The Caps’s offense is humming, but the team can’t seem to get things right defensively or on the penalty kill in the early season. Let’s dive into this week’s mailbag.
#CapsMailNBC Ok JJ, Caps have recently worked on fixing Faceoffs and atleast in the short term have cleaned it up a bit. What can they do or how can they fix Pk w/o Willy& tighten up Net front coverage?
— Machado4Life (@sports_god1) October 22, 2018
The penalty kill was one of the major changes Todd Reirden wanted to make this season and the early results are not great. The Caps currently rank 25th on the penalty kill at 71.9-percent. The answer to how they fix that will also be the same answer for the second part of your question.
The biggest problem for the Caps on the penalty kill, and for their defense as a whole, is net front coverage. Washington has allowed the second most high-danger goals while on the penalty kill (7) and the third most overall (19). The game that really showed how weak their coverage was in front of the net was their shootout loss to the Florida Panthers. Florida scored five goals in regulation and all five came from close in, right in front of the net.
I went back and watched a lot of the goals scored against the Caps and there are two glaring problems they can fix easily even without Wilson.
The first is turnovers.
The Caps have both been too careless with the puck and are losing too many puck battles in their own zone. If you think your team has the puck, your mentality switches from defensive position to moving up ice and transitioning the puck out. Teams are taking the puck away from Washington far too easily and taking advantage of the confusion by quickly crashing the net and getting behind the now out of position defense.
The second issue is that the Caps seem to lose too many rebound battles. Holtby is more often than not saving the initial shot, but the Caps’ defensemen are getting beaten to those rebounds far too often. With Holtby out of position after the initial save, that’s an easy goal for the opposition.
If the Caps clean up the turnovers and win those puck battles in front of the net, the defense and penalty kill will improve tremendously.
What are the odds we see a gritty vs Slapshot fight this season? Slapshot represents America and freedom while Gritty is underworld scum. #CapsMailNBC
— the Vranamal (@vranamal) October 22, 2018
Pretty darn high. Have you seen videos of Gritty? It seems like all he does is pick fights or knock people over which pretty much makes him the spot-on representation of Flyers fans and the perfect mascot for a Philadelphia sports team.
We see mascots come together for various events over the course of the season like the All-Star Game. Even if it’s not Slapshot, you have to think that orange nightmare is going to get into a tussle with someone.
— Donald Eggleston (@tarzanegg) October 23, 2018
Well, that was my plan and the plan for a lot of fans and analysts heading into the season, but that doesn’t mean it was Reirden’s plan.
I believe what we are seeing in the first month of the season is a first-time head coach going with what he knows. For now, Reirden is leaning on the veteran defenseman rather than putting Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey together as a third pairing. As discussed above, the defense is already having some issues, if you put two second-year players together as a third pairing those issues are going to get worse before they get better.
The schedule also plays a factor since it has been so incredibly spread out in October. Washington has only 10 games in the first month of the season, but 15 in November and will play seven games every other day starting Nov. 1 with a back-to-back Nov. 13-14. That should mean more playing time for Bowey. If we get through November and Bowey still isn’t cracking the lineup, then it’s time to wonder what the plan for him may be this season.
Carole M writes: Curious why there isn’t anything on the ice surface about the Capitals being Stanley Cup champions?
I reached out to the team about this. I did not receive a direct answer, but was told by a team official he could not recall any NHL team putting a Cup logo on the ice the following season and that there are rules for what a team can paint on the ice.
I looked up those rules. The league provides specifications for all official markings such as the lines and faceoff circles. Anything else that a team wants to put on the playing surface requires league approval.
So to answer your question, I believe one of two things happened. Either the Caps requested some sort of Cup logo or declaration that they were the Stanley Cup champions be put on the ice and the NHL said no, or they simply decided not to do anything like that because no one else does. My guess would be that it was the latter.
Jack writes: Do you sell suspension bushings?
I guess with all the talk about Wilson’s suspension, Jack got the wrong idea.
I actually had to look up what a suspension bushing was. They are rubber parts in vehicle suspension systems that are used to separate parts within the system to prevent noise and vibration and allow better movement between the two parts.
Sorry, Jack. We do not sell suspension bushings.
Thanks for your questions! If you want to have your question answered on next week’s mailbag post, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or send them on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC
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