Some players have never played on penalty kill like Avs center Peter Forsberg for example. On the other hand Sergei Fedorov was always used on PK by Bowman. The reasoning behind Ovechkin not playing on PK was that he could get hit by a puck while blocking shots. At least this is what Glen Hanlon had in mind. Bruce Boudreau didn't use Alex in the last season on PK maybe for the same reason.
Capitals Insider, Oct. 5, 2008:
*In the third period [preseason game vs. Bruins], Ovechkin winced as he took a wicked Bergeron slapshot off his foot while on the penalty kill. He's going to be fine but that will probably end the Ovechkin PK experiment. "'There goes his penalty killing,'" Boudreau said he told himself. "Because I didn't want that to happen any more."
But Bruce Boudreau still put Alex on PK and Alex (suprise!) looks very effective.
Photo by Luis M. Alvarez, AP
It's a bit scary to face Ovechkin on PK when he goes after you. Patrick Kane of Chicago Black Hawks had a taste of it. Not just that he is going to punish you physically, but one mistake and Ovechkin will be taking the puck and rushing towards your goalie on a getaway.
By Ted Starkey, FanHouse, Oct. 12, 2008:
There was a lot of concern around the nation's capital last Sunday when the Washington star took a Zdeno Chara shot off the foot in the Caps' final tune-up game, and worry increased when Ovechkin left practice early Wednesday with an undisclosed injury.
The spotlight is much brighter on the Caps and Ovechkin this year, with the team's superstar being the first player in a dozen years to eclipse the 60-goal mark and Washington being the heavy pre-season favorite to capture the Southeast Divison for a second straight season. Some pundits are calling for a 70-goal season, with some even suggesting a near goal-per-game pace for the scorer over 82 contests.
Ovechkin's role with the Capitals has expanded this season as well, as despite the scare off of Chara's heavy shot, the Russian star is playing on the Capitals' penalty-killing unit now, with him spending over four minutes of ice time Saturday with Chicago having the extra man. He also logged over 24 minutes of total ice time, second only to the Caps' young defenseman Mike Green.
I guess it was Bergeron, not Chara, but the point is taken.
Photo by Joseph Silverman, The Washington Times
Ryan O'Halloran, TWT, Oct. 12, 2008 "Ovechkin earns new task":
Two short-handed preseason goals during an experimental run on the penalty kill have turned into a regular assignment.
Ovechkin played four minutes, 18 seconds on the penalty kill against Chicago, taking another step in helping establish himself as the game's ultimate all-around player. The Capitals were 6-for-6 on the penalty kill a night after allowing three power-play goals by Atlanta.
"I feel comfortable," Ovechkin said. "Coach [Bruce Boudreau] trusts me, and I want to help the team win and it's nice when you can play five-on-five, five-on-four and now four-on-five."
Whether Ovechkin getting a regular penalty kill assignment is a good thing remains to be seen.
If Ovechkin is up to the task physically, he'll see his ice time exceed the 23 minutes, 6 seconds he averaged last season, third among all NHL forwards. He can be a potential boon to the Capitals penalty kill, which ranked 23rd in short-handed goals last year (five).
"Last year, per se, we were more satisfied or comfortable with just killing it off," said David Steckel, who centered Ovechkin in man-down situations. "What Alex brings to the table is a little more respect on behalf of their defense because he can create more offense for us."
If Ovechkin can't help the Capitals' penalty kill, which ranked 25th last year, there is no point having the him waste minutes playing in a situation where he can't score goals.
"It's just a fine balance of how much penalty kill time he gets because you don't want him playing 28 minutes a night," Boudreau said before the game.
The reasons for and against using Ovechkin on the penalty kill were on display during the Capitals' first two games.
The reason against: Early in the Atlanta game, Ovechkin - a winger by trade - was on the ice with Steckel, who was thrown out of the circle. Ovechkin lost the draw to veteran pivot Todd White. Nine seconds later, it was 1-0 Atlanta.
Boudreau didn't pin the blame on Ovechkin, but if he is a liability on draws, that's trouble because teams will do everything possible to get Steckel bounced from the circle.
The reason for: To start the third period last night, the Capitals had to kill 89 seconds. Ovechkin and Brooks Laich created a two-on-one rush and then after he won a battle along the wall, Ovechkin emerged to feed a streaking Jeff Schultz, whose wrist shot was stopped.
Just that quick sequence validated Boudreau's theory on playing Ovechkin on penalty kill. Why not put the guy who can make anything happen at any point of the game on the ice as much as possible? He did in the final two minutes when his snap shot beat Nikolai Khabibulin to seal the Capitals' win.
Ovechkin had the kind of game the Capitals needed at the right time.
"Especially with how we started the season, we played just terrible in third period [Friday] and didn't win," he said. "Today, we kept going and worked hard and our goalie made big saves, the penalty kill did a great job and everybody played hard and we deserved today to win."
Update: By Tarik El-Bashir, Washington Post Staff Writer, Oct. 13, 2008 "Capitals' Steckel Branches Out":
Photo by Margaret McGuire, Ovechkin's neighbor from Arlington, Virginia, who goes to college in Alaska. (guess she can see Russia from her college window :-)
Steckel also hopes to keep the Capitals' penalty kill on track. The retooled unit -- which now employs star forwards Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin -- yielded three power-play goals to the Thrashers, but it shut out the Blackhawks (0 for 5).
"You get more respect out there -- and it's not because of me," Steckel said of Coach Bruce Boudreau's decision to use the Alexes in short-handed situations. "The other team's defense has to respect our ability to come back the other way if they make an errant pass. . . . Last year we were just content to kill off the penalty. Now we want to score short-handed."
The Capitals ranked 23rd in short-handed goals last season with five. On Friday, the new, more aggressive approach paid off when Semin intercepted a pass in the Atlanta zone and zipped a pass to defenseman Tom Poti, whose rebound was tapped in by Steckel.
Putting Ovechkin and Semin on the penalty kill also puts considerable pressure on Steckel not to get tossed from the faceoff circle. When it happened in Atlanta, that left the job to Ovechkin, who was beaten cleanly by veteran Todd White. Seconds later, the Capitals were down 1-0.
"Bruce told me not to get kicked out, then what do I do?" Steckel said yesterday, a day off for the players. "I get kicked out. I should have been more careful."