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Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 01/ 9/2011

Capitals' penalty kill continues on a roll

By Katie Carrera

To understand how dependable the Capitals' penalty kill has been, consider that it has allowed more than one power-play goal against in a single game only twice in the first 42 games of the season. Following Saturday's matchup against the Florida Panthers, Washington has thwarted 27 consecutive opposing power plays and been successful in killing off 33 of 34 shorthanded situations (97.1 percent) in the past nine games.

They've also gone 29 games since allowing more than one power-play goal in a single contest, the longest such streak since a 36-game streak during the 1997-98 season.

"I think they're committed, is what they are. They're committed to the penalty kill and they're committed to having good numbers," Coach Bruce Boudreau said prior to Saturday's game. "There's nine or 10 of them that kill on a regular basis. [Alex Ovechkin is] probably one, [Mathieu] Perreault would probably be the other and [Eric] Fehr are the only other guys that really haven't been killing penalties. But the other guys are committed, all six D are committed and when you get that it can become special."

During this stretch, since snapping the eight-game losing streak, the penalty kill has come up big at key times, stopping what seems to be a regular billing of shorthanded opportunities in the third period or at junctures that would allow an opponent to gain momentum. Against Florida on Saturday, the Capitals' ability to kill off an interference call on Brooks Laich with the game tied at 1. It also provided some momentum moving forward and helped set the table for Mike Green's power-play goal that would come shortly after.

Washington's penalty kill is ranked third in the NHL at 85.8 percent -- allowing just 24 power-play goals against on 169 tries. The Capitals haven't finished among the league's top 10 in penalty killing since 1999-00 and hasn't concluded the year ranked higher than 17th in the past eight seasons.

As Boudreau mentioned, by having the majority of the team killing penalties on a regular basis, the success of the unit has become a considerable source of pride for all involved. Seventeen players averaged at least a minute of shorthanded ice time per contest, beginning with Jeff Schultz at a team-high 3 minutes and 20 seconds per game of shorthanded time to rookie Marcus Johansson averaging 1:06.

That group includes seven of the Capitals' regular defensemen -- Schultz, Scott Hannan, Mike Green, Tom Poti, John Carlson, Karl Alzner and John Erskine -- all of whom average at least 1:41, making it easy for Boudreau to use any combination of blue-liners that is available to him.

"It makes it easy because sometimes you get into penalty trouble with your defensemen in the box and you're sitting there and you go: 'Who do we play?'" Boudreau said. "But I think our group here; all the defensemen have been pretty good at penalty killing."

After Saturday night's 3-2 win over Florida, Boudreau remained hesitant to praise the penalty killers too much for fear of jinxing the group, and knocked on the podium. But Washington's penalty kill has thwarted 67 of their last 76 times shorthanded, and that's not all luck.

By Katie Carrera  | January 9, 2011; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  Penalty kill  
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Next: Bruce Boudreau on the Capitals' line combinations

Comments

Among our forwards, I assume that Ovi doesn't do PK since he already gets a high amount of ice time as it is and it wouldn't be the best use of his time.

I've always wondered about the non-use of Fehr on PK. I know he's not the greatest skater in the world but he's gotten his share of break-aways at even strength and he's usually one of our better Plus/Minus players, even if his stats in that department this year are less than great.

But I have noticed our 4th liners are expected to do quite a bit of PK and many times they end up with more ice time than the 3rd line.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | January 9, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Green actually looked like Green last night. Ovi looked like Ovi on his goal. Maybe this is a sign that our long national offensive nightmare is ending. Let's hope Backstrom and Semin join the upward trend.

Posted by: zmega | January 9, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

While I am not happy about Erskine being in the pressbox, I do see some merit getting Schultz and Poti minutes to get in game shape.

I think a much more pressing problem is the weak play of Backis, OV, and Semin for most of this season (yes, Semin went nuts in November, but since, meh). At what point does a coach sit his best players to recover mentally and/or physically? At what point does his discipline players to play a system that the rest of the team is playing successfully? Will sitting Backis and OV (Semin is out with an injury right now) affect the team long-term because OV is not just the superstar, but the captain. Yes, OV's goal was a beauty, but his overall play does not mesh well with systemic play. If OV is getting cortison shots and Backis is wearing ice constantly, why not sit them for a week to heal up -- it's the middle of the season, so what better time of year to let them rest up.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | January 9, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Among our forwards, I assume that Ovi doesn't do PK since he already gets a high amount of ice time as it is and it wouldn't be the best use of his time.

