“It was just getting reps and getting used to how we work as two guys as a unit,” Lars Eller said. “It was pretty much just getting reps on the usual scenarios you’ll most likely face out there with almost any power play. … It was just basic stuff, working on it to get it in your head, you know, to nail down on the backbone of your game kind of on the PK.”
“Being scored on as many times as we had … obviously, we’re not happy with it,” Jay Beagle said.
On Wednesday night, a Milan Lucic deflection in the third period made it five power-play goals allowed in six games. Coach Barry Trotz has warned that six games is a small sample size — and some of the goals came off of unfortunate bounces, such as the puck that went off Brooks Orpik’s skate against the New York Islanders — but Washington still wants to return to the standard it set last season.
The Capitals’ penalty kill was tied for second last year with an 85.1 percentage. Through six games this season, it’s 27th with a 72.2 percentage.
“We’ve got to get some of those blocks,” Trotz said. “We got to be in the lanes a little bit better. And we have to get the timely save, too. All that is not really there right now.”
Beagle said one of the focuses for the penalty kill is winning faceoffs; the Capitals won 47.3 percent of draws in four-on-five situations last season. That was the first year with the new rule that the center in the defensive zone has to put his stick down first, an edge for the attacking team. When on the penalty kill this year, Washington has won just 29.4 percent of those faceoffs, last in the league.
“I think we’ve got to get back to being aggressive, like we were last year,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “It’s just small plays. We’ve just got to be focused at all times and maybe win some more draws, so we can clear the puck right away. I think that aggressiveness, we’ve got to get back to that.”
The Capitals lost two strong penalty killers in Mike Richards and Jason Chimera and Eller is the lone addition to the group. He said Washington’s system is considerably different than the one to which he was accustomed with Montreal. So far, Eller is fourth in shorthanded time on ice among Washington forwards.
“It’s very small details, but it’s just different,” Eller said. “You work a little different as a unit in terms of where you pressure and which guys pressure in what situations, the forecheck and how you adapt to the other team’s breakout during the breakout. Stuff like that is different, so there were a lot of different things that I had to adapt to. But it’s just adding things to your game.”
Said Trotz: “He’s still in the adjustment period. I wouldn’t say that he’s fully adjusted, but he’s adjusting.”
With three games left on this road trip, the penalty kill will have an opportunity to right itself before returning to Washington. The Capitals’ next three opponents — Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg — have power plays ranked in the bottom 10 of the league.
“We do take pride in it,” Beagle said. “It’s something that, I mean, that’s our livelihood. You know, that’s what I love to do. I’ve always loved to kill penalties. So, you know, when you’re getting scored on, you’ve got to try and make some changes and some little tweaks and try and fix it.”