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When the Capitals acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk at the end of February, they did so with the hope he could bolster their already-loaded blueline for a Stanley Cup run. But through the first few games of the Caps’ second round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 28-year old rearguard struggled with turnovers and poor decision-making. In the last few games, he’s turned his game around at the perfect time.
Shattenkirk’s offensive repertoire and willingness to shoot the puck has been key to the Capitals’ ability to get on the scoreboard and while he hasn’t blown anyone away with his offensive totals in this series, his play in the last three games has been noticeable. Through the first two games of the series, Shattenkirk recorded no points and plus/minus ratings of minus-1 and minus-2, respectively, and four penalty minutes.
In the last three games, Shattenkirk has recorded three points, including the overtime winner in Game 3, and plus/minus ratings of plus-1, plus-2, and plus-2. He is the primary quarterback of the Caps’ first power play unit, and while the power play hasn’t been running on all cylinders as of late, Shattenkirk’s willingness to shoot creates plenty of chances for his teammates, something the Caps have needed against red-hot Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who has at times throughout the series, stood on his head for the Black and Gold.
Despite his talent, Shattenkirk has been relegated to bottom-pairing minutes due to the aforementioned depth-heavy defense the Capitals have. In the first five games of the series, Shattenkirk has averaged 19:01, 17:35, 16:58, 15:24, and 19:44 minutes a night and through his last three games, has played an average of 21.3 shifts a night.
While the Capitals have to deal with the pressure of a must-win Game 6 in Pittsburgh tomorrow night, they can rest assured that their prized trade deadline acquisition has become a legitimate force once again. And given the circumstances, the Caps will need all the firepower they can get.