Capitals Have No Room to Take Penalties in Game 7
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
In the regular season and playoffs, the Washington Capitals have struggled with taking too many penalties and being assessed infractions when they can least afford them.
Tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, an undisciplined penalty could end up costing the Capitals their season.
Washington has been whistled for a league-most 72 minor penalties in the playoffs after taking the seventh-most in the regular season. In this series alone, they've been assessed four slashing penalties, four for cross-checking, two for delay of game/puck over glass, one for elbowing and one for high-sticking.
In Monday's 5-4 overtime victory, the Capitals once again put themselves in jeopardy. The Penguins struck twice on the power play -- once with Brian Pothier in the box for interference and the other with David Steckel off for slashing. Washington was forced to kill off a fifth Penguins power play when Brooks Laich was penalized for slashing with 2 minutes 2 seconds left to play. Earlier in the game, Laich was sent off for cross-checking Sidney Crosby, putting the Capitals down two men for a minute.
Defenseman John Erskine and winger Alexander Semin have each taken eight minor penalties.
"It's important, especially against a good power play like Pittsburgh has," said Laich, referring to the Penguins' unit led by Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. "For us, discipline has been a problem all year, an Achilles' heel. Hopefully it's not" tonight.
Gonchar Might Play
Sergei Gonchar returned to Pittsburgh's practice after missing the past two-plus games with a suspected right knee injury, though he did not participate at full speed. It's unclear if the Penguins' No. 1 defenseman and power-play quarterback will return for tonight's game.
"I expected it to be much worse," said Gonchar, who was hurt when Alex Ovechkin collided with him knee-on-knee in the first period of Game 4. "I can't be optimistic as 100 percent right now because if I'm waking up tomorrow and my knee is not bending, it doesn't matter."
Cascade of Sticks
One day after news of Mike Green's stick dilemma went public, the Capitals began receiving phone calls from fans offering to give up their discontinued, right-handed Easton Stealth sticks, which the defenseman used to rack up 31 goals and 73 points in the regular season before he broke the last of his stash in Game 1.
"Somebody wrote something yesterday," Green said, referring to a report in Tuesday's Washington Post. "So [Stealths] are coming in like no tomorrow. They're coming out of everywhere. Fans, and one of the reporters even had one."
Green had not received any of the Stealths by yesterday's practice, but he hopes to have at least a few on hand for today's morning skate.
"I'll use [a Stealth] in the morning and see how it feels," he said.
An Eye on Hershey
Several Capitals who came up through the organization's American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey, Pa., planned to gather around their laptops last night to watch the Bears take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Game 7 of the East Division finals.
Tyler Sloan "has a laptop, so we're going to watch it in the room and feel helpless," said Jay Beagle, who was called up last week. "It's going to be weird, weird feeling knowing that guys I've played with all year are going to battle. It's weird you can't really contribute."
Coach Bruce Boudreau added: "I'll be [watching] because every time they've won, we've won. And every time Wilkes-Barre has won, Pittsburgh has won. So I told [Hershey Coach Bob Woods] he had better win." . . . Game 6 was Comcast SportsNet's highest-rated Capitals game of the season, with a 5.3 average household rating.