I've always wondered about the non-use of Fehr on PK. I know he's not the greatest skater in the world but he's gotten his share of break-aways at even strength and he's usually one of our better Plus/Minus players, even if his stats in that department this year are less than great.

But I have noticed our 4th liners are expected to do quite a bit of PK and many times they end up with more ice time than the 3rd line.
Posted by: CapsFan75

With how good the PK has been so far, I am very happy with who goes out on the PK.

On the 4th liners. I think we consider the Hedricks/Steckel/Beagle line to be 4th liners because they are listed 4th when the lines are listed. However, they consistently get the main checking/defensive line duties and much PK time. With BB starting to finally match lines, the HSB line is getting more playing time as they see a lot of time when the opposing team's top line is out there.

I think it would almost be better to consider the Hendricks/Steckel/Beagle line the defensive line and not 3rd or 4th. Then, of the other three lines, Ovie's line is #1, the Semin line is #2, and the Chimera/MP/Fehr line is #3.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 9, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

A question about the goalie's for Tuesday and Wednesday.

I'm guessing Neuvy will get one of the starts as he should. So do you put Varly back in on Tuesday at Florida or do you save Varly for Wednesday at Tampa.

Tampa is the more important game, but playing Varly against Florida would allow him more rest before Friday's game.

I'm not sure what is best, I think you could go either way and be fine. Curious to see what others think of it.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 9, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Is this upcoming road trip the annual Florida trip where the Dads go with the team? It's a great thing for the Caps to do IMO.

Posted by: zmega | January 9, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Both games are worth 2 points. I would play Varly against Tampa and Neuvy in Florida and let everything else sort it out. Florida has played us much better than Tampa has this year so far.

Posted by: pebowers | January 9, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

They still take too many dumb penalties, many of which are non contact (hook, trips, etc.) in the offensive zone. At some poin that trait is going to cost them.

Posted by: Jamz | January 9, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

They still take too many dumb penalties, many of which are non contact (hook, trips, etc.) in the offensive zone. At some poin that trait is going to cost them.

Posted by: Jamz | January 9, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I noticed the ever-wrong Eklund at hockeybuzz has us trying to get Kaberle and Giggy from them. Now normally I wouldn't even ask about rumors he says because since they are almost always wrong it is a waste of time but since the team doesn't play again until Tuesday we have time to waste anyway. So I ask 1, would you want these two or just one or none and 2, since he does not mention anyone going to Toronto who would you give up for the 1 or 2 of them you want?

Personally I wouldn't want Giggy, yes he carried a team to a Cup but he is not the same player he was back then. Now he is old and falling apart, same reason I wouldn't want the Caps going after Marty in NJ. As for Kaberle I haven't seen enough of him to know if I think he would really help this team or not but knowing what I do know I would have to have Poti going to other way in the deal simply because I think Poti was a bad contract in the first place and he is a similar player to Kaberle and would not be playing if Kaberle is here. After that I would prefer giving up picks and since Toronto doesn't have a first again this season and we already have so many young guys waiting in the wings I feel we can give up a first then I would do that rather then give up a prospect.

Posted by: icehammer97 | January 9, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Ovi doesn't kill penalties because coach doesn't want him out there blocking shots. How bad would it suck to lose him to a broken foot?

Posted by: griz0615 | January 9, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Also I would play Varly against the Bolts. Both games are two points for us but the TB game could be a 4 point swing in the division race.

Posted by: icehammer97 | January 9, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

No, you ride with Varly till he cools off. He seems to get better with more playing time.

It's not like he has played a ton of games this season.

Posted by: joek443 | January 9, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Ovi doesn't kill penalties because coach doesn't want him out there blocking shots. How bad would it suck to lose him to a broken foot?
------------------------------

I don't think he'd be any good at it, I think that's the main reason he's not out there.

All the great offensive superstars of the past did their share on PK, Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier, Yzerman, Sakic, all of them. Even Crosby is occasionally out there on PK.

