pk stats

Should Ottawa Be Worried About The Penalty Kill?

Getting exposed vs Pittsburgh and Montreal

Last year the Sens led the league with a penalty kill rate of 88%, a 6.4% improvement from their 20th ranked penalty kill in 2011-12.  

What does an extra 6.4% mean over 82 games?

The Sens were on pace to be shorthanded about 265 times in an 82 game season (a big improvement over last year). If they killed off 88% of those penalties, they would allow about 233 goals, but if they had killed off those penalties at a rate of 81.6%, they would have given up about 17 more goals. Since 6 goals is worth about a win, that extra 6.7% on the PK would have given the Sens almost 3 extra wins, which is about the difference between finishing 6th and 9th in the conference standings almost every season in the East.

Is PK% the best stat available to evaluate a team’s true penalty kill talent?

According to Gabriel Desjardins, it isn't. In a post at Arctic Ice Hockey he looked at whether shot rate, PP%, or shooting percentage were good indicators of a team’s future PP success. He found that 5-on-4 shot rate was “by far the most persistent talent”, meaning that if we want to evaluate a team’s penalty kill, we should turn to their shots against rate, because PP efficiency and shooting percentage aren’t very reliable.

How did Ottawa's 4-on-5 shots against rate stack up?

Team
SA/60
SV%
St. Louis
36.0
.856
New Jersey
36.4
.824
Boston
39.1
.900
Philadelphia 40.8 .878
Toronto
41.9
.897
Vancouver
43.0
.875
Montreal
43.4
.843
Los Angeles 43.5 .875
Anaheim
43.6
.850
San Jose
44.5
.878
Columbus
45.0
.884
Chicago
46.0
.898
Minnesota
46.3
.859
Nashville
46.7
.831
Winnipeg
47.3
.860
Detroit
47.9
.864
Phoenix
47.9
.859
Pittsburgh
48.0
.846
Tampa Bay
48.3
.878
NY Rangers 48.9 .848
Calgary
49.2
.871
Florida
49.6
.837
Colorado
51.1
.876
Ottawa
52.6
.928
Edmonton
52.7
.896
NY Islanders 53.1 .874
Buffalo
53.6
.878
Dallas
55.5
.886
Washington
59.2
.887
Carolina
60.0
.856

24th in the league with a shots against rate of 52.6/60 min. In 2011-12, they were 23rd with a shots against rate of 52.2/60 min. It’s hard to say that functionally the PK has improved much, if at all.

So what was the difference?

Goaltending. The Sens three-headed monster of Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop combined for a league leading 4-on-5 SV% of .928, which was quite a bit better than the second place Bruins (the remaining 28 teams all finished with a mark under .900).

Are there alternate explanations?

There are a few scenarios we can use to explain the team’s huge jump in save percentage:

1. After playing in the NHL for 11 years, and coaching for 9, Paul MacLean discovered a system that nobody has ever seen before during the offseason that improved his team’s 4-on-5 SV% by 5% while allowing only 1 more shot against per 150 minutes

2. Last year’s PK group minus Cowen, with Methot replacing Kuba, and O’Brien/Regin/Pageau replacing Smith improved enough to boost their goalies SV% by 5% while allowing basically the same number of shots against.

3. With 3 NHL starters, MacLean made sure his goalies never played hurt or tired, and were extra motivated to earn a start.

4. In a shortened season, the Sens’ PK save percentage did not reflect their true talent, because they had “the bounces” go their way, and were maybe bailed out by the posts a bit more than usual.

In my opinion scenarios 3 and 4 are the explanations that make the most sense..

Is a high PK SV% sustainable?

I decided to look back through the last 5 seasons to try and find if any team was able to sustain a 5-on-4 SV% of over .915, shots against rates are shown alongside.

Team
SV%
SV% Next Season
SA/60
SA/60 Next Season
08-09 Wild
93.46 (1)
85.96 (24)
52.6 (19)
44.5 (4)
08-09 Rangers
91.6 (2)
88.22 (13)
47.7 (9)
43.9 (3)
09-10 Blues
91.45(1)
86.23 (26)
51 (14)
47 (7)
09-10 Sabres
91.37 (2)
90.43 (5)
49.5 (12)
49.9 (15)
10-11 Panthers
91.58 (1)
87.01 (20)
51.8 (19)
53.9 (26)
11-12 Devils
91.69 (1)
82.35 (30)
42.9 (5)
36.4 (2)
11-12 Coyotes
91.51 (2)
85.86 (21)
55.1 (29)
47.9 (17)

Every team on this list (except the 2009-10 Sabres) saw a huge drop in their 5-on-4 SV% the next season, while usually only seeing moderate drops in their shot against rate.

The Rangers saw some drop, although not as much as other teams. The most likely explanation being a 27 years of age Henrik Lundqvist developing into one of the league’s elite goaltenders. His ES SV% has improved every year since the start of the 2008-09 season.

