After getting penalized a grand total of 549 minutes last season (the ninth most in the NHL), the Washington Capitals are already at 536 this season (fourth most). As a result, head coach Todd Reirden has started benching players after they take penalties. He sat center Evgeny Kuznetsov and forward Dmitrij Jaskin for the rest of the first period in the Capitals’ 1-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on February 3 after they had just taken penalties.
Former head coach Barry Trotz said last season, “If you can’t kill penalties, don’t take them.,” after the Capitals went through a stretch where they were allowing power-play goals in bunches at the beginning of the season.
The Capitals rank 23rd in the NHL with a penalty killing rate of 78.6%. Last season, they finished 15th with an efficiency of 80.3%, but it is important to note that Reirden stated that one of the few changes he would like to make when he took over was the penalty kill. It is also important to note that they lost their top penalty-killer in center Jay Beagle to free agency last summer. If they were in the top-10, no one would be discussing the team’s penalty issue. While they are taking fewer penalties than they were at this time last season, it’s become a bigger issue because of the team’s penalty-killing woes.
Forward Tom Wilson leads the Capitals in penalty minutes by a mile with 77 despite missing 19 games this season. The next highest total, who are co-owned by defenseman Michal Kempny and Kuznetsov, is 46. Defenseman Madison Bowey is fourth on the team with 38 even though he has played in only 33 games this season. If you include center Lars Eller (31) and defenseman Matt Niskanen and captain Alex Ovechkin (30), the Capitals have seven players who have at least 30 PIMs this season.
The Capitals draw an average of nine penalty minutes per game, the ninth-highest in the NHL, after drawing an average of 9.2 last season, the eighth-best rate on the circuit.
Some of those players include the Capitals’ top penalty killers, such as Wilson, Eller, Niskanen (the team’s top shutdown defenseman), and Kempny, which certainly does not help.
But better than last Season?
Here is a full comparison of the Capitals’ penalties through 57 games this season and last:
|2017-18||555 (9th)||231 (8th)||200 (11th)||17 (ninth)||0|
|2018-19||536 (4th)||230 (2nd)||206 (2nd)||12 (tied for eighth)||1 (tied for second)|
By Harrison Brown