Last Friday, we noted that the penalty kill may be the single biggest problem the Caps need to address going forward. Since then, the Caps have played three games and haven't allowed a single even strength goal, and yet have one regulation win to show for it.
And while the offense has provided just two goals in each of those games, the penalty killers have only been successful ten out of fifteen times they've been put to work. Sure, on many nights the Caps will still have enough offense to overcome their woeful kill (lord knows they've done it plenty of times already this season). But as the games become more and more meaningful and the margin for error slimmer and slimmer, if the Caps don't fix what's ailing their penalty kill, their season's going to end up a lot shorter than they'd hoped (for more on the PK woes, make sure to check out Peerless this morning). As Bruce Boudreau noted postgame:
"If the [penalty kill] doesn't start getting better, we're not going nowhere. And guys are going to start losing their penalty killing jobs if they don't start getting with the program. That's horrendous."
Then again, the Pens went to the Finals a year ago with the 23rd ranked regular season PK, so what the hell do we know?
Some thoughts on the game:
- Jose Theodore didn't have much of a chance on any of the three goals he allowed. Forget "good enough" - he's been great for a month.
- Sergei Fedorov is looking stronger on his skates every game since his return from injury, and his goal was an absolute bomb.
- Boyd Gordon may not cure what ails the PK on his own, but he did win 60% of his defensive zone draws and wasn't on the ice for any of the three Ottawa power play tallies.
- We need not discuss Alex Semin's penalty. Or the giveaway immediately prior.
- Speaking of penalties, the team had four hooks a trip and a rough called on them, and the roughing was a joke. Most of those penalties were of the lazy variety.
- David Steckel had a strong game, drawing a penalty, scoring a nice goal and winning 64% of his defensive zone faceoffs while leading all Caps forwards in shorthanded ice time (he was on the ice for the second Ottawa goal).
- Karl Alzner made a nice play to block Brendan Bell's initial shot on the play that resulted in the game-winning goal, but of all the places for the puck to bounce, unfortunately it landed right on Bell's stick.
- I'd have thought that a $1.2 million enforcer would have something to say to a guy who dangerously throws his leg out to trip any one of that tough guy's teammates, especially if that teammate was The Franchise. Guess not.
- Finally, a 600+ comment Open Thread last night is a thing of beauty. Kudos to everyone who participated.
And so ends the pre-All-Star portion of our program. Forty-eight games down and the Caps have a sizable division lead, a number one goalie and an MVP who are playing like it, a supporting cast that's getting healthy and has been producing all along, and a head coach who could be in line for a second consecutive Jack Adams trophy... especially if he can figure out how to fix the penalty kill.