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Know Thy Enemy: Penalty Kill

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The Calgary Penalty Kill is confusing; good shot suppression, but bad success rates. The Ducks will need to exploit it to be successful this series.

Guys...GUYS! LET ME SEE!!
Guys...GUYS! LET ME SEE!!
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Calgary Flames have been working this offseason...a lot. They have the second worst corsi differential in the postseason right now. But, that's not necessarily the case for the Penalty Kill. Over the course of the regular season, the Flames were 10th in FF% and CF% while shorthanded. That means they are better than most teams at limiting possession on the Kill.

Despite that, they were 20th in PK% this season, at 80.6%. Although, that number might be deceptive. Calgary was a league best 186 times shorthanded. That's 60 times fewer than the league average. However, they were 25th in shorthanded SV% at 85.9%. Jonas Hiller was the primary problem, posting an abysmal 81.4 SV% while shorthanded. It begs the question if maybe the trend simply didn't fully develop for them over the course of the season. Special Teams can be tricky, and the Flames PK will be an interesting hurdle.

They were middle of the pack in shorthanded goals. They had six in the regular season that were scattered across their roster, including one from the currently injured Mark Giordano. Still, any team with that much speed can be a bother when they kill penalties.

The Major Players:

Sean Monohan, Matt Stajan, and Josh Jooris have been pulling most of the weight for the Flames this postseason when the team is shorthanded.  It's a relatively new job for Monohan, who was logging less than a minute per game shorthanded in the regular season.  Markus Granland, Mikael Backlund and Joe Colbourne round out the unit.  Backland had two shorties; Monohan and Colbourne had one each in the regular season.

Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie were the top defensive pairing were the top shorthanded pairing in the regular season, and they each had a shorthanded goal. Obviously, Giordano is injured, but Brodie is still pulling almost two minutes a game shorthanded. Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman are the top two in TOI SH/G in the playoffs, and Deryk Engelland rounds out the blueline members of the penalty killing unit.

How They Do It:

When in the zone, the Flames run a basic passive box that operates like Zone Defense in basketball. Each defender is responsible for his particular part of the ice and will pressure a puck carrier who gets too close to the middle.  As carriers move from one section of the ice to the other, the Calgary defenders will usually switch to cover the passing lanes and prevent puck movement towards the center.  If the Calgary player has a good angle or is close to the puck carrier, he will stick with the carrier and switch zones with another Flame.

The exceptions to this are reserved for pressuring the puck along the boards. You will probably find two Calgary players pressuring the puck along the half-boards, if there is an opposing player pinned along the boards. The Flames try hard to quickly outnumber and move the puck forward.

When the Ducks enter the zone, they won't see the same high pressure that the Jets tried to employ. The Flames put the two forwards along the blue line and only pressure the puck when you try to carry wide. If you carry to the middle of the ice, the two forwards converge to try and take the puck. If you go wide, the defender can swing out from behind the forward and attempt to trap you along the boards with support from the forward.

How to Beat It:

There's two ways to beat them on entry. The first is with well placed dump-ins. If there's speed through the neutral zone, you can beat them to pucks in the corners. After that, you can either move the puck quickly around the boards to the other wing, or try to feed someone in the middle as the Flames converge on the puck. Either way there should be opportunities to move the puck effectively to set up possession in the zone.

The other way is with a well-timed stretch pass. After the Flames clear, they will pressure the puck up ice with both forwards. It creates a gap in the penalty killing box, that can allow the defense to move the puck efficiently across two lines and give forwards a chance to beat defenders one-on-one and establish possession in the zone, or even generate a scoring chance...and Ducks defenders can pass.

When in the zone, the Ducks should focus on using a standard umbrella: one defender out high on the point, and two players set up nearer the half-boards. Then, there should be two players in the middle of the ice: one in front of the crease and one in the center of the Flames' PK box. With a little bit of patience, the Ducks can pull the forwards away from the center of the ice with good puck movement. This should free up opportunities to feed the guys in the middle. Better still, the passive zone employed by the Flames should allow for high volumes of screened point shots that will force Hiller to be more lucky than good when the Flames are shorthanded.

One of the best ways to win a playoff series is to win the special teams battle. The Penalty Kill is a weakness for the Flames, but they mitigate it by taking very few penalties. The Ducks need to muster all their power forward dominance and keep Calgary on the kill.