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Defense and Penalty Killing… is it killing us?

Or is yet another factor of what makes us Duck fans scratching our heads wondering with the mass of talent we have why we are not consistent playoff contenders? Here is another article that is an offspring from two previous articles “Top Player Accountability” and “Obstruction, the Power Play, and Lack of Scoring…”, brought to you by Stats’R’Us where our motto is “where a geek can be geek”.

In the “Top Player Availability” article, we’ve consistently found that the bulk of our scoring were from the top 7 for the past seven years at a rate of 62.5% or greater. From Bob Murray’s interview for this past summer he’s noted that Bruce Boudreau will be implementing four lines as opposed to two and half lines [that former head coach Randy Carlyle implemented]. Randy Carlyle has been the head coach for the Ducks for the past seven years, though not being able to finish the seventh year due to yet another poor start.

“Obstruction, the Power Play, and Lack of Scoring…” brought along observations that the Ducks’ even strength scoring was slightly below average for the past seven years. Such that a lack of output from the power play unit would severely hurt the overall team scoring. Four of the past seven years, the Ducks have finished fifth or above in Power Play efficiency. In those seven years, the Ducks have made the playoffs five out of seven seasons. One of those seasons the team failed to make a playoff appearance happens to be one of the seasons where it finished fifth overall in power play efficiency, the 20009 – 2010 season.

Those two articles focused on scoring. This article will try to investigate the defensive aspect of things. I will research from Penalty Killing to our goalies and then even strength play to overall play. And should this article pan out like the previous two, then you better make some popcorn before you continue on reading.

Up first: The penalty killing unit.

Penalty Killing (PK) from 2005 – 2011 seasons

Team

Stat

05/06

06/07

07/08

08/09

09/10

10/11

11/12

NHL

PPGA

2545

2099

1871

1938

1665

1571

1408

NHL Avg

PPGA

84.8

70

62.4

64.6

55.5

52.4

46.9

Ana

PPGA

84

61

69

78

67

57

51

Difference

Ana –NHL A

-0.8

-9

+6.6

+13.4

+11.5

+4.6

+4.1

NHL

TSH

14390

11935

10551

10225

9137

8715

8132

NHL Avg

TSH

479.7

397.8

351.7

340.8

304.6

290.5

271.1

Ana

TSH

510

408

408

385

324

305

283

Difference

Ana –NHL A

+30.3

+10.2

+56.3

+44.2

+19.4

+14.5

+11.9

NHL

SHG

318

268

239

235

191

206

185

NHL Avg

SHG

10.6

8.9

8.0

7.8

6.4

6.9

6.2

Ana

SHG

9

4

8

6

8

7

4

NHL Eff

Avg. Eff

82.3

82.5

82.3

81.1

81.7

82.0

82.6

Ana Eff

Eff

83.5

85.0

83.1

79.7

79.3

81.3

82.0

Ana

Rank

13th

5th

12th

23rd

24th

19th

16th

Ana

Playoffs

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Scotty

Duck

x

x

x

x

x

Prongs

Duck

x

x

x

From the Penalty Killing (from 2005–11) table above, the Ducks have finished only once in the top 10. That seems quite odd considering the team had Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger for multiple years. Although most of us feared what would have occurred should our superstar talents leave, the Ducks have managed to improve their PK ways from where it once was. But I am amazed at how low the PK unit was performing with the 2008-09 season with Scotty and Prongs on at the same time. Granted, there are other players involved in the penalty kill, yet I never expected to be in the bottom third in PK rankings. Since the 2008-09 season, the team has slightly improve year after year.

Out of sheer curiosity, I went further back in Ducks’ history. Bryan Murray coached the 2001-02 team and then rookie coach Mike Babcock had the team from 2002-04, including the infamous Stanley Cup run where JS Giguere won the Conn Smythe despite losing the series versus the Devils. One would believe that our teams back then were less talented than the ones amassed during these past seven years. So let us have the stats speak to us:

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Penalty Killing (PK) from 2001 – 2003 seasons

