Not a lot of analyzing to be done about this one: The Caps played a pretty solid game on the road against one of the other elite teams in the league, but they took too many penalties and it burned them. The Red Wings have led the league in power-play proficiency the last two seasons, and tonight was a perfect example why.
Earlier this season Brooks Laich said the difference between a really good PP team and a great one was getting an extra-man goal late in the game when the team needs it even if they haven’t had that many chances. Detroit did that tonight. Twice.
A couple of things to consider here: Who is taking these penalties and where they are taking them.
1) The Who
Alexander Semin had taken only one penalty in four games, but he took a pair of dumb ones eight minutes apart in the second period, and the Red Wings converted the second one.
Mike Green also took a pair of penalties, and the Wings also scored on the second one (Granted, the call on his second one was a little weak, but you can’t get your stick parallel in a guys midsection — just can’t).
Obviously, these guys are star players, so it’s not good to have your top players setting that standard of lacking discipline. Both of those guys also kill penalties, so they hurt the team’s depth in that capacity as well.
“It is the same culprits as last year,” Boudreau said. “I thought Semin, for the most part, the first four games has been pretty good about his penalties, but then he reverts back and we’ve got to make him understand some how that he can’t do that.”
Those last words are pretty strong. What can Boudreau do? Bench guys? Limit their ice time by dropping them down the depth chart? Semin was yanked off the No. 1 PP unit in the third period, but he was still on the top line at even strength.
2) The Where
Another HUGE issue with the penalties is where the Caps are taking them. Brian Pothier, as he can often do so well, summarized this point perfectly.
“We knew we had to keep our sticks down and it we were going to take a penalty, it needed to be a goal-saving play, but unfortunately we didn’t follow through on that,” he said.
That’s it in a nutshell — did any of those five penalties tonight prevent a goal from happening? Did they even prevent a great scoring chance?
Green’s first penalty might have, but the other four most certainly did not. Semin whacked Nicklas Lidstrom 10 feet from the net … Detroit’s net, that is. The last two calls that led to goals happened 50 feet from the crease.
As Boudreau has pointed out before, he’s not going to fault penalties of effort. He’s also not going to be that upset if someone takes a penalty trying to cover up for someone else and prevents a goal. But the Caps aren’t taking those kinds of penalties.
Pothier said they’re not lazy penalties; the stick fouls come from guys just needing to be in better position and not reach. Some of them are from being lazy, and he’s right that they need to a) skate better and b) be in better position.
What do the Caps do to combat this issue? Not to be overly dramatic, but how Boudreau and his staff handles this problem could define this season. They’re not winning a Stanley Cup if it doesn’t improve.
The Caps are off taking tomorrow off, so we probably won’t find anything out until the morning skate on Monday.