The Caps only have one legit offensive center iceman in Backs and he's out there on PK all the time. You don't think there's the same risk when he's out there??

Posted by: joek443 | January 9, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

@icehammer97

There is no way that is happening.

Giggy makes too much money and may not even be better than Varly or Neuvy right now. That is absolutely not happening.

Kaberle could help the Caps and especially their PP, with him being a left-handed shot also.

However, for it to make any sense the Caps would have to get rid of a D-man, and that would have to be Poti based on Kaberle's skill set and Poti's skill set.

Toronto is highly unlikely to have any interest in Poti(basically zero). So Poti would have to be traded to somebody else. Once you get into having to make two or three trades to make something work, it generally doesn't

Lastly, Kaberle has a NTC and has not indicated he is willing to waive it.

So I think it is moot. Barring injury, the only acquisition the Caps will make will be for a center. Once healthy, the Caps already have an overloaded roster(excluding center) so I doubt they will just be picking up extra guys this year.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 9, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

@sgm that is what I thought to but as for Kaberle for Poti and a first I think that could be something Toronto actually thinks about. They right now are about to go for a second straight year without a first round pick on a team that is not very good they really could use that pick. If we throw in a later pick like a third next year maybe they will take it. Not saying we need it but if they really are looking for picks it might be something they consider.

Posted by: icehammer97 | January 9, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

@joek443

I'd play Neuvy in one of the games because you don't want him riding the bench too long.

And the rest from Tuesday to the Friday game or from yesterday's game to Wedensday's game will be no different for Varly than all the rest he has had between games the past 2 weeks. The Caps have had a lot of off time between these games.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 9, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

No way would I give up a first-rounder for Kaberle. I would give up Poti for Kaberle straight up though, but I don't think that's going to happen. IMO Kaberle is not worth a first-rounder at this stage, and he's not the guy that would get us over the top.

We need to be looking at acquiring a gritty, veteran 2C who would kill his own mother to win a cup first and foremost. Not sure if there's one available, but hopefully the Undertaker is looking into options...

Posted by: sca187 | January 9, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

PJ Umberger is your center.

Perreault and a 1st rounder for Umberger. I doubt that would be enough, but he's the kind of guy we'd want with only this year and next on his contract.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 9, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Oope, that was RJ.

And...

How bout them Ravens?

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 9, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

As much as I like Varly and IMO he should be the #1 goalie, Neuvirth can't ride the pine. The Caps have two 22 year-old goalies and they both have to get time. I wonder if Bylsma was trying to get into Neuvirth's head with his speach about his play. Maybe he was just trying to pump up his team.
Kaberle is an upgrade over Poti. I don't think the Leafs would take an often injured Poti with 2 years left on his contract. I personally like the R.J. Umberger rumor much better (depending who the Jackets wanted).

Posted by: chriscaps | January 9, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse

@sca187

I think GMGM is very hesitant to trade 1st round picks, especially for rentals. The recent 1st round draft picks helps bring in very good, young, and cheap players.

Look at Carlson, MJ, and now possibly Kuznetsov. I think GMGM has recognized the importance of the draft and restocking your system. It is the best route for long term success.

I do think Kaberle would be a wonderful addition, as he would help out the PP tremendously. However, he will only work if Poti is gone(there is no way in heck Toronto wants Poti and his remaining contract. Toronto wants cap space and young players or draft picks) and I think Kaberle would cost too much.

Also, he may not waive his NTC.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 9, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

PJ Umberger is your center.

Perreault and a 1st rounder for Umberger. I doubt that would be enough, but he's the kind of guy we'd want with only this year and next on his contract.

Posted by: tominsocal1

I agree Umberger would be a great pickup, but I highly doubt Columbus is looking to trade him. They have him at a reasonable salary for next year and Umberger is still young so I am sure Columbus looks at him as part of their future.

If he can't reach a deal next year, maybe he is dealt. But I highly doubt Umberger will be traded at all this year, much less for draft picks and prospects. Columbus wants and needs to win as soon as they can. Umberger can help them do it next year.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 9, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Several teams have kicked the tires on Maple Leafs defenseman Francois Beauchemin, but Toronto has not received any concrete trade offers. Beauchemin's limited no-trade clause called for him to hand the Leafs a preseason list of 12 teams he'd be willing to go to, which he did.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Unlike Kaberle, he's been to the Finals and won it even if he had the benefit of having Niedermayer and Pronger.

