Capitals' penalty kill has had odd balance on defense

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It goes without saying that the Capitals taking fewer penalties would help a struggling penalty kill.

“We just have to stay [out of] the box and we wouldn’t have any issue on the PK,” defenseman Roman Hamrlik said. “Obviously we take lessons from last two games in Edmonton and Vancouver.”

It also goes without saying that the Caps miss All-Star defenseman Mike Green on the power play, where he’s a true quarterback who adds another weapon.

But not having Green also hurts on the penalty kill, too.

“I guess it would because you like to have all your ducks in a row all the time,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.

By ducks, Boudreau means defensemen. And that idea is right: Not having Green around hurts badly because there isn’t the same true rotation along the blue line to kill penalties.

No one’s saying Green is the best penalty killer on the team. His defensive game has improved, but not to where he’s a lockdown guy. Still, his presence plays a big role, while compared to Sean Collins being in the lineup.

Consider the following chart, which notes the amount of short-handed ice time each Caps defenseman has logged by game (leader in bold)

Game

Alzner

Carlson

Green

Hamrlik

Wideman

Schultz

Collins

@ VAN

4:09

4:08

N/A

2:28

2:29

0:11

0:11

@ EDM

5:28

5:02

N/A

3:03

3:49

2:44

0:18

vs. DET

2:59

2:59

2:10

2:10

0:36

1:42

N/A

@ PHI

1:58

1:58

1:41

0:50

0:21

1:12

N/A

vs. FLA

2:28

1:57

0:26

0:00

1:37

1:32

N/A

vs. OTT

0:00

0:27

0:48

1:15

0:45

0:45

N/A

@ PIT

2:47

3:03

3:10

2:59

2:50

3:17

N/A

vs. TB

2:07

2:08

0:39

1:57

0:47

2:08

N/A

vs. CAR

2:24

1:24

1:12

2:41

1:13

0:49

N/A

Discipline is key because more time on the kill thanks to more penalties is bad all around. Even guys like Karl Alzner and John Carlson can fade if played those hard minutes too much.

But without Green, not only does it mean Collins, who doesn’t get a regular short-handed shift, is in – it also means less time for Schultz. He and Green have chemistry playing together, so when both are healthy they can work on the penalty kill and spell the other four defensemen.

Green’s return time – even to practice – is uncertain, as he’s still nursing a right ankle injury. But there could be another solution to penalty-killing depth woes on the blue line.

“Another part is John Erksine’s missing,” Boudreau said, “and people tend to forget he’s a pretty good penalty killer and a deterrent in front of the net.”

Erskine will be in the lineup Tuesday night against the Ducks. Green is hoping to be back soon as well.

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