On Tuesday night, the Washington Capitals faced off against the Minnesota Wild in a fast paced, end-to-end, thriller. However, something strange was going on. The Capitals seemed to be in the penalty box very often. During Thursday night’s tilt against the Nashville Predators, there were definitely fewer penalties, but it felt like they came at inopportune moments. Then during Saturday’s game at the Tampa Bay Lightning, the first period had a few, but the rest of the game, they were clean. During the Caps four game losing streak, along with these last three games, they have taken a total of 31 penalties, a few of which were double minors, a game misconduct, and Kevin Shattenkirk’s suspension due to a high hit.
So what on Earth is going on? Are the Caps getting slighted by the referees and taking too many penalties? Do they match the league average? How will this affect them heading into the playoffs?
To start, the Caps have a total of 663 penalty minutes this season, which places them 15th overall in the league, or average. However, they are 2nd in the league for minor penalties taken with 272. In first place are the Calgary Flames, and there has been a debate as to whether or not the referees are purposefully calling those games unfairly due to Dennis Wideman’s hit on an official last year. It does not take a genius to tell you that is a worrying trend.
Is there a particular penalty that is screwing the Caps? You bet. Math powers activate!
(Thanks ESPN for the data breakdown)
The Capitals need to stop tripping people so much. Also, they should cool it with the roughing (looking at you, Tom Wilson). One interesting thing about this is that they are tied for the highest amount of goalie interference calls in the league with the Winnipeg Jets. How many of those are from coach’s challenges against the Caps, because those calls are so nebulous. Seriously, some of the calls make the brain do this:
Because this is not goalie interference:
Stars goal pic.twitter.com/2vruWTZXcP— steph (@myregularface) March 7, 2017
But this is:
Regardless of goaltender interference calls, the minor penalty situation needs to be fixed. With the playoffs around the corner, it might alleviate itself. It has been documented that referees put their whistles away to “let the boys play.” However, it is not just in hockey; NFL officials routinely do the same thing. This is simultaneously a good and bad thing for the Capitals. Their power play ranks 8th and their penalty kill ranks 7th in the league. So it is good that they will not have to kill as many penalties, but bad since they do not get the calls they would get throughout the season, which could lead to power play goals and wins.
For now, the Caps need to stop tripping and roughing people. Also, if they could figure out how goalie interference in this league works, that would be great too.