To be fair, the 2010-11 Panthers went from having Vokoun as their starter to Jose Freaking Theodore, although back-up Scott Clemmensen played about 30 games both seasons.

Judging by past teams, it is extremely unlikely that the Sens 4-on-5 SV% of .928 is sustainable.

Who were the Senators best penalty killers by shots against?

Eric Gryba had rough start to his NHL career. At even-strength he wasn't an asset possession wise. The penalty kill was another story though, Gryba showed real promise playing over 2 minutes a night while posting a very low shots against rate. The fact he can ice the puck with impunity probably helps a great deal, whereas at even-strength he's forced to make a play, and we're all aware he doesn't have the greatest puck skills. That he's the only other right-shot D other than Karlsson doesn't hurt either.

After having the team’s best 4-on-5 shot against rate over the last two seasons, Erik Karlsson is the 2012-13 recipient of the Zenon Konopka award for stretching the y-axis beyond belief with his poor play.

O’Brien and Regin were both decent penalty killers last season, so it's a shame they were sometimes scratched in favour of Kassian, and as a result valuable even-strength players like Turris and Alfredsson had to take on more PK responsibilities for a guy who basically bums his way around the ice looking for staged fights the entire night.

The sample is small, but during the playoffs Pageau played 1.3 minutes per game of 4-on-5 and his SA/60 was excellent. Pageau, Gryba, Cowen and Condra provide the Sens with a young group of defensively responsible players that should continue to grow together. In Binghamton, Derek Grant, Mark Stone and Mark Borowiecki (who did very well in his short time here) are also future PK options. Mika Zibanejad was a key penalty killer in Binghamton, although he was not used at all in the NHL this season. Zibanejad is only 20 and has already shown some good defensive play, especially in the neutral zone, mostly due to his work ethic and speed. If he can continue to improve his faceoffs I imagine MacLean will start using him more shorthanded.

Losing Silfverberg and Alfredsson really hurts the PK. They both played around 1.5 minutes per night and did fairly well. If I recall they were also the best on the team at creating shorthanded scoring opportunities.

Smith was really bad again this year, as was Turris. With Jim O’Brien being bumped from the 4th line center role by Pageau (who definitely should be on the top unit with Condra), the Sens are left with just one good PK option at center, unless they start a winger in the face-off dot, which probably isn’t as bad as it sounds

Since Neil never killed penalties, and Smith and Greening weren’t very good at it, the Sens really only have two bottom 6 forwards who are capable of playing more than 1 minute per night, meaning they have to give more PK ice-time to their Top 6 forwards. This is problematic as it taxes your best offensive players   ice-time with situations that don’t optimize their talents.

Will the new acquisitions help the PK?

Probably not.

Clarke MacArthur was used only about 30 seconds per game on the PK during his time in Atlanta and Buffalo, but he has improved a lot since, so I don’t think those numbers are worth looking at. MacArthur is fast and has some two-way ability so I wouldn’t be surprised if he could be a decent option for a small PK role.

Bobby Ryan and Corvo's numbers:

(SA/60 ON represents the team’s shot against rate with Player X on the ice, SA/60 OFF represents the team’s shot against rate while Player X is off the ice)

Bobby Ryan 4-on-5 Stats
 
Year
TOI/60
SA/60 ON
SA/60 OFF
11-12
0.71
44.1
39.3
10-11
1.14
54.4
48.3
09-10
0.23
34.8
50.6

Bobby Ryan isn’t exactly a good PK option, but that’s fine since you normally don’t want your best goal scorer killing penalties.

Joe Corvo 4-on-5 Stats
 
Year
TOI/60
SA/60 ON
SA/60 OFF
12-13
0.73
51.59
60.3
11-12
0.32
32.6
51.23
10-11
2.63
57.56
56.85
09-10
2.47
59.85
43.56

Corvo’s PK duties have been scaled back the past two years. Even at 36, Corvo seems to be a decent option for a small PK role, but he probably isn’t good enough to take Gonchar’s minutes. Although with Methot, Gryba, Cowen and Phillips in the line-up, Corvo will only have to play heavy minutes if Wiercioch is playing or if the team isn’t keen on playing Karlsson on the PK.

Conclusion

With the loss of Regin, Alfredsson, Silfverberg and Gonchar, and the uncertainty of O’Brien and Gryba’s everyday spots on the roster, the Sens have lost a considerable amount of penalty killing talent. The players they brought in don’t seem to be good penalty killers, so hopefully a Zibanejad can step-up and plug the hole. To make things worse, the goaltending will probably regress quite a bit, so the Sens PK might be in for a very rough ride next season.

(TOI stats from Behind the Net and shot data from stats.hockeyanalysis.com

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