One of the main points of emphasis for the Capitals this season is trying to improve the penalty kill. The inability to consistently kill penalties was a glaring weak point for the team last year, as Washington finishing 25th in the NHL at 78.8 percent in 2009-10 and it's an element that players and coaches alike know must improve.
Coaches Bruce Boudreau, Dean Evason and Bob Woods have all worked on the penalty kill this summer and one of the key changes is to demonstrate a more aggressive mentality when playing a man down.
"I think this year we want to be more proactive," Brooks Laich said. "We don't want to let any team have any time or space on the [power play]. We want to jump at them, pressure them, get in their face. I know as a guy that plays power play when a team's on you and pressures you, you never have time to make plays, you can start getting frustrated and it throws you off. If we make a mistake [on the penalty kill] because we're a little over aggressive we'll live with that. It's better than being passive and having one go in."
Through two exhibition games, some of the new mentality is already apparent. The Capitals have been quick to remove time and space for opponents to make decisions while on the power play. They've auditioned several combinations of players on the penalty killing unit through those contests, and, for what it's worth, the Capitals have killed off all 12 penalties they've faced so far in the preseason.
But it's far too early to tell how the change in approach will effect the penalty kill's overall success, or know which players will become regulars on the unit. Boudreau said it is still "a work in progress." One thing is certain though, an improved rate of penalty killing can only help the Capitals move forward.
"We've been working on it with the belief that if we can have a more aggressive penalty kill it can make us that much more dangerous, by creating more opportunities for us to get down the ice" Boyd Gordon said. "Every team has good skill on their power play and the more we can prevent them from getting set up with pressure the better it can be."
FROM THE POST
Alex Ovechkin is expected to make his preseason debut against the Bruins tonight.
IN THE MINORS
On-ice practices officially begin for the Hershey Bears this morning, and it's a particularly big training camp for a whole host of players like Anton Gustafsson, Joe Finley and Josh Godfrey. (Patriot News)
AROUND THE WEB
A closer look at all of the tweaks and changes you might see on the Capitals' penalty kill this season. (Corey Masisak)
On Tom Poti's contract extension with the Capitals. (NHLPA)
Is it ever too early to start thinking about NHL award races? A few Capitals could be in the conversation for the Calder Trophy. (NHL.com)
It may only be the preseason, but there is a new Capitals rap on YouTube if you're looking for some extra music to get ready for tonight's game against the Bruins. (Capitals Outsider)
A preview of the Southeast. (Sportsnet.ca)