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Capitals' penalty kill rolls on

While the Capitals remain searching for a consistent performance throughout an entire contest, one element has done well in each outing and sometimes helped secure wins in those contests with less-than-perfect showings: the penalty kill.

The Capitals made tweaks to their penalty kill during training camp and the preseason, and the adjustments continue to work. Washington has killed off all 21 penalties it has been whistled for so far this season, and although the streak is nice, the players are simply happier to have the special-teams unit performing well.

"The last few years, it seemed like we would give us one, two power-play goals a game. It felt like we always got behind the eight ball every time we had to kill one," said Jeff Schultz, who leads the team in total (110:48) and shorthanded (19:08) ice time and has yet to be on the ice for a goal against. "This year, every time we have success it's an energy boost for the team. We know we can kill off penalties now and we can use that momentum moving forward."

A good deal of the success can be attributed to Michal Neuvirth's strong start in net, as he boasts a .930 save percentage through five games, but the rest of the penalty killers have only allowed opponents to take 27 shots against him with the man advantage through 21 opportunities.

In addition to trying to establish more consistent pressure on opponents who are on a power play, the Capitals have used a rotation of eight to 10 players consistently on the penalty kill this season, keeping shifts short in order to maintain the aggressive edge. Usual suspects Schultz, Mike Green, Boyd Gordon, David Steckel and John Erskine all average more than three minutes of shorthanded time per game, while five more -- Tom Poti, Brooks Laich, John Carlson, Matt Hendricks and Alexander Semin -- all have more than two minutes.

"You want to be out there 25-30 seconds and get three or four sets of guys out there," Gordon said. "You don't want to get stuck out there a minute; that's when you get in trouble. But so far the changes have been successful. I think we all know [that] if our kill can be up in the top of the league, it can make us a more dangerous team overall."

--Alex Ovechkin and Semyon Varlamov jetted off to Bristol, Conn., this afternoon following practice to film a "This is SportsCenter" commercial and will be back later tonight. Per the Caps' Nate Ewell, it isn't the other sports stars Ovechkin most wants to meet, but anchor and hockey columnist John Buccigross.

--In related news, the latest Capitals player to join the Twitterverse, John Erskine (@johnerskine04), was wondering after practice what he needed to do to get more followers.

By Katie Carrera  | October 18, 2010; 4:22 PM ET
Categories:  Boyd Gordon, Jeff Schultz, Michal Neuvirth, Penalty kill  
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Next: Capitals, Bruins each balancing two goaltenders


I think Schultzy's turning into the real deal. It was painful watching him grow up, but we have a real good defenseman in him.

I'm pretty excited about this season. I think 2011 is going to be the year.

Posted by: large23220 | October 18, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

A little help here, all, I'm behind the curve on this:

in this war of the roses, what exactly is a "Hater" and what is a "Kool-Aid drinker". (This is a reference to Jim Jones?? Cultish acceptance of GMGM? Just curious.)

Out of curiosity, do any of you identify yourself as one or the other? Do you identify others this way?

Posted by: RedLitYogi | October 18, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

@ large23220

I was one of those Shultz "Almost" Haters a couple of years ago, last year I became a fan of Shultz and started to question Mike Green.
While I know this reg season is only 5 games old and Green didn't play the last game I really think people need to sit back, zip it before they pass comment on this and have a good think about how good Mike Green really is.

Carlson will in time leave Mike Green behind and in 5 years maybe even ten Shultz will still be getting it done on the D and Mike Green will be looking for his goals.

Shultz is by far the most inproved palyer over last year, SO FAR .........

Posted by: bqts | October 18, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Green has been great so far this regular season. I hope when he comes back, he continues his strong, physical, defensive play. His offense is always a threat whether he is putting up points or not because a) his first-pass is crucial to any team and b) teams are cognizant of Green and his ability to jump in on the play.

Schultz has been steady, and slightly physical which is appreciated from a guy his size. Erskine has been downright nasty, and I'm happy to see him get more ice time.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | October 18, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I, too, was a Schultz "near Hater" until last year. He's grown into the role nicely and I'm super-glad GMGM didn't listen to hotheads like me who wanted him traded.

Posted by: EricinReston | October 18, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't recall last year (or before that) when Jeff Schultz would say a single word. Now, with Katie in charge, he is the next Gabby in making.

Posted by: CodePoetry | October 18, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

"in this war of the roses, what exactly is a "Hater" and what is a "Kool-Aid drinker". (This is a reference to Jim Jones?? Cultish acceptance of GMGM? Just curious.)"

hater = distain for gmgm, bb, a specific player, a specific play, style of play etc. will often repeat these opinions ad nauseam. will rarely ever see anything good that has happened. mostly thinks the regular season is useless and the playoffs is the only 'real' hockey that is played

kool-aid drinkers (rose colored glasses wearers): yes - jim jones ref. believes anything the caps front office (or team) does is exactly as it should happen. will often challenge a 'hater' to try and get them to change their opinion.

