Anaheim Ducks: 2011-12 Preview: Penalty Kill

Might you be interested in a penalty killing ONLY contract?

SK:

I may have been a tad bit off base on my initial reaction with the Ducks’ power play but I’m definitely a little more on track when it comes to the penalty kill.

Here’s the first not-so-surprising fact: the Ducks take a lot of penalties. But you already knew that, didn’t you? The next not-so-surprising fact: when a team takes a lot of penalties, they’re bound to give up a few goals. Seems so obvious, doesn’t it? (Sometimes I’m wonder if the Ducks are oblivious to the particularly obvious.)

There is no fancy way to digest these numbers, so here they are:

The Ducks were short-handed 305 times over the 2010-11 season. That’s 10th in the league - not a particular stat where you’d hope to find your team ranking high, is it? Of those 305 times they gave up 57 goals, good for an overall killing percentage of 81.3%, 19th in the league. For some contrast, Pittsburgh was second on the list, short-handed 324 times. However, they led the league in killing penalties at 86.1%, giving up only 45 goals.

One of the biggest missing links for the Ducks this season will come in the loss of face-off man and penalty killer extraordinaire, Todd Marchant. He played a majority of his minutes when the Ducks were shorthanded and it proved to be beneficial to the team. Winning face-offs in your own defensive end is one of the biggest success factors that can come from a thriving penalty killing unit and, without him on the ice, the Ducks will have to look elsewhere to get the job done.

Saku Koivu is another key performer in the penalty killing sphere and thankfully his face-off numbers are decent (52.8%). Perhaps the same can’t be said about the possibility of adding fresh face Andrew Cogliano to the unit who suffered greatly at that role with Edmonton. In addition, the team still has some bubble players to consider such as Andrew Gordon, Devante Smith-Pelly and Matt Beleskey.

In terms of those who will be manhandling around the net, the Ducks will likely turn to both Kurtis Foster and Toni Lydman to lead the defensive group when they’re ready to return to action. Lydman was the Ducks’ leading shot blocker last season (178 – 6th overall) and his work on the penalty kill is the reason why. Throw in the big body of Luca Sbisa and the experience of Francois Beauchemin and the Ducks have the potential to stay afloat. (Side note: Beauchemin was 5th in the league in blocked shots last season with 182; a majority of those were with Toronto.)

However, no other factor may be as crucial to the team as the health of Jonas Hiller. That red-hot glove-robbing in-your-face reflex is key to negating the plethora of penalties they are bound to rack up over time.

If we’re looking for a reason to keep players like Brandon McMillan on the roster, look no further than his 2 short-handed goals last season. Throw in four shorties from Corey Perry and one from Bobby Ryan and there is definitely an argument for having a few scoring forwards on the PK.

Some positives in adding forward talent to the PK could be seen in the extra time on the ice for players such as Perry. The playing time was beyond beneficial to his game and that was evident when he grabbed that awesome hardware at the end of the season. Not only did it keep him focused and involved, but it definitely gave him confidence.

Of course there is a debate for putting such valuable talent on the PK as injuries are always a threat when blocking shots is so valuable to a teams killing unit. Staying healthy is such an overwhelming factor for players’ success and longevity in the game and therefore questioning the risks of adding players like Perry and Ryan are completely valid. But they’re so damn helpful out there and their active sticks and long reach with all that open ice is often rewarding to their efforts and sacrifice.

Ultimately, unless the Ducks learn to be disciplined, the numbers won’t change much. And you know what else would be nice? Eliminating those infuriatingly mind numbing moments of stupidity in the offensive zone, Ryan Getzlaf.

There’s one key thing to take from all of this and, thanks to the insight via Twitter, Andrew Gordon has the right idea... "@AndrewGordon10:

Note to self: when trying to make the team as a penalty killer…stop taking penalties."

Genius.

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