But the forwards who led the team in shorthanded ice time are also among the Capitals’ offseason departures. Troy Brouwer, now with St. Louis, played more penalty kill minutes than any other forward. Third on that list was Joel Ward, now with San Jose, and Eric Fehr, a Pittsburgh Penguin, was sixth with more than 100 minutes of shorthanded ice time.
“Obviously, with a new year, you have to have new guys step into different roles,” forward Jay Beagle said.
Some staples, like Beagle, Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera return, but Washington is adding new pieces to a penalty kill unit that allowed just three goals in the playoffs and killed off 90.6 percent of penalties, the best of any team that played at least two series.
“It’s coming together,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “I think the guys that have come in there, they’re wide-eyed and learning, but I think there’s a pride factor in it, that they want to do well with it. They know that the people who have left were tremendous at it and very good and had done it for a long time.
“It’s opportunity. What I like about it is the enthusiasm that they have for it to learn it.”
Beagle, Chimera and Laich are expected to continue having penalty kill duties, and forwards new to it in Washington who have seen a considerable amount of penalty kill time in the preseason are Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams. Oshie played more than 95 minutes of shorthanded ice time in St. Louis, but Williams had less than 12 minutes of penalty kill time in Los Angeles.
Chandler Stephenson and Sean Collins, both competing for a depth forward role, have also logged a lot of penalty kill minutes among forwards in the preseason, though whether they will make the team is still uncertain. Trotz said he expects the penalty kill personnel to evolve during the season.
“I think the thing about this team is that the guys will buy in and block shots and do the right things on the PK,” Wilson said. “That’s why we were so good last year at it and guys really bought into the system and knew it well. I’m just excited to kind of be a part of that and hopefully help out.”
The Capitals’ penalty kill unit was just average last regular season, ranked 14th in the league. Some of that was because under a new coach in Trotz, it took time to learn a new system and get comfortable. With how effective it was in the postseason, Trotz is hoping for it to carry over into this season.
“To me, penalty kill can really sway the momentum in a game,” he said. “If your penalty killing is really frustrating a good power play, it just builds momentum for your team and really decreases momentum on the power play. Unfortunately, if you score a power-play goal, you probably don’t get as much momentum. But if you don’t score a power-play goal, you actually lose momentum. The power play, you don’t get as much reward for it. … The penalty kill can actually give you momentum.”