What's causing all the Caps' penalties?

What's causing all the Caps' penalties?
February 22, 2013, 4:00 pm
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How do you discipline a team that has taken too many undisciplined penalties?

Does a veteran need to stand up in the dressing room and start imposing $100 fines for every trip to the sin bin?

“I don’t know if that one’s going to work,” Mike Ribeiro said following Friday’s practice.

Does a coach need to bench every player that takes a penalty?

Clearly, something has to be done, especially after Thursday night’s epic meltdown, when the Capitals took six straight penalties in the third period, five of them directly leading to power plays, turning a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 defeat to the New Jersey Devils.

Were there questionable calls Thursday night? Absolutely. Alex Ovechkin was called for a tripping penalty for checking an opponent in open ice. Tom Poti was whistled for interference for a play he made two other times without drawing a penalty.

“It’s blame on us,” Ovechkin said. “The referee makes a couple bad calls but there’s nothing you can do about it.

“He said I tripped him from behind. The referee out of shape. They need sometimes to be in shape.”

Perhaps. But Capitals coach Adam Oates isn’t buying the theory that the refs are out to get the Caps.

“You can’t blame the refs for six [penalties],” he said. “You can’t. That’s on us.”

The bigger question is what kind of penalties are the Caps taking and what is leading to them?

Of the 76 minor penalties the Caps have taken this season, 12 have been for interference; 12 for tripping; 11 for holding; eight for shooting the puck over the glass; seven for hooking; six for roughing; five for high sticking; five for boarding; three for unsportsmanlike conduct; two for crosschecking; two for slashing; one for embellishment and one for concealing the puck.

“It could be [fatigue] at the end of a shift, it could be lost focus; it could be any number of things,” Oates said. “It could be a temper, it could be [bad] habits. …You’re not going to win giving the other team more power plays every night. You’re not.”

Poti, whose interference penalty led to Ilya Kovalchuk’s game-winning power play goal, was unhappy with the call but said most of the penalties being committed are due to a lack of mental effort.

“We need to keep our sticks on the ice,” Poti said. “We need to skate a little more and move our legs rather than move our sticks. Once your stick comes parallel to the ice that’s when you get in trouble.”

Hendricks agreed, saying it’s a matter of taking that extra stride to get into better position.

“Probably 70 percent of the penalties you take are for not moving your feet,” he said. “When we lose that defensive positioning we end up getting desperate and taking those holdings, hookings, trippings, and interference calls. We have to be more mentally strong and be more conscious of it.”