And Kaberle hasn't been in a playoff game since 2003-04 and Beauchemin is a tougher player so if they're gonna go after a veteran D-man for the playoffs, he might be a better fit. Kaberle might be this year's Corvo.

Posted by: joek443 | January 9, 2011 5:58 PM | Report abuse

The reason why I was suggesting trading a first round pick is we already have Kuznetsov and Eakin on the front end who are not even on the Bears roster and Orlov and Wey on the back end who both could be greatt 5-6 D (with Carlson, Alzner, Green, and Schultz as the top 4) or better. We also currently have 3 22 or under goalies between the NHL and AHL. Even if some of those guys are not ready for the NHL next year neither will a pick from this year. We already have so much young talent we can have one year without a first round pick. I would rather them use it to get a #2 center but if we can upgrade the D and get rid of Poti in one move it would be worth a first in my mind.

Posted by: icehammer97 | January 9, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Unlike Kaberle, he's been to the Finals and won it even if he had the benefit of having Niedermayer and Pronger.

And Kaberle hasn't been in a playoff game since 2003-04 and Beauchemin is a tougher player so if they're gonna go after a veteran D-man for the playoffs, he might be a better fit. Kaberle might be this year's Corvo.

Posted by: joek443

Kaberle is much better than Corvo. They aren't even close.

I'm not advocating for trading for Kaberle(I think the Caps should only target a center). However, if the Caps were to somehow get Kaberle(it won't happen) I think he would be a nice upgrade to the D giving each D pairing a very good puck mover. In addition, he would be a huge addition to the PP as he and Green could man the points(one right handed shot, one left handed shot).

Posted by: sgm3 | January 9, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

By the way I noticed everyone talked about the 96 minutes 27 seconds between Caps goals but I haven't seen anyone talk about the 100 minutes 41 seconds between goal given up between the Winter Classic and the TB winner. While our O is struggling our D is getting stronger.

Posted by: icehammer97 | January 9, 2011 6:26 PM | Report abuse

GMGM: a Center is what is needed now. Not Kaberle. Please do the right thing. Give the Bench Buddha a Center (Arnott maybe?).

Posted by: kcbrichmond | January 9, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

sgm: Yes, I don't see Columbus moving Umberger this year unless maybe you offered Kuznetzov. Right now he could land you quite a bit as he would be rated as Top 5 in the world perhaps U20. I can see thmalking comparisons, and Orlov also reminded me somewhat of Gonchar although I never saw Gonch until he came over I think in 95 and he would have been 21 by then. I'm trying to think of who Eakin reminds me most of. I can see some Theo Fleury there (although he is RW). Will be interesting to watch Eakin develop as he will need to add size/strength to succeed at the NHL level. Kuzzie too if he's really only 6'0" although he looked much bigger out there.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 9, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1

True, Kuznetsov is now probably in the top 5 or 10 in the world for U20. However, he may not be as attractive to other teams as he is to the Caps because of the Russian factor and the difficulty for some teams getting them over.

Remember, Columbus has had trouble with Filatov and Zherdev. So they would probably be hesitant to try to acquire him. It was potential difficulty in signing Kuznetsov that allowed the Caps to draft Kuznetsov. If he was Canadian he probably would have been top 10.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 9, 2011 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Since someone brought up Eakin, just thought I'd mention that he got traded today in the W. He got traded for 5 players and 3 draft picks or something like that. Pretty crazy stuff.

Posted by: ThePat | January 9, 2011 8:23 PM | Report abuse

"Since someone brought up Eakin, just thought I'd mention that he got traded today in the W. He got traded for 5 players and 3 draft picks or something like that."
Posted by: ThePat | January 9, 2011 8:23 PM

Probably bad news for the Caps. Koontenay is in first place in their division with the 2nd best record in the WHL. With Eakin, they will likely go deep in the playoffs.

Posted by: Wiley_One1 | January 9, 2011 8:52 PM | Report abuse

How bout them Ravens?
----------------------------------------

I sure hope that they beat the steelers next week, can't stand Big Ben... a couple pick 6s by Reed would be nice.

