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Oct. 27, 2013

Even strength woes plaguing Capitals early on

by Jacob Popper, Op/Ed Editor
The Washington Capitals had high expectations coming into the 2013-2014 season. Second year coach Adam Oates would get his first full training camp, and before a disappointing seven game playoff loss to the Rangers last year, the Capitals surged in the last 19 games of last season, through which they went 15-2-2.

To begin 2013-2014, however, the Caps have been anything but impressive at 5-6-0, especially when considering that six of these first eleven games have been at home. The reasons for this slow start have undoubtedly been even strength play and turnovers.

The Caps had the league’s best power play last year at 27.65 percent and that has continued into this season, where they are scoring 31.4 percent of the time, topping the league leaderboard. With the league’s most effective power play, one would think that the Caps would be near the top in terms of total goals scored, but a lack of even strength production has the Caps ranked only seventeenth.

Alex Ovechkin and the Caps are off to a mediocre 5-6-0 start. Courtesy of National Post
Alex Ovechkin and the Caps are off to a mediocre 5-6-0 start.
On the power play, the Caps' 1-3-1 formation combined with crisp passing and hard shots from snipers like Alexander Ovechkin, allow them to spend tons of time in the offensive zone. This in turn, generates scoring chances and goals. At even strength, however, the Caps shoot themselves in the foot with poor decisions and turnovers. The team had nine giveaways against Winnipeg on Tuesday, which led to many odd man rushes and created prime scoring chances. The many turnovers have also led to the Caps being outshot in over half of their games thus far.

In order to fix the problem the Capitals simply have to handle the puck better in their defensive zone and play more dump and chase hockey.
The defensive zone is the most crucial area of the ice. Exiting the defensive zone requires good, accurate passing and quick decision-making. They need to constantly be moving the puck in order to keep fore checkers guessing. This will open up more lanes to exit the zone and get the offense rolling.

Preventing turnovers in the neutral zone is all about dumping the puck in as soon as it crosses the red line. Although it is carrying the puck in does create an easier offense, dumping it into the zone will lessen the amount of turnovers. Also, even if the Caps can't retrieve it, it still forces the opponent to the full 200 feet, which will limit odd man rushes. If the Capitals can follow this game plan, they will put themselves in a better position to win.

Editor's Note: All statistics are according to

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