Analyzing the Caps’ penalty problem.

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Loose Pucks,Sports,Brian McNally

They have been harping on the issue for weeks. General manager George McPhee brought up the rash of penalties the Capitals have taken early this season as far back as Feb. 8. It was a big enough problem that he addressed local reporters in the aftermath of an ugly 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh and mentioned the topic time and again in a 20-minute interview.

Washington coach Adam Oates has repeatedly done the same. The Caps can’t continue to take penalties and hope to climb back into the playoff chase in the Eastern Conference. They just haven’t been very good at escaping trouble, ranking 24th in the NHL (76.1 percent) on the penalty kill. And yet on Thursday night they were whistled for eight penalties – an astounding six of them during a 9:35 stretch of the third period that ultimately cost them the game.

How about a deeper look inside the numbers into the penalties Washington is committing? It has 76 minor penalties now, ninth-most in the NHL. For comparison, Philadelphia has a league-worst 98 minors. Calgary has the fewest with 54. The Caps also have five major penalties. But that’s good. Only two teams have fewer. The category that has to rankle Oates and McPhee most are all the delay-of-games. Their team is up to eight now after Tomas Kundratek was whistled for one on Thursday in a 3-2 loss to New Jersey. Jay Beagle actually committed the infraction, but no matter. Hard to believe any NHL team has more.

Washington has been called for plenty of interferences (12) and trips (12), but also lots of holds (11). There have been hooks (seven), roughings (six), high-stickings (five) and boardings (five). Five fights have led to those major penalties. Three times the Caps have been accused of unsportsmanlike conduct. Cross-checks (two) and slashes (two) have been relatively few. Alex Ovechkin was banged for the only embellishment…better known as a dive. Nicklas Backstrom was caught concealing the puck.

Mathieu Perreault is the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to penalties taken per 60 minutes of ice time. He’s at 2.7 after a holding penalty on Thursday. Perreault is centering an impressive third line now, but all that time in the penalty box is what made him a healthy scratch in five out of six games earlier in the season. He is sixth in the league in penalties/60 for players who have appeared in at least 10 games. Three of those above him are known fighters with inflated numbers. The other two are Detroit’s Dan Cleary (3.3) and Edmonton’s Ryan Smith (3.4). Jason Chimera is next for Washington at 2.2/60 minutes (17th overall) and Matt Hendricks is at 2.0 (24th). No other Caps player is above 1.2/60.

The choir boy of this group? One Joey Crabb, who is the only position player yet to commit a penalty this season in at least 10 games. Maybe they teach proper morals at old Colorado College because defenseman Jack Hillen, Crabb’s teammate there, hasn’t committed one yet, either. Of course, he played about a period-and-a-half this season before a shoulder injury knocked him out and he has yet to return. Marcus Johansson, to be fair, has played in nine games and also hasn’t taken a penalty. Defenseman Tom Poti committed his first penalty on Thursday and it was a doozy. The interference call against him in the third period led to the game-winning goal.

Here is the full list of each Caps player and the penalties they’ve taken with their total per 60 minutes of ice time – the best way to make the comparison fair – in parentheses next to their name.

11 penalties:

#26 Matt Hendricks (2.0 penalties/60 minutes of ice time)

Fight (4), Slash, Rough, Interference, Hold, Goalie Interference, Unsportsmanlike, Game misconduct

8 penalties:

#8 Alex Ovechkin (1.2/60)

Rough (3), Interference, Crosscheck, Slash, Embellishment, Trip

7 penalties

#20 Troy Brouwer (0.9/60)

Delay (2), Board (2), Hook, Interference, 10-minute misconduct

#74 John Carlson (1.1/60)

Interference (2), Hook, High stick, Hold, Rough, Delay

6 penalties

#85 Mathieu Perreault (2.7/60)

Trip (2), High stick, Interference, Crosscheck, Hold

#25 Jason Chimera (2.2/60)

(2), Hook (2), Interference, Unsportsmanlike

4 penalties

#4 John Erskine (1.1/60)

Trip, Fight, Hold, Hook

#27 Karl Alzner (0.9/60)

Interference (2), Trip, Hold

#19 Nicklas Backstrom (0.3/60)

Trip (2), Conceal puck, Board

#83 Jay Beagle (1.1/60)

Hold (2), Trip (2)

3 penalties

#9 Mike Ribeiro (0.3/60)

High stick, Unsportsmanlike, 10-minute misconduct

#17 Wojtek Wolski (0.6/60)

Delay, Trip, Hold

#42 Joel Ward (1.0/60)

Delay, High stick, Trip

#36 Tomas Kundratek (0.7/60)

Delay (2), Interference

#52 Mike Green (0.0/60)

Hold (2), Interference

#55 Jeff Schultz (1.2/60)

Hold, Hook, High stick

Bench

Too many men (2), Abuse of officials

2 penalties

#16 Eric Fehr (1.0/60)

Rough, Trip

1 penalty

#3 Tom Poti (0.0/60)

Interference

#44 Roman Hamrlik (1.1/60)

Hook

#70 Braden Holtby

Delay

0 penalties

#15 Joey Crabb (15 games)

#90 Marcus Johansson (9 games)

#30 Michal Neuvirth (7 games)

#38 Jack Hillen (1 game)

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Author:

Brian McNally

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner