In two consecutive losses in Western Canada, the Washington Capitals’ penalty kill looked like a shadow of the unit that was second-best in the league a season ago. The Capitals’ also lacked discipline against both Edmonton and Vancouver and by the time they returned home from the two-game trip they had given up four power play goals on 13 opportunities against.
Overall this year, Washington’s penalty kill has a 77.1 percent success rate, tied for 23rd in the NHL, and has given up a power play goal in five of nine games.
After losing their grip on the game against the Oilers because of a staggering nine penalties, the Capitals didn’t do themselves any favors giving Vancouver five tries on Saturday. Both opponents scored two power play goals but the combined 28 minutes of shorthanded time create a strain on the lineup as certain players see constant, desperate playing time on the penalty kill while others are sitting on the bench.
“It’s draining both ways, physically and mentally,” Brooks Laich said prior to the Capitals’ 7-4 loss to Vancouver about extended time shorthanded. Against Edmonton, Laich had 5 minutes and 18 seconds of ice time on the penalty kill and against the Canucks he skated 2:59 shorthanded. “It just puts you in a defensive frame of mind. When you do get out five on five you’re tired physically, you don’t have a lot of jump to go offensively but also you’re used to having to keep the puck out of your net. I understand penalties happen and part of my job is to kill them, just hopefully we can limit them.”
While Coach Bruce Boudreau questioned the interference call against Alex Ovechkin in the offensive zone against the Canucks Saturday night, he was upset with the Capitals’ earlier penalties in the contest. In the first period, Washington took three penalties: Joel Ward was called for high-sticking, while calls on Alexander Semin for hooking and Jeff Halpern for tripping resulted in Vancouver power-play goals.
“The three penalties in the first period all could have been prevented, all could have been prevented,” Boudreau said. “Lazy, lazy penalties; hooking. Make a mistake and compound it by taking a penalty.”