One cannot complain too much with how the Washington Capitals have performed through the first 20 games. The Capitals have only lost two games in regulation through the first month of NHL action. There is no doubt the Capitals are cruising, but some bad habits are slowing their pace a little bit. Through the first 20 games, the bad habit the Capitals have shown is when they take too many on-ice penalties.
Why are the on-ice penalties a concern? The penalties are a concern because it keeps the opposition in close games against the Capitals. The Capitals have had a few games that have been close calls this season, and there have been games where they have nearly escaped disaster.
Through the first 20 games, the Capitals have committed 78 minor penalties. That ranks them 2nd among all NHL clubs. The Capitals have committed 83 total penalties, which ranks them 5th among all NHL clubs.
To put things into better perspective, Calgary leads the league with 85 minor penalties taken and 90 total penalties taken.
Over the last two games, the Capitals have committed six minor penalties. Against the Flyers and Coyotes, all six minor penalties were stick-related infractions. Those infractions include high-sticking, slashing, and tripping.
CLEANING UP THE PENALTIES
It is up to the Capitals coaching staff to address this minor issue on the ice. They must find ways to teach the players to not take penalties. Simple techniques like the use of film study is a good way to teach players to not take penalties.
The players must also adopt a new mindset and must find ways to cut down the penalties. While it is tough to escape penalties, the players must set personal goals to not take them.
KEEP THE GAME AT EVEN STRENGTH
The Capitals have a deep team, and they are a tough matchup for any other team in the NHL. If the Capitals can keep games at even strength, they are good enough to grind and wear the opposition down. The Capitals have a quality mix of players that can bring different things to the table.
FLIP THE SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLE
The best NHL clubs usually have the best special teams. The Capitals have a dynamic powerplay unit, which gives them a major advantage against any opposing team.
If the Capitals can cut down on their own penalties, they may be able to give their own powerplay more chances on the ice. If the Capitals can win the powerplay advantage on a nightly basis, they will likely cut down on their “close” games.
By: George Foussekis