A big problem with the Caps' special teams—and something that has plagued them for more than one playoff series in their history—is that when their power play fails, the Caps become one-dimensional and fail to find other ways to score.
Think back to the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Montreal Canadiens. I know—it hurts.
The Caps had the best power play in the NHL during the regular season. It clicked at an efficiency rate of 25.2 percent. When the Caps took a 3-1 series lead against Montreal, it seemed that their power play would have to come through eventually and carry the Caps to the next round.
Those who recall the series know what happened. In Game 5, the Caps went 0-for-5 on the power play and could only muster a second-period goal from Alexander Ovechkin. It was not enough, and the Habs forced a Game 6.
In Game 6, the Caps had six more power-play opportunities, but they just could not solve Jaroslav Halak. The Canadiens forced Game 7 with a 4-1 win.
In Game 7, the Caps again got blanked on the power play, going 0-for-3. Once again, the Caps could only come up with one even-strength goal, as they suffered a stunning upset.
Against the Habs, the power play went a pathetic 1-for-33. The Caps did not know how to score once their vaunted power play deserted them.
The next season, the Caps power play was not nearly as good, ranked 15th in the NHL with an 18.6 percent success rate.
In the playoffs, though, the power play failed miserably yet again. In the two series against the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, the power play went 5-for-35 for a success rate of just 14.3 percent.
To be fair, the Caps' problem against the Lightning was not their inability to score goals—it was their inability to stop the Lightning from scoring that was their undoing.
We saw the same thing happen this year against the New York Rangers. At a 26.8 percent efficiency rate, the Caps power play in 2013 was even better than it had been in 2009-10. And against the Rangers, the Caps power play was much more reliable, as it converted on three of 11 chances.
But then you look back at a devastating Game 6 loss. In that game, with the Caps leading the series 3-2, they did not get a single power-play opportunity.
While most of us still question the officiating in that game, the fact remains that as that game wore on, the Caps seemed to get one-dimensional. It was as though they were waiting for that one big power-play chance to come so that they could tie the game and then look for some way to get a second goal.
It never came, and the Caps could not figure out a way to score at even strength.
In Game 7, the Caps would get two power-play chances but would fail to connect. By then, though, the damage was done, the Rangers had momentum and the series was over.
Again, the Caps need to find balance here. It is great that the power play is as lethal as it is. But this team must guard against being too reliant on the power play and, in doing so, becoming too one-dimensional.
If head coach Adam Oates can figure out how to accomplish that this season, then the Caps could make some serious noise in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference.