Sure, Karl Alzner didn’t have one of his best games Friday night against Columbus. In fact it was probably one of his worst with the Caps. But there was something he did do against the Blue Jackets that he’s done in every one of his 20 career NHL games – stay out of the penalty box.
Alzner’s ability to play by the rules to this point in his career is bordering on astounding. The guy is playing 21 minutes a night as a rookie defenseman, and he has yet to take a trip to the sin bin. No other defenseman in the league with more than 10 games played can claim such a feat – Sergei Zubov has played 10 without a penalty.
“I’ve thought about it a couple of times,” Alzner said. “I take a lot of pride in not going to the box. I’ve already thought if I can stay here the rest of the year and not take a penalty, then maybe I can be up for one of those awards. “
What kind of award is he talking about?
“My favorite is the Lady Byng of course,” Alzner joked. “No, I just try to play within the rules.”
Now, Alzner’s play doesn’t necessarily fit into everyone’s prototypical vision of what an anchor on the blue line should be. He doesn’t try to knock opposing players into next week, and he generally favors a poke check when a more nasty-minded rearguard might opt for some bodily harm.
“In the end – he’s smart and that’s a great stick – but we’d like him to be more aggressive when he grows up,” Bruce Boudreau said. “We’ll want him to be more physical, and he’s getting his feet wet doing that. It isn’t a lack of compete. He competes really hard. Not too many guys can compete really hard and do it legally – but he does.” “He’s got a great stick. If he were an offensive forward, it would be Semin-type hands. But for a defenseman he knows how to do that, and he does it legally. He’ll take a penalty eventually.”
This isn’t just some fluky, small sample size either. During Alzner’s stay with the Hershey Bears he collected all of one penalty – and he disputes the validity of the only two minutes he’s spent in the box as a professional.
“No,” he said bluntly when asked if it was deserved. “The puck was shot from the point and our goalie made a blocker save. I just it was toward the corner and I went and swatted it away, but it went over the glass. The ref said it was his discretion and, ‘If I think you did it on purpose, then it is a penalty,’ We could throw pucks up in the air and I might hit one out of 10. There’s no way that was on purpose.”
So there you go – Karl Alzner, legitimate Lady Byng candidate (if he stays with the team, of course) – and a guy whose only trip to the penalty box this season was because his stick work/hand-eye coordination was too good.
More from here at Bell Centre in a bit — the Caps are meeting at 11 a.m. and there is an opitonal morning skate afterwards.