ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals' vaunted power play picked up where it left off during a 6-4 season-opening loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.
The League's most proficient unit last season scored three goals on six opportunities (though they failed to convert on a nearly 90-second two-man advantage in the waning moments of regulation), immediately establishing themselves once again as a force to be reckoned with.
Two of Washington's power-play goals came in nearly identical fashion in the third period as Mikhail Grabovski deflected two Mike Green shots from the point past Corey Crawford to complete his first NHL hat trick.
Interestingly enough, while Grabovski's second and third goals gave the Capitals a 4-3 lead, according to right wing Troy Brouwer, the 29-year-old was out of position on one of his two power-play goals.
"He was actually, on one of them, he was actually way out of spot," said Brouwer, who typically is planted in the slot on the Capitals' power play. "He wasn't supposed to be there, but it worked out well. He's still learning. We've only had I think one game in [preseason] where our whole power-play unit was on for a game, and so he's learning right now. We're trying to [help] him right now. … 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. ... 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."
Washington's 1-3-1 power play setup is predicated on patience, and as the option stationed on the goal line, Grabovski's primary job is to act as a safety valve for Nicklas Backstrom, who is stationed along the right half-wall, while also staying active and getting into shooting lanes when opportunities present themselves, as they did Tuesday.
Green told NHL.com on Thursday, prior to the Capitals' home opener against the Calgary Flames (7 p.m. ET, TSN) that Grabovski's position on the goal line is key to the power play's success, and that his nose for the net adds a wrinkle on the man advantage that the Capitals did not have in the past.
"I think we've all been comfortable with our spots, and I think Grabovski, he's kind of the guy that is trying to find his spot on the ice," Green said. "Typically he wouldn't have went to the net like that, or maybe he did on previous teams, and that's what was open. He seems like he's a really smart player and he adjusts well, so it doesn't surprise me that he had a great game."
As for Grabovski, he pointed to the Detroit Red Wings' dangerous duo of defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and left wing Tomas Holmstrom as a blueprint for what he hopes to create on Washington's power play.
"It's always dangerous when you go to the net and look for rebounds," he said. "When a defenseman has a great shot like Green, one of the best shots in the NHL, I go to the net."