The Capitals’ penalty kill unit has allowed a goal in four of the first five games this season, including one in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers at Verizon Center.
As with every statistic this time of year, it comes with the following disclaimer: it’s a small sample size. That said, the Caps know that the unit can—and should—be better, particularly after it ranked second in the NHL last year.
“We’ve got some new people there,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “But we’ve also have a lot of the same people.”
Washington’s penalty kill percentage currently sits at 71.4 as the team prepares to depart on a four-game trip to Western Canada. Last year, the unit’s percentage was 85.2. Only Anaheim’s penalty kill was better.
“It’s a mentality,” Trotz said. “Once you start digging yourself a little bit of a hole, you get worried about it. We just need a little confidence going for it. It’s not that we don’t have any, but we just have to get everybody on the same page. We’re not quite there yet, but we will be.”
Since snuffing out all three of the Avalanche’s power play opportunities two games ago, the Panthers and Rangers each struck once. And both times, the goals were big ones.
On Thursday night in South Florida, Jaromir Jagr scored on the man advantage late in the second period to even the score 2-2. The Panthers squeezed off six shots on four power plays in that game.
On Saturday, Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey tallied midway through the second period to knot the score 2-2. New York got off four shots on three opportunities in the contest.
“I think the first two games, [the goals] were just kind of [deflections],” said defenseman Karl
Alzner, who is averaging almost two minutes of shorthanded ice time per game. “Even today was a little bit of a pinball out to the backdoor.”
Alzner added: “We just have to see what other teams are doing and continue to get in lanes and block shots. And when we make our switches and stuff like that, it seems like we’re at times a little bit slow to do it. We want to pressure, but we have pressure smart. And if we’re not [in sync], it happens to any penalty kill. I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks right now on paper, but, yeah, we’d like to be better.”
Newcomer Lars Eller said he isn’t overly concerned yet, in part, because he feels opposing power plays have benefited from some fortuitous bounces and those bounces will even out over time.
“You can always improve,” Eller said. “I don’t think it’s the reason we lost [to New York]. A wrist shot from way out on the flank that bounces right to a Rangers’ player. Sometimes it bounces to one of us. Sometimes it bounces to one of them. Things are out of your hands a little bit sometimes. But there’s room for improvement.”
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