For as much attention as their potent power play garners, the Capitals’ proclivity for putting the opposition on the power play should not go unnoticed.
Washington has been short-handed 163 times this season, which ranked 23rd in the NHL as of Monday. A middling penalty kill that has fallen from first to 19th in the past two months has only exacerbated the problem.
In their 2-1 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, the Capitals committed five minor penalties, killing the last four after allowing forward Tyler Ennis to tie the game on the Sabres’ first power-play opportunity late in the first period. (The Capitals’ 4-for-5 performance on the penalty kill was on par with their 80.4 percentage this season.)
“I think we had a couple penalties in the second [period], a couple of bad ones, but we killed them,” right wing Alex Ovechkin said.
Yet even if the Capitals are successful at thwarting opposing power plays, the sheer amount of time they spend doing so plays a significant role.
Penalties disrupt the flow of the game, preventing the Capitals from getting into any sort of rhythm. It is also physically taxing on those tasked with killing them and forces offensive contributors, such as Ovechkin, to sit on the bench for minutes at a time.
“Sometimes when we have those kinds of penalties, you don’t win the game,” Ovechkin said.
On Sunday, it was an untimely penalty that cost Washington what likely would have been the game-winning goal. Defenseman Karl Alzner ripped a shot past Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller with 53 seconds left in regulation, but center Nicklas Backstrom was called for tripping just prior to the shot, negating the goal.
The Capitals face the San Jose Sharks at home tonight before playing eight of their next nine games on the road, so they can ill afford to have undisciplined play be their undoing.