PITTSBURGH — Kevin Shattenkirk acknowledged Monday that he’s struggling, but the Capitals defenseman was also quick to say he’s optimistic he can turn things around.
“Not well,” he said, asked to assess his postseason play to this point. “Last game was really bad. But I’m focused on tonight. That’s all I can worry about.”
Shattenkirk has three assists through eight postseason games, but he is also saddled with a playoffs-worst rating of minus-7.
Much has been made of his misplay on Matt Cullen’s shorthanded breakaway goal in Game 2. He was also in the box for putting the puck off the rink when the Penguins took a 4-1 lead early in the third period Saturday night.
“I’m my hardest critic, so I’m not really listening to what a lot of what people are saying,” Shattenkirk said after the morning skate at PPG Paints Arena, “but I know it hasn’t been good.”
Shattenkirk said he’s identified some areas that were in need of immediate attention — and it had less to do with his on-ice execution and more to do with his mental approach and how he's internalized the pressures of the postseason.
“This time of year it’s tougher to flush it,” Shattenkirk said. “The games means so much. You beat up on yourself a little bit more.”
The 28-year-old trade deadline addition continued: “The most important thing for me to do is to have fun. And that’s something I’ve lost along the way here.”
Shattenkirk said he’s hopeful that getting a day away from the rink and the playoff pressure-cooker — the team was off on Sunday — will serve him well as he attempts to get back on track individually, while also helping the Caps claw their way back into the second round series.
“I think having a couple of days to take a step back, it made me realize I wasn’t enjoying it like I should be,” he said. “That’s important. We’re professionals but we’re still playing the game that we love, and I think this is a great opportunity for me tonight to just go out there, enjoy the atmosphere, not think and just play. That’s when I’m at my best.”
Shattenkirk also said he’s received an outpouring of support from his teammates.
“I expect a lot out of myself,” he said. “I want to prove myself to these guys. I can be hard on myself at times, and that’s something I have to work on. But I have a great support cast in here and guys who have been picking me up the last few days, just getting me back to smiling again and having some fun.”