"Out of curiosity, do any of you identify yourself as one or the other?"

sure - mostly i drink the kool-aid - but sometimes it's a little bitter and i haven't died from it yet :D

"Do you identify others this way?"
h*ll yes!

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | October 18, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I thought Nashville did the best job actually getting setup against us on our PK. It seems these guys are challenging each other and not getting passive waiting for things to happen and thats why PK is working. Opponents have to think a little faster and they often flub up their shots and passes - I also notice the Caps seem to keep a safe corner they tend to push the puck into when they cant clear the zone straight out. It allows them to regroup and solve problems and what I like best "they are all on the same page".

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | October 18, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Heard that Anton Gustafsson has decided to head home.

Posted by: casser | October 18, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I like Schultz, I just wish he would play with more of an edge. I think Green is playing very well, more edgy, more aggressiveness on defense. Carlson may well be a very good blueliner in years to come, maybe even this year. Alzner will be a steady-eddy in time. Poti is a good skating, quick-footed, deft stick-handling, and puck handling guru. He could be meaner, which gets me to the point -- The Caps are short an edgy -and- effective blueliner. I would like to see such a blueliner paired with Poti.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | October 18, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse


Generally, those constantly pointing out the negative aspects of the Caps performance (while dismissing/ignoring the positive aspects) get called "Haters"

OTOH, those who unconditionally accept everything the Caps organization does, (however questionable) get called "KoolAid® Drinkers". Those who accuse others of being KoolAid® Drinkers (i.e. Haters) never miss an opportunity to point out that the Caps have yet to win the Stanley Cup, then go on to add that unless [fill in a name or type of player here] is promoted/demoted/traded/acquired/waived/hired/fired, they "never will".

Unfortunately, the Haters are always looking for the cloud, so anyone disputing their world view--say, by looking for even the slightest fragment of silver lining--is by default a KoolAid® Drinker.

Likewise the KoolAid® drinkers call anyone who criticizes the Caps (at any time, in any way, for any reason) a Hater.

Trouble with these labels is that they get applied ever more broadly.

Me, I'm cautiously optimistic: I see that there are troubling issues/deficiencies, but I want the Caps to win, and I'm happy whenever they do...even if it's an "ugly" win. Above all, I trust the GMGM and BB to know their jobs. BB a bad coach, as some may say? Excuse me, but if that were true, then how do we account for the thus-far perfect penalty kill?

Naturally the Haters call me a KoolAid® Drinker. So be it.

Bartender, pour me another!

Posted by: Rhino40 | October 18, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Dichotomies are stupid, we are fans discussing our favorite hockey team.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | October 18, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Dichotomies are stupid, we are fans discussing our favorite hockey team.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | October 18, 2010 5:30 PM

so true - some via ranting, some via unconditional love

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | October 18, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Buccigross tweeted that Varly said he was starting in Boston Tuesday.

Posted by: icehammer97 | October 18, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse


I think it was Thursday not Tuesday.

Posted by: sgm3 | October 18, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Why haven't they called someone up from hershey? Poti is not definite and I was under the impression Green was definitely out...I want Green back!!! I am actually going to the game tomorrow, and I would LOVE to see some good D!

Posted by: capscoach | October 18, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

I really hope that you can point to the adjustments the team has made scheme wise to the PK but part of me thinks that the reason they're perfect is because Neuvy is playing out of his mind.

Posted by: RedskinsXXVI | October 18, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Neuvy certainly is playing out of his mind, but 27 shots in 21 opps. ain't bad. In addition, it kinda passes the eye test. Maybe not 100%-worthy, but certainly better "looking" than in the past couple years.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | October 18, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

The changes in the PK are more than "tweaks." The fundamental philosophy has changed, from almost totally passive to fairly aggressive. Sooner or later someone will get out of position by being overly aggressive and they will give up an "easy" goal on the PK, but in the long run the results will be greatly improved.

Anyone who starts on a "let's trade Green" rant should be forced to watch a replay of the Nashville game, especially the first 30 minutes.

Posted by: zmega | October 18, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

You "Almost Shultz haters" need to watch him when ever he is on the ice. Against Nashville in the 1st period, they iced the puck and Schultz had a clear lead to touch it but slowed up and the Nashville player got there 1st. Later on a penalty kill a Predator player parked in front of the Caps crease was cross checking Schultz, not the other way which it should be. When he gets the puck deep in the Caps zone watch how quick he throws it up the boards even when he is alone. Finally, the defensive rotation is puck in corner, defenseman #1 goes after it # 2 goes to front of crease. Puck goes over to other corner #2 goes after it # 1 goes to crease. Not the Caps Green goes back and forth. At 6'6" 225-230 he needs to be at little physical.

Posted by: wgoodm01 | October 18, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Here is the ESPN video of Ovi answering questions from ESPN e-mailers with John Buccigross:

Posted by: MReilly9 | October 18, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Ovi-Gretz-Mario, that line would be pretty scary to say the least...

he knows Lemieux played for the Pens, doesn't he?? lol

Posted by: joek443 | October 18, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Shultz is certainly getting there as a defensemen. I'm not worried about the defense unless we get some injuries at playoff time. Erskine and Sloan are 6th and 7th for a reason. Erskine (-4) is always on the ice when the opposition scores.
Other alternatives ? Morrisonn is making 2.1 with the Sabers. He isn't worth that much to the Caps. Jurcina (+2 with 2 goals) is getting 1 million from NYI. I think we should have kept him. Sloan and Erskine would have cleared waivers if demoted.