Posted by: joek443 | January 9, 2011 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I hope Big Ben and the Stillers are sipping pina coladas in two weeks.

Posted by: LloydChristmas | January 9, 2011 10:04 PM | Report abuse

@zmega

While most years they do the fathers' trip to Florida, last season they did something different. I believe they took the Dads to Boston and Montreal during the December time frame. No Florida trip last year (maybe since the two games were so close together like they are this season as well.)

I actually went to the two Florida games in January last year. (This year ....not)

Posted by: CapsFan75 | January 9, 2011 11:16 PM | Report abuse

I still feel we need to trade Semin at the deadline. I don't think we can afford to gamble with him in the lineup for another PO, not knowing if he will show up or not. He could bring us back something more valueable to, since we clearly can win without his contributions.

Semin + Poti for Backes + Colaiacovo (Gritty scorer + lefty for the PP)

Posted by: Walle | January 10, 2011 2:48 AM | Report abuse

Its really hard to speculate on what a trade would bring....but expecting St. Louis to part with Backes and Coliacovo for Semin in a trade is silly - Semin is not going to sign with St. Louis in the offseason.

His trade value to the Caps shrinks as long as any team that gets him knows they still need to sign him. Semin will be the most sought after offseason FA...you don't give good live bodies up for that type of player unless there is a chance he is staying for a while. Most of the NHL has been avoiding Russians for fear they will go back to Russia and play if they dont like their city and team.

Start thinking in the other teams shoes when making up trade ideas...I am sure St. Louis wants scoring, but really with the current western conference are they likely to win the cup this year? will they even make the conf finals? would Semin (who doesn't score playoff goals) put them over the top?

They will need Backes and Coliacovo a little longer.

They might be willing to give back a draft pick but there are no other "available" roster players they have that will give the Caps what they need to do better in the playoffs.

Also GM GM probably wants to spin some futures out of Semin - he is too big an asset to let walk for just rental players coming back.

He will only make that deal for a player that comes with a draft pick in the package to give him flexability later. Like when Atlanta traded Kovalchuk to the desperate Devils last winter...its not always the players you expect (Oduya, Bergfors) coming back the other way.

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | January 10, 2011 6:39 AM | Report abuse

joek: Crosby isn't on the Pens PK anymore. The Pens tv crew mentioned that last week when the Pens were taking a lot of penalties. Ovi is not left of the PK unit because he "sucks" at it. To the contrary, BB toyed with it last year and Ovi even had a shorty in preseason but it comes down to energy conservation. Ovi averages over 20 mins a game and that's without being on the PK. PK time is recovery time for Ovi.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 10, 2011 7:03 AM | Report abuse

you guys always chat and exchange theories in regards to which player (s) will help our club. The one area that is always never talk about is our head coach . I feels that BB is not the coach that will win the Lord stanley for us. He is just now installing a tighter defense we needed straight from the start , plus we will never win a dog bone without a good or decent defense. If the Capitals can some how master this defense and THEN find that offensive fire power we have come to enjoy over the last 2 years I personally feel asthough the Washington Capitals can and should rewrite the history books on how the game of hockey should be player to win that stanley cup !

Right now as I see it this squad needs two things , and 2C and a brutal grittish mean MOFUER playen defense plain and simple . So Ted hear me on this you can and should use Semin to get these players . Semin is not a great player at all . I will also say this MP if he was 4" taller he would be wrote about in the hockey section of all outlets. This youngman has heart he is always going 100 miles a hour . The play he was invold in in the WC game where he was tied up with Malkin and Letang behind our goalie was great . He is a pestly little DOG just like Clark in Sheistzburg !

We need a bench coach to lead this team and as of right now I do not see BB leading us no where . He did not make any adjustments to our scheme until late October / November . Now tell me WTF did he wait so long for ! He has also aloows OV to BS on the ice . BB needs to get in OV face and push him to stay the off the left side and maybe just maybe handle the puck while using the center and right sides . If OV can not find away to do this and change up his less then bottom game he will be nothing to dicuss about , while cindy just pass's him on by and everyone laughs ... Russian machine needs a fing tune up !

Posted by: terryreece | January 10, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

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