The list of players who need to play better for the Capitals to come back in their series with the Pittsburgh Penguin is a long one. At the top of the list, however, may be defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
A trade deadline acquisition, Shattenkirk was brought in to add balance and skill to the blue line. A year after bringing in depth defenseman Mike Weber with middling results, the Caps instead swung for the fences by bringing in a player with top four skill to plug into the power play and balance out the third pair with a right-handed shot.
The move does not seem to be having the desired results.
“[Shattenkirk’s] done some really good things offensively for us but at the same time, I think he's minus-7 in the playoffs so far,” Barry Trotz said on a conference call with the media on Sunday. “He's been mooring that third pairing for us.”
Shattenkirk’s minus-7 is a team low this postseason. Right behind him is his defensive partner, Brooks Orpik. Orpik’s minus-5 reflects just how much that third pair has been struggling, especially this series. Through two games against Pittsburgh, Shattenkirk is a minus-3 with no points.
Despite his struggles, however, Trotz said that he felt “comfortable” with the team's lines suggesting Shattenkirk will remain in the lineup. For now. Karl Alzner is still recovering from an upper-body injury, but Taylor Chorney is available should Trotz decide to make a move. While he may be a top-notch skater, however, there’s no question the ceiling is much higher for a player like Shattenkirk. He just has not been able to play at a level close to that ceiling yet.
“I think if you talked to Kevin he would admit that he could play better,” Trotz said. “I know he can play better and we'll talk to him and we'll make sure that he's better next game.”
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