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Posted at 7:13 AM ET, 11/19/2010

Caps talk about the stabilizing ability of a strong penalty kill

By Katie Carrera
Morning Roundup

Just when it seemed as though the Buffalo Sabres had tipped the balance on the ice completely in their favor Wednesday night, the Capitals caught a break by way of a penalty on one of their own. When Alex Ovechkin went off for delay of game in the second period, it was the perfect opportunity for the Sabres to fully catch up.

Instead, Washington turned to one of its most improved sources of strength this year on the penalty kill to find stability. The Capitals killed off the minor and looked back to normal after the brief two-goals against interlude.

Much has been said about the numerical improvements in the penalty kill -- and it has been successful on 41 of 51 times shorthanded in the past 12 games -- but against the Sabres that emotional momentum present from a successful two minutes was as present as it has ever been.

"It was huge for us," Jason Chimera said. "It can give you so much momentum, because I don't think there's no more disappointing thing to the other team than when they don't get any chances and they have to skate back three or four times when you're icing the puck. They just go back and get it, go back and get it. It's demoralizing and it's good for us."

The success of the penalty kill has been a little more magnified these days as well, as the Capitals have had only six power-play chances in the past four games --in three of those contests they only had one opportunity on the man-advantage.

Nearly a quarter of the way through the season, the Capitals have maintained their commitment to sustaining the improved penalty kill and they'll enter Friday's game against the Thrashers with the 12th-ranked PK in the league at 83.8 percent.

Assistant coach Dean Evason has "done a nice job of working with our guys and being harder on us," said Mike Knuble, who is one of 15 averaging more than a minute of time on the PK. "In our meetings just calling guys out, showing them film [showing] you can't do this right here. And it's not like a 'Get 'em next time' sort of vibe either. It's this has to be better, you have to be better here and the group has to be better. He singles guys out a little bit in meetings and nobody's immune; everybody gets it. You're not offended; you want to do better."

FROM THE POST
Colleague Tracee Hamilton examines the impact of a player like Matt Hendricks and what it means to be a good locker room guy.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said that both Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth will play in a game this weekend.

Dan Steinberg was at Kettler Thursday to talk to Matt Bradley about his fluky goal against the Sabres and to Holtby about, well, Holtbyisms.

AROUND THE WEB
If you didn't get a chance to hear Ted Leonsis's appearance on NHL Hour with league commissioner Gary Bettman, here are some of the highlights. (NHL.com)

Speaking of radio interviews, several Caps took a turn on the airwaves Thursday.
--Bruce Boudreau was on Elliot in the Morning (audio part one and part two)

--Brooks Laich caught up with the Junkies on 106.7 The Fan. (For some reason the direct audio link isn't working, so just head here and play the third segment.)

--And Mike Green made his weekly appearance with LaVar and Dukes on 106.7 The Fan. (audio)

By Katie Carrera  | November 19, 2010; 7:13 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Roundup, Penalty kill  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Matt Hendricks a 'great shot of energy' to Caps
Next: Live Caps Q&A today at 1 p.m.

Comments

I am very happy with the Caps improved PK and their overall better defensive play. However, I am concerned about Poti's groin, Erskine's head, and Carlson/Alzner's inexperience. I would really like to see the Caps make a deal for a solid s@h blueliner -- even a long-term deal. The Caps cannot rely on a gimpy Poti, concussion prone Erskine (love the guy's attitude but worry that he is a hit away from long-term post-concussion syndrome), and two very young blue-liners. The cupboard from Hershey is bare for blueliners, but over the brim for wings (along with Flash and Fehr being decent trade bait). And yes, Fehr has regressed so far this season.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | November 19, 2010 7:48 AM | Report abuse

You think you're concerned about TP3s groin? How do you think Ms. Poti feels? :)

Posted by: RicketyCricket | November 19, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Plenty of time for GMGM to address the obvious roster concerns. Much rather it be done later than now when new leaks/injuries could crop up. Not like the team is struggling to make the top 8.

Posted by: McKinley2 | November 19, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

From the previous thread:

Hunterforcoach: That song and dance about the playoffs is getting old. Did you even watch the playoffs last year? They were high scoring as heck. Montreal didn't come up with a game plan to beat the Capitals. They came up with a game plan that best suited their lack of depth on offense. They used the same game plan against the Penguins and won too. There was a post Flyers series interview with Halak and he was asked how the Flyers differed from the Caps and Pens, and he simply said, I was tired.

