The 2017-18 Capitals have struggled mightily on the penalty kill, the forte of last year’s club, with a below-league average PK unit this season.
The Caps are killing off the penalty only 79 percent of the time, and allowed two more Power Play goals in last week’s 4-3 win at Carolina.
“It’s kind of like a roller coaster ride with the PK right now,” Jay Beagle, a member of this and last season’s PK unit, told The Sports Junkies during his weekly 106.7 The Fan appearance — ‘The Morning Skate with Jay Beagle,’ sponsored by Sport Automotive.
“We weren’t very good at the beginning of the year at just getting the job done,” he said. “You lose a couple guys every year on special teams units, so you’ve got to figure out how to kill without key pieces and it takes time.”
The Caps lost two central members of the 2016-17 PK unit, Karl Alzner and Daniel Winnik, to free agency. That unit killed off penalties at an above-league-average rate of 83.8 percent.
“I thought that the PK was really coming real well actually,” Beagle said. “I’d say a month ago we started kind of hitting our stride, and started to be able to read off each other and be able to get those kills, which are so crucial, especially late in the game when you get some in the third period. And then, you know, the last week, the last couple weeks, I feel like we just need to somehow figure out how to get this thing killed and get this job done, because it’s a big part of the game and it’s a big part of my game.”
“I take pride in it,” he said. “And so when the PK’s not doing good, I’m not doing good. It’s something that reflects on my game and I take pretty personal. It’s not a matter of watching film, it’s not a matter of positional, I just think we’ve got to get in front of more shots and block more shots, and kind of get back to the basics of it, and that’s just fronting shots and making sure nothing’s getting through.
“It makes the job easier on our goaltenders, because if they’re getting little wrist shots through, and a lot of them are coming off tips, we’re not doing our job of blocking shots.”
Told that’s a big commitment to take on, putting their bodies in front of shots, Beagle agreed, adding, “It’s something, though, that you do your whole career and you take some that sting. You know it’s gonna hurt, but, I mean, the great PK units that I’ve been on, and the ones that you see throughout the league, they’re diving in front of everything.”
“It makes the PP impossible to get something through,” he said, “and to create something, they almost have to go seam you through the seam or they have to find new ways to get it to the net, because a PK unit is just blocking everything. We’ve got to find a way to do that and get back. I mean, I think that’s just the basics, is trying to block those shots, so I think that’s what we’re going to be looking at more going forward here.”