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The Puck Stops Here

The Top Penalty Kill

The New Jersey Devils currently have a 92.4% success rate on the penalty kill.  This is a remarkable success rate.  The NHL keeps penalty kill rates on their website since the 1997/98 season and the best penalty kill rate over a full season was 89.2% and this was achieved by the 1999/2000 Dallas Stars and again by the 1997/98 Washington Capitals.  Both of those seasons were prior to the 2006 obstruction crackdown.  The best achieved since then is 87.8% by the 2008/09 New York Rangers.  In that context it is clear that the Devils penalty kill has been remarkable so far this season.  The Devils have allowed ten power play goals and scored seven shorthanded goals.  Through 36 games played, New Jersey is only -3 on the penalty kill.

The Devils have an aggressive penalty kill where they constantly attack the puck.  This helps them score so many shorthanded goals.

The Devils penalty killers are a good bunch of players, but they are not such a high calibre that one would predict such a strong penalty kill.  Bryce Salvador, Anton Volchenkov, Zach Parise and Dainius Zubrus are the number one penalty kill unit.  Henrik Tallinder, Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique have also played a significant amount of penalty kill time.  These are solid players, but not a unit of superstars.

Last season New Jersey had an 83.4% penalty kill success rate.  While that is better than average, it is not nearly at the level achieved this season.  Largely it was done with the same personnel, although Parise was hurt most of last season.  The Devils changed coaches since last year.  Peter DeBoer is their current coach.  Last season Jacques Lemaire and John MacLean shared the coaching duties.  DeBoer was coaching in Florida last year and although the Panthers had a solid penalty kill, it was also not on this level.

I think the Devils have a very good power play but the main reason it has been this extremely good is a small sample size.  The Devils have had slightly over 210 minutes of penalty kill time all season.  That is the equivalent of less than four games.  It is relatively common for a team to have an unusual streak over a four game period.  It follows that the Devils will regress to the mean in the remainder of the season. 

The Devils have a very good penalty kill.  It is a very successful aggressive unit that has only been -3 on the penalty kill this season.  They are on pace to have a record setting season.  The fact that there is a low sample size of penalty kill time leads to uncertainty in the actual level of their penalty kill.  I think that while this is a very good penalty kill, it is unlikely that it is the best ever in the NHL.

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Comments

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Parise plays with Henrique, and Zubrus plays with Elias. A simple look at behindthenet.ca’s stats would tell you that.

Much credit for the PK success been given to Dave Barr, the Devils’ new assistant.

Posted by Dave on 12/31/11 at 08:06 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Some people may give credit to Dave Barr, but when we consider that last year as the Minnesota Wild assistant coach his team had an 82.8% penalty kill success rate, it isn’t clear that he is the magic reason for the Devils success.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 12/31/11 at 08:14 PM ET

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Of course he’s not the “magic” reason. But the responsibility for coaching the PK unit lies with him, and it is drastically different this year in terms of how aggressive the forwards are pressuring the point men. I think we can say that good players have been deployed to good effect with good luck.

I simply am pointing out what the Devils players have mentioned when asked about the team’s success.

Adam Oates is responsible for the horrific powerplay (18PPG, 11SHGA)...but replacing him probably won’t cure Ilya Turnoverchuk of his incompetence at the point, and Oates probably wouldn’t stop Vancouver’s machine from humming along. It’s a combination of things.

Posted by Dave on 01/01/12 at 12:56 AM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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