The days of having to win playoff games 2-1 and 1-0 for a 7 game stretch are over. A lot of teams have done what the Caps have done and gone with young goaltenders that give your team a chance to win not steal games like Brodeur and Roy did when their teams had a bad day in the playoffs.

BTW your experienced coach, Torts, already lost in a head to head series against Boudreau.

The Capitals, and BB get it. They know what they have to do differently. They understand they needed to put a more defensive system in place. There are some growing pains with it, but it's coming together. The good thing is, the players, coaches, and GMGM are not happy with simply getting a win. They are striving for those 60 minute efforts on a nightly basis.

Hunter: I identify with your pain. I'm frustrated with the lack of playoff success, but to compare this group to any previous Capitals group and honestly say these guys don't give us fans the best shot at a Stanley Cup is just untrue. Sorry, they are the most talented Capitals Core this city has ever seen. The 97-98 Caps gave us an exciting run, but the fact is, EVERYTHING fell into place for them. Much like the Flyers last year. All the top seeds lost in the 1st round in 97-98 too. To top it off, our Caps made it to the Finals because of a hot goaltender named Olaf Kolzig. Thanks Olie!!!

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 19, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

@fanohock1.....great post. I agree.

Posted by: Caps4Life1 | November 19, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

It is just so much fun sometimes to read the Dark Siders and then the Kool Aid drinkers. Amazing how two people can look at the same thing and see it so differently.

Hmmmmm. Kinda like that big white building with 535 elected officials.

I myself am in the camp to trade for a defender sooner rather than later. I think then the extra center can come at the deadline. Otherwise, I hope we get to see more of Chimera-Steckel-Bradley. I'm not thinking this can be a class A checking line ala Kono-Dahlen but it's much better than three "scoring" lines and a muck line. Maybe these guys can teach Ovi to quit trying to skate through four enemy players.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | November 19, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

@fanohock1:

I agree entirely, the most recent post from @hunterforcoach is just more of the same and tiresome. We will see what happens in the playoffs when we get to the playoffs. From the backhanded slap at the Caps current best contributor (Semin) to the blind laments, the comments are unconstructive and they fail to recognize the Caps' improvements individually and adjustments made as a team. No one here is saying that the Caps couldn't benefit from some strategic trades; we can and we seem to all agree that a tough stay at home defenseman and a 2C would be great additions, and we have some assets to give up.

Those trades might not happen for a few months, but in the meantime I'm going to enjoy the games where the Caps work toward generating more 60 minute efforts, continue to outhit opponents, rely on shorter, tighter passing out of the zone, get more aggressive on the PK, count more on defensive responsibilities from our forwards and demand responsible play from our D corps, a corps that seems to be handling itself well as a whole despite apparent deficits in certain capabilities.

We clearly don't need to pot 5, 6, and 7 goals a game this year to win, and we can credit the adjustments in game plan, adjustments that will serve us well in the playoffs.

Posted by: Justafan | November 19, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Recognizing deficiencies in the team and commenting on possible ways to address the deficiencies are fair game. If watching the Caps games only brings you misery and depression, maybe switching to another interest would be in order from the mental health perspective.

Posted by: zmega | November 19, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1

I agree with bringing in an extra defenseman, but my biggest concern on defense is the Caps ability to retrieve the puck quickly and exit the zone with accurate passes.

When teams forecheck well against the Caps, I think the inability to quickly retrieve the puck and make accurate passes has been the root of the cause of the defensive problems. Yes, being physical helps, but if you listen to any hockey analyst or just watch games you see that the best way to defeat a forecheck is the ability to get the puck quickly and get it out.

Ideally, the Caps can get a defenseman who is both physical and a great puck mover. Unfortunately, there are very few teams who are willing to trade a defenseman like that.

But if I had to choose between a big defenseman who isn't a great puck mover or a less physical defenseman who is a great puck mover, I would choose the latter. I think that is much more important in today's game.

On that note, I really like Schulz, but it is his inability to move the puck quickly that worries me the most for the playoffs. He has definitely improved but is still flawed in that area of the game. If he faces the 2nd line of a team, he can usually handle it, but if he faces the 1st line of a team I get worried. That's why(and I think most people on here agree) Schulz is a, and will continue to be, a very solid 2nd pairing D-man. But he is not a #1.

The addition of Carlson and Alzner has definitely helped the Caps D ability to retrieve the puck quickly and move the puck out of the zone. Both are very good at it and will continue to get better.

