With a 14-2-1 record in their last 17 games, everything has been going right for the Capitals lately.
Well, almost everything.
A Washington team that boasts the best defense in the NHL is suddenly struggling on the penalty kill. Coming into Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins, the Caps had allowed one power play goal in each of their last five games. On Wednesday, the penalty kill was victimized again and it nearly cost them the game.
Washington jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period against the Bruins and looked well on their way to another big win. Just when it looked like the Caps were going to finish them off, however, Washington gave Boston some life with a penalty late in the first period and early in the second.
Brad Marchand scored on each to tie the game at 2. Washington managed only one successful kill on the night in the three power plays the team faced.
Why has the penalty kill been a problem of late? No one can really put their finger on it.
“I don't know,” Matt Niskanen said. “It's been all different types of goals. It's not like there's one thing that's biting us. Record's been decent in spite of that, but definitely our penalty kill's going to have to do better in the future.”
“It's just some mistakes I think maybe that we don't usually make,” T.J. Oshie said. “I think our penalty kill, our four front guys and the guys in the back end do a really good job. Tonight, they just beat us on a couple plays. Something we'll clean up. Some of those things we usually don't let them get to those points.”
The problem is when there’s not one thing wrong, it makes it that much harder to fix.
Head coach Barry Trotz agreed with his players’ assessment after the game, saying the two power play goals the team allowed to Boston came on two very different plays.
“The first one we did a really good job and then we made a real bad change,” Trotz said. “We didn’t get the puck down the ice, it was sort of a real short regroup on their part and we made a bad change. ... The second one, they had a lot of zone time, hit us with a couple seems and we weren't able to get a handle on it.”
One issue could be Jay Beagle’s roll of late.
Beagle played on the second line Wednesday in place of Justin Williams who was a late scratch. He played on the top line in place of T.J. Oshie in New Jersey last week prior to the All-Star break.
Beagle, who Trotz called his “Mr. Fix It” is also one of the team’s top penalty killers. Playing him in the top six means more minutes at even strength would ultimately means fewer minutes on the penalty kill. Trotz also told reporters that he does not think Beagle has fully recovered from the flu which forced him to miss last week’s game against the Ottawa Senators.
Could the penalty kill struggles just be boiled down to Beagle not being 100 percent? If that’s the case, the team better hope he doesn’t dog it in the postseason.