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CAPITALS: Penalty Kill Making A Difference As Postseason Progresses
NEW YORK – The Washington Capitals have killed all but four of the 36 penalties they’ve incurred this postseason – an 88.9 percent success rate that had them in the top three of second-round playoff teams entering Game 5 against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
It’s a surprising feat, given that the Capitals’ 81.6 penalty kill percentage during the regular season ranked 21st and was 12th of the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs.
“Actually, I think the last month of the regular season, I think if you go back to sometime in March, it’s been really good,” center Brooks Laich said. “We just feel comfortable.”
Washington has killed off 11 of 13 penalties it has faced in the series and also killed 21 of 23 in the first round against Boston, including a crucial kill of a holding call on Jason Chimera that came with 2:26 remaining in regulation in Game 7.
The Capitals also killed overtime penalties in the marathon Game 3 loss, including a tripping call on Alexander Semin with 2:28 left in the first overtime and Mike Green’s high-sticking call 2:35 into the third.
“Yeah, I mean, any time you play someone this much, this often, you get to know their tendencies,” said Troy Brouwer, who nearly had the Capitals’ first shorthanded opportunity midway through the second period in Game 4 on Saturday. “We know how they’re working their power play around. They’ve got a couple different setups that we’ve got a couple different looks for, and hopefully, we just continue to be good.”
Assistant coaches Dean Evason and Blaine Forsythe compile a video before each game that outlines not only the opponent’s power play units, but also the players’ tendencies, what they’ve done in the past and what they may try to do.
“We watch every little detail and we’re told every little detail, what to do,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It’s not like we’re going out there just improvising. [Evason] tells us to pressure a certain way or to get the puck, chip the puck to a different area, and that’s what we do.”
Monday’s game marks the ninth time the teams will play this season. Brouwer said simply playing a team so many times takes care of most of the preparation at this stage, if only because they’ve seen New York’s power play and know what the Rangers are going to do.
Only Michael Del Zotto, in the third period of Game 2, and Ryan Callahan, in the second period of Game 3, were able to score power play goals on Braden Holtby.
“The PK is one of the reasons we’re here,” Laich said. “It was great in the Boston series, and so far it’s been great in this series. We’ve given up some goals, but for the most part, when we’ve needed to kill, we’ve got it done. It has to continue to be a strength going forward. It has to be.”
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