Erskine is doing better than he ever has, but he has limited ability to do that.

Posted by: sgm3 | November 19, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

tominsocal1: Yeah, if I was to be classified as KA or GB drinker, I'd definitely be a KA drinker. I do however agree with everyone, and I am convinced the Capitals think so as well, that a 2C and a quality 1st pairing S@H D is needed to complete this team. I believe BB is working every option at center with his current players to see if the 2C void can be solved. Since the tinkering is even greater than in years past, IMO BB hasn't found his 2C yet, not yet. His latest is of course to move Backstrom to work with Semin on line 1B, and move Johansson to 1A. It looks like Flash's days as a 2C candidate are numbered. IMO it doesn't mean he cannot get something worthwhile in return if traded because he would most likely fill the role of a wing on another team. I guess my point in this latest post is to state that I know this team still has room for improvement which IMO also means the acquistion of a couple more pieces.

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 19, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

fanohock: I agree, Flash is by no means worthless. 20 goal scorers don't grow on trees. I think if we got a center who plays like Hendricks but maybe more talented and someone on D like sgm say who can move the puck and also, HOPEFULLY, make it painful for guys like Crosby to set up a picnic table in the crease and drink coffee, until the puck comes to him, would be ideal.

sgm: We have a team wide weakness in keep the crease clear. Poti bounces off enemy forwards. Erskine tries. We need someone with good, old-fashioned strength.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | November 19, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

@fanhock
@icehammer

Icehammer, great stats. were did you get that stuff ?

Fanhock, We're at different places with the Caps on the time line. Those of us that were teenagers in the 70's want to win a cUp. That's it. We survived a really bad owner. We've watched a ton of hockey. We've also watched GMGM construct 2 teams now. It will be another decade before we could assemble this much talent. Time to play playoff hockey. The future is now. Dispose of guys who you think will not pay the price (Stecks,Flush!) Add people who have the guts to play in the spring (Eakin, tough d-man)

The red line absense created more goals in the playoffs. We needed an ugly playoff goal from one of the big bodies (Laich, Fehr, Knuble)when we were down 0-2 in game 5. we didn't get it. We needed a single ugly playoff goal at home in game 7, and we didn't get it.(Knuble call was bad ! So, score another one.)

Ugly playoff goals change series !!

Torts took us to 7 games with a poor team. If we were cUp material, we would not have been out-hustled all 7 games. That Rangers team was beatable in 5. Torts also came back to our building down 0-2 with the Bolts and torched our team in front of the hometown fans. (That's because Butch "The cocktail napkin Kid" could not get the boys to play playoff hockey at home. Thanks Butch; great hire GMGM) We should have beaten the Rangers in 5, and then beaten the Pens after having them down 2-0.(Stecks misses open net. He should have scored the next night also. Win BOTH games Stecks.)

As for the frown stuff. I'm a Caps fan, which has been tough being this close to the Pitt fans. But, I'm a hockey fan first. ALL THIS TEAM SHOULD BE FOCUSING ON NOW IS HOW TO GET BETTER FOR THE PLAYOFFS. A better PK is a starter. Net crashing goals (Which Semin is finally doing) are a must develop habit for the playoffs. Fehr has got to start playing his size in the slot.

Lastly, the whole comparison of the championship Pens to last years teams is only for hockey novices. This talk of team defense by the Caps is probably "all talk", because the entire league knows our biggest weakness. It's glaring in the playoffs. Yes, you can win 2-1 in the playoffs. A single goal either way is huge when a series that is at 2-2.

Thank Kolzig AND his teammates who commited to playing playoff hockey for a month. I don't care the first rounders lost. We beat Hasek; the best ever. Hasek would have beaten this team. Then we would be hearing about how he should be "inducted" the morning after the series loss from GMGM and BB.

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | November 19, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

@tominsocal

You're right. We need to make it painfull to stand in front of our goalie, Kinda' like Gill threw around Knuble, Fehr, and Laich in front of Halak. Flyers quickly trashed this Jacque "game plan", which is why Halak is in St.Louis,

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | November 19, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Hunter: Good post by the way.

"As for the frown stuff. I'm a Caps fan, which has been tough being this close to the Pitt fans. But, I'm a hockey fan first. ALL THIS TEAM SHOULD BE FOCUSING ON NOW IS HOW TO GET BETTER FOR THE PLAYOFFS. A better PK is a starter. Net crashing goals (Which Semin is finally doing) are a must develop habit for the playoffs. Fehr has got to start playing his size in the slot."

