Since Returning From Hamstring Surgery, Michal Kempny Has Stepped Up His Game For Capitals

Washington Capitals v Vancouver CanucksPhoto: NHL via Getty Images

After allowing 19 goals in a span of five games in early-mid October, the Washington Capitals needed a spark on defense. In came Michal Kempny, who led the Capitals with a +24 rating last season before he suffered a season-ending torn hamstring in a collision with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cedric Paquette on March 20.

Kempny tallied a goal in his return to action against the New York Rangers despite playing only 14:24, and the Capitals held the Rangers to 28 shots on goal in a 5-2 win which was the second game of what would become an eight-game point-streak (7-0-1) for the Capitals.

Since returning, the 29-year old has been solid as he has only gone two games without a point and only one without at least an even rating. There were questions leading up to training camp whether Kempny could return to last season’s form but it’s been so far, so good for him.

His +10 rating is tied with defenseman Radko Gudas for second on the team, only one behind his partner John Carlson.

Kempny has gone back to being one of the Capitals’ primary minute-munchers as his average of 18:39 worth of ice-time per game is the sixth-most on the team. He has also been a regular on a Capitals’ penalty-killing unit that is fifth in the league with an 86.2% efficiency, averaging 1:48 per game.

On the downside, Kempny has averaged 1.3 penalty minutes per game, the most among current Capitals. But it’s worth noting that he has stayed out the box for the past two games.

Kempny has been smart with the puck as he has only coughed the puck up seven times since returning to the lineup. In addition, his 18 blocked shots are eighth on the team.

Where Kempny has noticeably stepped up is on the scoresheet as his three goals in eight games are halfway to the career-high six-goal mark he hit in 71 games last year. In addition, his 1.13 points-per-game average is tied for 19th in the league.

The highlight of Kempny’s offensive production came in his two-goal game against Vancouver on October 25 as part of the Capitals’ remarkable comeback win. Trailing 5-1, the Capitals chipped away at the Canucks’ lead, with Kempny accounting for the team’s fourth and fifth goals in a frantic third-period assault on Vancouver.

He enters the Capitals’ next game on Thursday at the Florida Panthers with six points in his past four games, including a career-high three-assist performance in the team’s 6-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.

His assists that night were nice too. Pinching along the half wall, Kempny found a wide-open Jakub Vrana in front of the net to extend the Capitals’ early lead to 3-0. Later, after getting a drop pass from captain Alex Ovechkin, Kempny laid the puck to a wide-open T.J. Oshie driving hard to the net. His improved offensive awareness led to two easy goals for his teammates.

Since he has returned to the lineup, Kempny has upped his offensive production. While his defensive numbers aren’t where they usually are, it’s still relatively early in the season for him. Kempny’s return provided a big spark for his teammates as the Capitals are undefeated in regulation with him in the lineup. As he keeps getting back to normal speed, there should be optimism that he can raise the intensity level even more, which is great news for the team.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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