Team

Stat

01/02

02/03

03/04

NHL

PPGA

1877

1787

1717

NHL Avg

PPGA

62.6

59.6

57.2

Ana

PPGA

71

42

54

NHL

TSH

11282

10878

10425

NHL Avg

TSH

376.1

362.6

347.5

Ana

TSH

390

333

353

NHL

SHG

267

230

244

NHL Avg

SHG

8.9

7.7

8.1

Ana

SHG

6

8

5

NHL Eff

Avg. Eff

83.4

83.6

83.6

Ana Eff

Eff

81.8

87.4

84.7

Ana

Rank

7

2

12

Ana

Playoffs

No

Yes

No

Coach

Murray

Babcock

Babcock

I am amazed and impressed. A rookie coach was able to improve upon Bryan Murray’s record. Babcock’s worse rating would rank 2nd best for the past seven years. With not as much talented players, Babcock was able to get a lot of discipline from them on the PK unit as well as not creating a lot of penalty chances (looking at the TSH stat). Well, now we can attribute the PK play to coaches.

For the past seven years, the Ducks have not restrained themselves enough to be under the NHL average for times short-handed (TSH). Of course, during the Pronger years we would automatically get called for roughing just by breathing on the opponents. After he left, we still were committing more infractions than the average.

But the PK unit is only as good as their goalie. So let’s have a look at the goalie stats as well.

Anaheim Duck goalies from 2001 - 2011

Year

Player

Team

Sv Rank

Sv %

SO

GP

Wins

GAA

2001/02

JS

Ana

9

0.920

4

53

20

2.13

Shields

Ana

15

0.907

0

33

9

2.67

2002/03

JS

Ana

6

0.920

8

65

34

2.30

2003/04

Gerber

Ana

10

0.918

2

32

11

2.26

JS

Ana

18

0.914

3

55

17

2.62

2005/06

JS

Ana

11

0.911

2

60

30

2.66

Bryz

Ana

14

0.910

1

31

13

2.51

2006/07

JS

Ana

7

0.918

4

56

36

2.26

Bryz

Ana

21

0.907

1

27

10

2.47

2007/08

JS

Ducks

3

0.922

4

58

35

2.12

Bryz

Ana/Pho

6

.909/.921

0/3

9/55

2/26

2.55/2.42

2008/09

Hiller

Ana

6

0.919

4

46

23

2.39

JS

Ana

36

0.900

2

46

19

3.10

2009/10

Hiller

Ana

10

0.918

2

59

30

2.73

JS

Ana/Tor

26

.900/.916

1/2

20/15

4/6

3.14/2.49

2010/11

Hiller

Ana

4

0.924

5

49

26

2.56

Ellis

TB/Ana

37

0.917

0

13

8

2.39

2011/12

Hiller

Ana

30

0.910

4

73

29

2.57

Ellis

Ana

NR

0.911

0

10

1

2.72

Since the Championship season, every season thereafter the PK unit has allowed more goals allowed than the NHL average. The year after the Cup, our netminders have posted terrific numbers. And as bad as Hiller was last year, he actually kept the team in contention in helping the team be a middle of the road PK unit. Overall, we’ve been blessed with good goaltending. That means we’re right back to the philosophy on how the PK unit is administered. What can BB and his staff do differently this coming season?

Goals Against (GA) from 2005 – 2011 seasons

Team

Stat

05/06

06/07

07/08

08/09

09/10

10/11

11/12

NHL

GA

7442

7082

6691

7006

6803

6721

6545

NHL Avg

GA

248.1

263.1

223.0

233.5

226.8

224.0

218.2

Ana

GA

222

198

184

235

243

233

224

Difference

Ana –NHL A

-26.1

-65.1

-39

1.5

16.2

9

5.8

Ana

GA Rank

7th

7th

2nd

18th

22nd

20th

19th

NHL Avg

PPGA

84.8

70

62.4

64.6

55.5

52.4

46.9

Ana

PPGA

84

61

69

78

67

57

51

Difference

Ana –NHL A

-0.8

-9

+6.6

+13.4

+11.5

+4.6

+4.1

Ana

PPGA Rank

17th

8th

23rd

27th

25th

24th

19th

NHL Avg

ESGA

163.3

193.1

160.6

168.9

171.3

171.6

171.3

Ana

ESGA

138

137

115

157

176

176

173

Difference

Ana –NHL A

-25.3

-56.1

-45.6

-11.9

4.7

4.4

1.7

Scotty

Duck

x

x

x

x

x

Prongs

Duck

x

x

x

Ana

Playoffs

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Not only does our PK unit not perform well in the past seven seasons with the exception of our Championship run, but our defense started to deteriorate in the 2008-09 season where we still had both our defensive stalwarts. So what happened between 2008-09 and the 2009-10 season? We sort of lost our shutdown line. Pahlsson and Moen were traded before the end of the 2008-09 season and Robbie Niedermayer was not re-signed before the 2009-10 season. (The Moen deal brought us Bonino, G Pielmeier, and a 2011 fourth round pick that ended up becoming Chipchura. Pahlsson netted the Ducks Wisniewski.)