The part you put in CAPITAL LETTERS. I believe they are focusing on getting better for the playoffs, all the way up to GMGM.

I was a teenager in the 70s too, so like I said to you earlier, I feel your pain. As far as the loss to the Torts coached Lightning, Cassidy changed that Gosh darn lines after being up 2 games to 0 heading home. What heck was that all about?

This is what I don't get, bear with me Hunter and others that don't buy that BB could be the guy. The Rangers were up 3-1 right? Not only did the Caps win games 5 and 6 of that series, they blew the Rangers away. Game 7 was tight, and a key save by Varly on Antropov in the first couple of minutes set the tone for a tight defensive game from that point forward. Now, when the Caps lose a 3-1 games lead, regardless of seeding, they were outcoached or lacked killer instinct. When they came back from 3-1 down, they were lucky to defeat an inferior opponent and the players and BB aren't given any kudos? Seems a little bogus to me.

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 19, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

@fanohock

on coming back from 3-1 versus losing the 3-1 series lead and getting credit...you don't get the credit for coming back and winning series you should. And you get blasted for series you lose that you should have won. That is the nature of the beast that is professional sports. It would be different if we came back from 3-1 and we were the underdog in that series or lost a 3-1 series lead to simply the better team. But both series we were the favorite.

Posted by: ThePat | November 19, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I just love it when the Kool-Aid drinkers and Goat's Blood drinkers belly up to the bar and enjoy their drinks together.

I read fanohock and I think, "Wow! Good points!" Then I read Huntsy and I think, "Wow! Good points!" You guys should run for Congress.

Interesting that there's almost total agreement across all spectrums of belief here Caps need two players. Huntsy of course might say we need a third player, maybe a second D man or a second gritty (but talented) forward.

I myself look back to 09 and I think if we had gotten Guerin, instead of the Pens (3rd round choice!), we would have won that series. One player can make a difference! And then we would have faced the Canes, whom we owned! Ah, the shame of it!

Posted by: tominsocal1 | November 19, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"sgm: We have a team wide weakness in keep the crease clear. Poti bounces off enemy forwards. Erskine tries. We need someone with good, old-fashioned strength."

I agree with you, but I think a quality puck moving defenseman in today's game is more important. Ideally you can get a guy who can do both(i.e. Pronger), but there aren't too many of those available.

If I had a choice I think acquiring a guy who can get the puck quickly and get it out to beat the forecheck is more important than a crease clearing defenseman. If you beat the forecheck you are decreasing the opposing team's zone time, shot attempts, and scoring chances. That alone will then decrease the number of chances near the crease they get, and is, in a way, crease clearing in that the opposing team doesn't get the chance to get near the crease.

Posted by: sgm3 | November 19, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

ThePat: It depends what you drink. You also need to take EVERYTHING into consideration. The age and experience of the Rangers compared to the 2008-09 Capitals for one. You don't give them credit, I do. Hunter doesn't give them credit (I'm assuming), someone else on the board does. The point is just because I do, and you don't, it doesn't make either of us wrong.

Posted by: fanohock1 | November 19, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

@fanhock1

I agree with the overall sentiment. Team is playing better defensively and seems to have its priorities figured out a bit better. The doom and gloom posts are very tiresome.

However, very much disagree with the statement that "The days of having to win playoff games 2-1 and 1-0 for a 7 game stretch are over. "
That is exactly what you have to do when you run into a hot goalie. If the goalie is making 55 saves a night and letting in only a goal or two how else are you going to win?


Posted by: BorntoHula | November 19, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

@tominsocal @sgm3

I side with Tom on this. Last year I was torn between which we needed and they went for the puck mover. And well it was obvious Corvo didn't work out. We have 2 puck movers now in Green and Carlson. Its time for the physical D man to get here. However one guy that fits the bill of both could be moved later. Jovocop could be traded if Phoenix slides, and hes in the last year of his contract out there.

Posted by: ThePat | November 19, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

@Hunterforcoach

Your arguement has one HUGE flaw..."We can raise another President's cup banner next to the Mystics "ATTENDANCE CHAMPS" banner.
"

Nuuh uhh. They took those horrid things down. So NOT POSSIBLE to hang another one next to them. Psssh, check your facts man. Stop trying to sgm3 your arguement.

