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Know Thy Enemy: Winnipeg Penalty Kill Preview

The Winnipeg Penalty Kill is effective, and should be more than capable of giving a generally inept Anaheim Power Play fits. The

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets were a middle of the road team on the Kill this season.  They finished 13th overall with an 81.8%, but that doesn't tell the whole story. In 4v5 situations, the Jets were top 10 in both FF% and CF%.  Their 56 goals against was 5th worst in the league, but they were also shorthanded a league leading 308 times. Winnipeg spends a lot of time killing penalties, and they are good at keeping the other team from sending too many pucks towards the net.

Making matters worse, the Jets were tied for the league lead with 10 shorthanded goals. They were second in the league in shorthanded GF% at 15.5. That might not sound like a lot, but it proves that they are a legitimate offensive threat when shorthanded. The Jets and Ducks are similar in that you have to be mindful of the puck going the other way when you're killing penalties. It has a large impact on the game. Essentially, the Jets erase a PPG against for every five they give up.  That can have an impact on a series.

The Major Players:

The forward group doing the work for Winnipeg is Jim Slater, T.J. Galiardi, Bryan Little, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, and Michael Frolik. The first three pull the lion's share and average over two minutes of Shorthanded time a game.  The latter three pull between 1:30-1:45 a game, and Wheeler and Frolik account for seven of the team's ten shorties. Little and the infrequent Adam Lowry have one each, while the now departed Evander Kane rounds out the ten shorties. It's a fairly fleet footed and responsible collection of forwards.

Jacob Trouba and Mark Stuart log over three minutes a night killing penalties. After that, it gets fuzzy. Pardy was killing a lot of penalties for most of the season, but most likely won't crack the top 6 come playoff time. Tyler Myers has the next highest SHTOI/G at just under two minutes, and he'll most likely continue doing that work here. Tobias Enstrom is the fourth leading defender in shorthanded situations, pulling 1:49 a game. At a glance, that's a very mobile group of defensemen who are very capable of moving the puck forward. Fast forwards and mobile puck movers add up to a dangerous penalty killing unit.

They say the most important penalty killer is your goalie, but that might not be true for the Jets. Among goalies who played at least 200 minutes shorthanded, Pavelec was 12th at 88.57%. He hasn't posted a number that good since the 09-10 season. Pavelec has had a wonderful season, but he's always been considered the weakest link of an otherwise effective Winnipeg team.

How They Do It:

The Jets spend their in-zone time in what is a standard passive box. They don't employ a traditional puck pressure strategy where the forwards force point men and any players along the half boards to move the puck as quickly as possible. Still, the forwards aggressively attack the passing lanes. You'll see a Winnipeg forward follow the point man across the blue line with an active stick to limit the options from up high. They exchange time for options, allowing the point more time with the puck while ensuring that his choices are relatively harmless.  The set-up forces teams to play the puck to an empty half-board, where the second forward shifts to pressure the puck. You'll always see a Jet between the point and the option in the middle. When it's done most effectively, you'll see a penalty killer in the shooting lane, with a stick to deny the passing lane leading to the half-boards.  The Jets are a fairly fast and heavy team though, so when the puck does go a long the boards, they will pounce.

When gearing up from their own end, Anaheim will face a high forechecker and three Jets stacked along the blue line.  The strategy is simple, the forward in the center denies the puck carrier the center lane. An attempt to go to the left or the right of the man in the center allows the Jets to pressure with two men on the puck. It forces you to carry wide, or dump the puck.  Those are the only options.

How To Beat It:

Shoot the puck, and shoot from everywhere. I'm not normally a fan of this strategy, but the Jets are very controlled when they settle into their box. If the Ducks umbrella the power play and take the outside lanes that will be offered to them, they can open up small shooting lanes. If they are willing to shoot from anywhere and everywhere, they can force Winnipeg to abandon that box and react to the puck. Corey Perry and Patrick Maroon are very effective down low, and they'll be able to create plenty of havoc. More importantly, they have good games down low and can really clean up those rebounds.  The Ducks can't afford to let Winnipeg take the puck the other way. The Anaheim PP has been generally ineffective, and it might be smart to simply limit the damage. Instead of being cute, the Ducks should just keep shooting. Keep Winnipeg on their heels, and hope a bounce goes your way.  If you fire enough shots, something WILL go in.

The second option is to try and work from down low. I just don't know if the Ducks can do this quite as effectively. Winnipeg uses a lot of mobile, puck-moving defenders to kill penalties. They don't really try to TAKE pucks from you, so much as beat you to loose ones after forcing you into bad passes and defensive pressure.  as a result, it is possible to go from behind the goal line, or from the low half boards and set up the man in the middle of the box for the quality chance, once you have control in the zone.  The problem is getting someone in that position. Ideally, you'd let Ryan Getzlaf work from down low, put Ryan Kesler between the circles as the trigger man, and let Perry annoy Pavelec. I just haven't seen the Ducks take the type of patient and organized approach necessary to execute from that position, even though they have the talent.