I think keeping some cap space is a good idea in case we need to fill some holes. I like where the team is going. If the only holes I see are the 6 and 7th defensemen, I'm happy!

Posted by: chriscaps | October 18, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

I think keeping some cap space is a good idea in case we need to fill some holes. I like where the team is going. If the only holes I see are the 6 and 7th defensemen.

They need a legit number one d-man so that everyone can move down the depth chart into their proper place.

If they can't get one, I'd seriously talk to Niedermayer about coming outta retirement for one more Cup.

Posted by: joek443 | October 18, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

They need a legit number one d-man so that everyone can move down the depth chart into their proper place.

Posted by: joek443 | October 18, 2010 8:32 PM

wow - i agree with joek443 on this. or if when the time comes, the need is a #2C - get that and maybe another 2nd pair D if they have enough space and can find the right guys

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | October 18, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Long time lurker, first time poster.

Anyway, been a longtime fan of the Caps, but most importantly have been a long time fan of teams that work hard. Say what you will of Glen Hanlon, but it was actually a joy to watch the early post-lockout Caps (and some earlier Caps teams) because they were a pain to play against even though lacking in talent. Many times I said to myself how much I liked those scrappy teams.

On the other hand I was seduced the last few years with Boudreau's electrifying Cardiac Caps. Many time I would say to myself how much I love that team and can't believe how good they are, confident that playoff success would come easy.

But now patterns have emerged and remained. They are relying on talent alone. They fail to breathe and move as a team. They fail to do a lot of basics because they think they don't have to. Sure the PK is doing great, but it is early and there are a lot of other issues that are still there. Is it Boudreau, GMGMG, Slapshot? Doesn't matter.

I am hopeful and actually think that this team will make the necessary mental adjustments. (does that make me a Kool-aid drinking Hater?) I think that because Boudreau is basically gone if they don't make it to the ECF this spring (unless they go down fighting playing the right way in the 2nd round). The players know it, and hopefully will do right by the coach that has given them some much freedom. They don't want what would come next. That should make it easier for Boudreau to get their ears at the right time, and hopefully not put himself in situations where he has to be nimble behind the bench under pressure.

It's great that we have some new blood that can fire up this team when needed (Hendricks) and the prospect of mid-season help coming due to cap flexibility, but we all know the one man who must get his head in the game 100% if the Caps want the Cup. The Russian Machine must get over last year, get his head straight and start playing a complete game. No, not like Stevie Y. Like Ovie of old with a little more discipline in all areas, even in the offensive zone. No more coasting, no more cherry-picking, no more Lebron James-like complaints to the refs after getting contact (even if legitimate). More hitting, more energy, more chip-on-your-shoulder, more Ovie. That's what we will need most this Spring (and maybe a reunion of the Kono-Halpern-Dahlen line).

Posted by: chiefjr17 | October 18, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse


I hope you have had an opportunity to reflect on your comments to capscoach. I think the makeup and "get some" comments were way beyond comments on caps hockey and will consider apologizing to capscoach. I say this as as a person who values your hockey knowledge and insight and hope you will consider sticking around to allow us the benefit of the latter.


Posted by: ebolean1 | October 18, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Gotta like what Cody Eakin is doing. Four goals in three nights over the weekend for him plus this play against the Edmonton Oil Kings Sunday night:

"Killian Hutt provided some insurance with his first as a Bronco on a third period power play. He tapped home a terrific back door pass from Cody Eakin".

Where can I get a Cody Eakin Swift Current Bronco jersey?

Posted by: dull | October 19, 2010 12:37 AM | Report abuse


The haters are the Lancasters. The Kool-Aid drinkers are the Yorks.

Also, while "Kool-Aid drinker" is a Jim Jones reference, the members of the Peoples Temple actually drank Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid, during their mass suicide in Jonestown.

Posted by: JohninMpls | October 19, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Just a note to Ovi: Buccigross is a tool, don't waste your time.

Posted by: jwash4472 | October 19, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

What if you are a Kool Aid hater? It makes my teeth hurt and the grape flavor stains when you spill it. Does this mean I can't post on the CI site anymore?

Posted by: AADCDERM | October 19, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse


Welcome. Well said. Thanks for finally posting.

Posted by: j3rockstar | October 19, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Actually, the People's Temple (often called the Jim Jones Cult) drank cyanide-laced grape Flavor Aid. (ref: Not sure where I was going with that, but there it is.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 19, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Just a note to Ovi: Buccigross is a tool, don't waste your time.

Posted by: jwash4472 | October 19, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Right, he should stick to Versus and NHL network which probably have less than a tenth of viewership of ESPN.

Bucci knows a lot more about hockey than you ever will in your lifetime.

Posted by: joek443 | October 19, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

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