The personnel changes are the charge of the GM. A drop off is expected with Scotty and Prongs leaving the team, but that doesn’t explain the 2008-09 season aside from JS’ terrible performance. And the PK unit doesn’t look as great as one would think, yet in recent seasons it has been improving. We can blame a GM for not replenishing the cupboard, but something seems amiss. The first three years are awesome on defense, but takes a huge dive and seems to languish in the same area for the next four years. Compile that with an inadequate PK unit in six of the seven seasons and one has to wonder if it is the lack of personnel or the system being administered. With the shutdown line and our two defensive superstars in a Ducks’ uniform for almost four years (three years for Prongs), it seems a bit odd that the PK doesn’t reflect the total defense play.

I would like to blame the GM for not replenishing quality talent to sustain a proper defensive team, but it is very difficult to acquire two superstar defensemen. Let us look pre-lockout era again and compare to that era.

Penalty Killing (PK) from 2001 – 2003 seasons

Team

Stat

01/02

02/03

03/04

NHL

GA

6442

6530

6318

NHL Avg

GA

214.7

217.7

210.6

Ana

GA

198

193

184

Difference

Ana –NHL A

-16.7

-24.7

-26.6

Ana

GA Rank

8th

6th

19th

NHL Avg

PPGA

62.6

59.6

57.2

Ana

PPGA

71

42

54

Difference

Ana –NHL A

8.4

-17.6

-3.2

Ana

PPGA Rank

8th

2nd

13th

NHL Avg

ESGA

152.1

158.1

153.4

Ana

ESGA

127

151

130

Difference

Ana –NHL A

-25.1

-7.1

-23.4

Ana

Playoffs

No

Yes

No

Coach

Murray

Babcock

Babcock

Is not that odd to see the pre-lockout Ducks team performed admirably on defense and the PK with lesser talent? The Ducks’ GA and PPGA seem to run similar to one another; not skewed like the first four years after the lockout era. I am not directing the whole problem is coach RC, but may be a combination of things where RC happens to be commonality throughout the past seven years. The PK and GA rate are slowly moving in the same direction together, unfortunately they are still in the bottom third of the league. GM Murray came in four years ago and the defensive side suffered, but that was a time of transition where the team couldn’t afford to keep both Scotty and Pronger. Yet, it doesn’t explain how a lesser talented Ducks’ team seem to play better defense than today’s Ducks. Even with a 19th ranking in GA, 2003-04 team still was able to allow 23 less goals than the NHL average at even strength.

Now, I’m curious when Perry and Getz started to play on the PK unit along with playing at ES and PP units. Those two players may have suffered in overall play as they were RC’s workhorses. We need other players to step up and become PK specialists. But may be playing all four lines will levy some of the burden so that we can perform better as a team.

I miss having Mike Babcock as a coach when looking back retrospectively. Okay, I didn’t need a retrospective look as I was very impressed with what he had done with so little. But there was little to complain about Randy Carlyle as he was able to bring about the Cup as well as made the playoffs often. I’m a Ducks fan first. Yet looking at all of these stats from having a below average Even Strength team as well as having a terrible PK unit for most of the seven year tenure, most of this is an attribute to coaching. And many have noted how many former players are doing well in their new stead. Again, the common component happens to be Randy Carlyle. But that doesn’t let GM Murray off the hook just yet even though we have seen two previous coaches, Brian Murray and Babcock, do wonders with much less.

If anyone else finds anything interesting from these stats, then please do so in the comments below.

This article is user-generated. It does not necessarily reflect the views of Anaheim Calling. Please do not link this article as representative of Anaheim Calling content or viewpoints . . . unless it's <em>really</em> really good.

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