=)

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | November 19, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

@fanohock

I wasnt saying that as terms of people on here. Im saying that in terms of how that situation would be preceived no matter what team is involved across all of pro sports. When you come back and you are supposed to win the teams never get credit. When you blow leads you are supposed to hold onto teams get blasted. That is all I was saying. I gave them credit for coming back against the Rangers. However personally I think that BB did get outcoached last year and the team(not just him) should be blasted for that. But all of it is in the past, hopefully they have all learned from it and actually apply what they have learned, rather than just say theyve learned.

Posted by: ThePat | November 19, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

@ThePat

Yes, Corvo was a puck mover, but he wasn't a good puck mover. In addition, he had no size whatsoever.

Most guys are a blend. I would go with a guy who is more proficient in puck moving ability but has enough size to be reasonably physical. Like I said, ideally you get a guy who can do both great. But I still think puck moving is the most important part of a defenseman's game today.

I just remember watching Andy Sutton getting abused by the Pens because they kept on beating him to the puck on the forecheck. While AV and Phillips did great because they almost always got to the pucks first. All three guys are pretty physical, but AV and Phillips are also talented puck movers. Sutton, not so much.

Posted by: sgm3 | November 19, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Favorite expressions:

a) Goat blood drinkers
-back in the old days, things were so much better
-the Caps were so much better back in the 70's, when they played with grit and heart unlike today's woosie players
-ah, you all suck

b) Kool aid drinkers
-hey, it really is fun going to hockey games even though I can't spout out 35 years of Caps hockey trivia
-wow, maybe this is the year for the Cup
-hey, maybe we can sneak some grain in the Kool aid punch and party like animals

Posted by: AADCDERM | November 19, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Rickity...The Potis had a kid this summer so I don't think she's all that concerned. She's probably sometimes thinking, damn it, I wish it was broken so I wouldn't have to handle this bundle of joy all the time!

Posted by: tonyw44 | November 19, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

@tominsocal
>>I just love it when the Kool-Aid drinkers and Goat's Blood drinkers belly up to the bar and enjoy their drinks together.
good one. Great to see them "reaching across the aisle" to solve this team's problems.
@aadcderm - "goat blood drinkers"?? a new entry in the Caps blog thesaurus.

A little saddened that things are not working out for Fehr here. And amazed that not everyone is appreciating the great year Semin is having.

But Stamkos looks like he might obliterate the record books. I'm not sure he can keep it up.

Posted by: RedLitYogi | November 19, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

@justafan

You Kool aiders get all hyped up about what you saw in a regular season game, then complain when we talk about the "same old playoff nonperformance stuff".

Miller doesn't let in that Steckle goal in the playoffs. Expect to see the Olympic Miller, not the guy giving up "juicy rebounds"

GUARANTEED that Steckle scores no goals on a guy like Miller in the playoffs. The 5 on 3 goal doesn't go in either as Miller blocks the cross crease pass in the playoffs.

The UGLY Bradley goal is a playoff type goal.

We beat the Sabres, but that is not the Sabres we'll be seeing in the playoffs, if we play them. Miller will be shutting doors all over the place, and have guys scratching their heads. Only way to score on him is to block his site of the puck, which we did not do last year.

So when we look at games like the last one and discount them, it's because we know that was not a playoff type situation.

Miller could carry a team to the finals, and we need to start practicing ways to beat him in the playoffs. This guy is the real deal, unlike Halak.

Nuevy looked horrible, which of course concerns me for (what else)"the playoffs"

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | November 19, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Can't we all just get along? Think of the bright side - we're not Devils or Islanders fans!

Posted by: Thisistheyear | November 19, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

@AADCDERM

Funny stuff!

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | November 19, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Neuvy has looked shaky of late. Difference between early season Neuvy and recent Neuvy is he was swallowing pucks in the breadbasket and no rebounds, but last 3-4 games he's been leaving rebounds on silver platters with personalized invitations.

I suspect the real Neuvy is the puck swallower and that he just needs to gain confidence and consistency.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | November 19, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

@RicketyCricket
You think you're concerned about TP3s groin? How do you think Ms. Poti feels? :)
---------
i assume you mean that Mr. Poti might have trouble taking out the trash or climbing a ladder to change a lightbulb?

Posted by: mcintire_will | November 19, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

If some of you really don't much care for the regular season games and decide shatting on people when they're just enjoying the victories as they come, can we just have you shut your pie holes or crawl back under the freeway overpass you came out of until it's playoff season? No, really. We'll wake you up when the games actually matter. We should be able to enjoy the victories and not have your sniveling written voice reminding us it's "just" a regular season game.

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | November 19, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

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