of 2:30 after scoring their own goal 10 times. Five times they've allowed an opponent to score within a minute after scoring themselves.

Missing Stamkos: Oates said it was “terrible” to see NHL leading scorer Steven Stamkos carried off the ice with a broken right leg Monday in the Lightning’s game against the Bruins.

Stamkos, who leads the league in goals [14] and points [23], be will be sidelined indefinitely. He is likely to miss the Winter Olympics for Team Canada and much, if not all of the season for Lightning, who lead the Eastern Conference with a 12-5-0 record.

“Hopefully it doesn’t affect him,” said Oates, who coached Stamkos in Tampa in 2009-10. “He’s a great guy, ultimate professional. It’s a tough loss. The team’s doing well, the Olympics. You don’t like to see anybody get hurt like that.”

Backstrom agreed.

“Obviously, you don’t want to see any player get hurt,” he said, “but a guy like him, he’s been scoring goals like no one else the last couple years.”

Stamkos has scored more goals in the past five seasons [199 in 311 games] than anyone in the NHL. To read more and see the video, click here.