Last year, Alex Semin was a liability for lazy hooking, tripping or holding calls. It seemed hopeless -- a player with immense talent was frequently spending time in the box, not on the ice.
So when George McPhee traded for Sergei Fedorov at the deadline, the Caps thought they were getting an old dog with one trick left. Instead they got a mentor who turned the young Russian into a mature NHL-er.
But as of late, the former MVP has been falling into the lazy habits that plagued his younger half last year. Sergei Fedorov has been a frequent staple in the penalty box for the Caps this April. In the abbreviated month, Fedorov has 16 penalty minutes in four of his five games.
A stark difference from previous months in the season where the most penalty minutes served were eight in February across four games. In March, Fedorov only had four PIM's across 10 games. Yikes.
Yeah, it's been bad as of late.
The problem is Fedorov is taking numerous hooking, holding and tripping penalties, (HHT's) which are usually committed when a player is either lazy or mis-matched. Considering that Fedorov is considered one of the best defensive players on the Capitals, it's a bit alarming that one of our defensive forward cornerstones is struggling so much as the playoffs approach.
But as Japers' Rink has documented before, the entire team has a discipline problem, not just Fedorov.
Ice hockey is a team game, and as a team the Capitals are averaging 12.8 PIM's a game, and are sixth for most minor penalties in the NHL. The entire team as a whole needs to rectify their penalty problems, not just for the sake of the team as a whole, but also for their penalty killers.
The Caps penalty killing is 17th in the NHL with an 80.8 kill percentage, and they've allowed 74 PPG's this season. The teams in front of them for PPG's allowed? Anaheim, Edmonton, Toronto, Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Yes it's alarming that only one team from that list is a playoff-caliber team, but also keep in mind, right behind Washington is Detroit.
But getting back to Fedorov, all of the worries that Fedorov will be a liability this postseason might be shed based on his past playoff performances. In 169 playoff games, Fedorov has only 121 PIM's. Of course before you release that sigh of relief, keep in mind, before last year, Fedorov hadn't seen the post season since 2003.
After Saturday's game against the Panthers, the Caps will have a few days to re-focus and re-tool their game as they enter the playoffs. For Fedorov, it's a chance to catch his breath and get started on the right track in the second season.
If the Capitals want to go deep, they'll want Fedorov on the ice using his veteran leadership to keep his teammates cool, not in the box serving time for a desperate hook.