As Capitals Coach Barry Trotz shortened his bench in Game 4 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk found himself sitting more than usual. He played just 12:54, a career-low for a playoff game. One reason for his idleness: The Capitals had just one power play — and scored 36 seconds into it.
Ice time is often reflective of who the coach thinks is playing well. With Washington playing with a lead for most of the game after going up 4-1, perhaps Trotz has lost some trust in Shattenkirk. He’s a minus-four in this first-round series, which is tied at two games apiece going into Friday’s Game 5. The team traded for the offensive, puck-moving blue-liner on Feb. 27.
“We have our dialogue with our coaches and the coaches with him,” Trotz said. “Everybody’s in. Ice time is really irrelevant to guys right now. They’re doing what they need to do and the coaches are putting on the players on that they think are getting the job done in certain situations and that’s it. Guys understand that they’re not getting the minutes they were before. To them, it’s all about winning. That’s the number one thing for guys.”
Shattenkirk said he wasn’t fretting the reduction in minutes, and he wasn’t the only player whose time was slashed. Trotz leaned on nine forwards and four defensemen at five-on-five. Brett Connolly played less than five minutes; Daniel Winnik played just 6:37 with just 31 seconds of penalty kill time despite the team taking four minors.
“Especially on the road, it can be a little hard; you have to try to find your matchups a little bit,” Shattenkirk said. “They’re down by a few goals so they’re putting their top lines out over and over again. That happens, I wasn’t too worried about it, I’m not worried about it in the future. You just have to be ready to play.”
“[Associate Coach Todd Reirden] talked to me today and just said that it won’t happen again, but I’m fine with it,” he continued. “We won a hockey game, so that’s fine by me. I don’t mind it at all. It’s something that I think every one of us has to be prepared for just in case, but when it’s my turn to play 20-plus minutes, I need to make sure that I’m ready.”
Shattenkirk averaged 20:12 in his 19 regular-season games with the Capitals after he was traded from St. Louis, and despite Wednesday’s reduction, he’s still averaging 20:18 for the series, in part because three of the four games have gone to overtime. He admitted he was coming off a “really bad” Game 3 performance when he was on the ice for two Toronto goals, including the game-tying one in the 4-3 overtime loss by Washington.
“If you look at some of the goals that have gone in on us, a couple off Brooks and a couple that go off him and land on guys’ sticks with a wide-open net,” Shattenkirk said. “I think we’re pretty happy with the way we’re playing. When we’re playing well, defensively, we’ve been pretty physical. We’ve been ending plays quickly. It’s hard not to let those little bounces get to you and just sit back a little back but we just have to keep playing.”
Karl Alzner to miss third straight game
Defenseman Karl Alzner was on the ice for the Capitals’ morning skate, participating in his first on-ice session with the full team since Washington ruled him out for Game 3 with an undisclosed upper-body injury. The team said Alzner was limited in drills, and Trotz said that while Alzner would not play on Friday night, he is getting closer to a return. Alzner was not made available to the media on Friday.
Capitals recall Chandler Stephenson
Washington recalled center Chandler Stephenson Friday morning from their American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey, Pa. The timing is odd considering the Bears are short on centers and begin their playoffs on Friday night and the Capitals already had an extra forward in winger Paul Carey.
The decision seemed to indicate that Washington has a banged-up center, but Trotz said Stephenson was recalled because the team wanted a second extra forward.
“We just felt that we needed two forwards and we wanted him to have some time in Hershey,” Trotz said. “We wanted to get them into the playoffs, No. 1. So we wanted to have a couple of extra forwards, more positional-based than anything.”