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Caps struggle to diagnose the problem with the penalty kill

Caps struggle to diagnose the problem with the penalty kill

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.

RELATED: Trotz provides an update on Justin Williams

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.

MORE CAPITALS: Oshie accuses Trotz of embellishment after near collision after warmups

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

The last time the Washington Capitals had a first-round draft pick, they selected a WHL defenseman. They did not go off script on Friday.

With the last pick of the first round, selecting for the first time as defending Stanley Cup champions, the Capitals selected Alexander Alexeyev, a left-shooting, two-way defenseman from St. Petersburg.

Alexeyev, 18, certainly boasts NHL size at 6' 4", 196 pounds. He currently plays for Red Deer in the WHL, a junior league that has become a major pipeline for the Capitals. In his second season with Red Deer, he tallied 37 points in 45 games.

The NHL Central Scouting's rankings list Alexeyev as the 22nd best North American skater of the draft. TSN projects him to be a top-four, two-way defenseman.

Analyst Craig Button described Alexeyev as a "Smart, effective defenceman who moves the puck, plays with a calm and doesn't make things complicated for himself."

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