That the Caps have a mediocre penalty kill overall should come as a surprise to no one. Granted, they've risen to mediocrity thanks to the current nine-game run in which they've killed 90% of the 30 power plays they've faced, but the kill itself still has to be listed among the team's concerns going forward... except, perhaps, when they're at home.
It turns out that the Caps have the League's sixth-best home penalty kill, one that's a full 12 percentage points better than the team's 28th-ranked kill. This differential is the second-largest in the League, a few fractions of a point behind Chicago, and one of just seven teams whose home PK is greater than five points better than its road PK (in addition to Chicago and Washington, Tampa, Buffalo, Detroit, Anaheim and Vancouver round out this group). Interestingly, there are five teams (Calgary, Colorado, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Florida) whose PK is greater than five points better on the road than at home. Huh.
So to what can we attribute the difference for the Caps? Let's take a look at a few theories:
Penalty Kills Per Game
The Caps have been tasked with killing 3.875 penalties per game on the road but just 3.55 per game at home (no surprise there). That's a difference of less than ten percent, but fresher penalty killers are better penalty killers, so there's probably some impact there.
While not as obvious as having the opportunity to make the last line change, there is a home-ice advantage to taking faceoffs, and it's one that clearly benefits the Caps' top draw specialist, David Steckel, whose face off win percentage at home is 66.0% and drops to 57.7% on the road. Stecks has taken 64.4% of the Caps' shorthanded draws on the season, so you'd think there'd be a difference here... but there isn't - the Caps have won 55.8% of their PK faceoffs at home and 55.4% on the road. For his part, Steckel has won "only" 57.5% of his shorthanded draws on the campaign.
Of course the Caps penalty kill will be better at Verizon Center, because the ice is so bad that opponents' power play units will struggle mightily just to complete a point-to-point pass, right? Well, maybe. The Caps' power play is better on the road than at home (albeit negligibly), but there's no reason to think that the quality of the ice is playing a major factor here... is there?
A season ago, the Caps had killed 81.5% of their penalties at home and 79.8% on the road, obviously a much smaller margin, so it's likely that the wide differential we've seen in the first half of the season is just a statistical anomaly and the spread will narrow as the season progresses. But if anyone's got an explanation for it, I'm all ears.