Caps power play allowing short-handed goals at alarming rate

Chris Lingebach
February 07, 2020 - 8:47 pm
Caps power play allowing short-handed goals at alarming rate

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

There's a phenomenon currently running roughshod over the Capitals power play unit that begs the question: fluke or not?

The Caps have allowed nine short-handed goals this season, which is four above league average. And five of those have come in a recent eight-game stretch, spanning from their 3-2 loss to the Flyers on Jan. 8 to their 5-3 win over the Senators on Jan. 31.

In fact, seven of their nine short-handed goals allowed on the season have occurred in the last month-and-a-half, stemming from their blowout loss to Boston on Dec. 23. Prior to that, they hadn't allowed an opponent to score short-handed in 24 games.

It got so bad that at one point, that after their 5-4 loss to Nashville last week – when the streak was still four short-handed goals allowed in seven games – Capitals coach Todd Reirden had to answer for it the next morning during his bi-weekly radio appearance with The Sports Junkies, presented by Sheehy Auto Stores.

"Something that's been discussed many times," Reirden said. "And they've happened different ways. Obviously last night, happens with a misplay on a puck. So we're going through using some different personnel, trying to get to a little bit more of a two-group look with some different personnel, so we can win some more puck battles and allow us to have some success."

"That's not a winning recipe right there, to have five power play goals and four against over the last few games," he said. "That's – again – a clear area that needs to be improved on and needs to be worked at. You know, it's a little bit of a blessing in disguise sometimes when these things happen right away after the break, because you get to readdress them, immediately.

"They're examples that hurt you and cost you games. Now it's easy to address as a coach. There are some of the ones we've had before the break, and just because we took seven days away, it didn't mean they went away. They need to be worked on, and as I've said before, we're at the top of the standings and we like where we're at results-wise, but we're not done getting better and we need to improve."

Must not have sunk in. The Caps gave up another short-handed goal the very next night in Ottawa.

"You definitely don't want to give up any goals on the power play," Carl Hagelin recently told 106.7 The Fan. "It's definitely a momentum swing."

"It's usually a mix (of  fluky luck and something to work on)," he said. "You have to be aware of the other team on the PK. You know, we're a lethal power play, but at the same time, sometimes other teams are gonna take chances up the ice and try to score against us. I think that's the same thing there with confidence, too. It comes and goes throughout the year.

"Sometimes you'll have a stretch where you give up a couple goals on the power play, and then all of a sudden you'll play 40 games without giving up one. So hopefully we'll learn from our mistakes here moving forward."

Perhaps the fact that they didn't allow any shorties in their next two games against Pittsburg and Los Angeles is a sign that they're finally out of the woods.

We'll find out Saturday against the Flyers.