There’s no need to break out the calculators to gauge the Habs’ success killing penalties in these playoffs. A quick sound bite from the Washington dressing room will tell you all you need to know.
“If they’re getting frustrated it’s just because we’re doing our jobs,” said Josh Gorges. “They just have so many weapons for us to be worried about. We still have to be wary of that and play a disciplined game which means stay out of the box.”
Despite big guns like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, and Green on the Caps’ side, the Canadiens have held them to an anemic 1-for-24 on the power play. “Clicking” at a 4.2 % clip this spring, Washington has plummeted from it’s regular-season, NHL-leading rate of 25 %.
“There’s no denying that we’ve done an excellent job so far,” agreed Jacques Martin. “The Capitals proved all season that they had the best power play in the league. We’ve done this as a team, but your best penalty killer is always your goalie and they’ve made key saves for us in this series shorthanded.”
The Habs’ bench boss isn’t kidding, with Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price having kicked aside 36 of the 37 shots the Capitals have fired their way over the first five games of this series with the extra man.
The Canadiens masked men can also thank the brick wall that has surrounded them in this series, namely the tandem of Josh Gorges and Hal Gill, who are averaging 4:40 of PK time in this series.
“Hal is at his best in those types of situations. He blocks shots and takes up a lot of room out there,” explained Gorges who is no slouch on the PK in his own right. “Talk to anyone across the league and they’ll tell you that he’s one of the last defenseman they want to see in front of them. Hal is one of the major reasons why we’re having so much success playing shorthanded this series.”
Like a timely Red Bull, the Canadiens success on special teams has provided the boost the team has needed to go toe-to-toe with the first-place Caps.
“We’re still playing with so much energy and desperation whenever we’re playing shorthanded and so far it’s working and we’ve been able to limit their chances,” said Brian Gionta. “Special teams are an important part of succeeding at this time of year. You can really shift momentum after a big kill or after a huge goal on the power play.”
Doing that with 21,273 on their side on Monday night probably won’t hurt either.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Caps #6
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Welcome back, Halak