It’s The Penalty Kill, Stupid

Will the Caps be able to overcome their PK woes in the playoffs? (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Will the Caps be able to overcome their PK woes in the playoffs? (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

[Ed Note: With Peter galavanting in the middle of California for a wedding and Ian scrambling to keep up with all of the Barack The Red happenings, we’re not going to have a gamer tonight covering the Lightning’s 3-2 victory. Who wants to read more about that anyways? Not I. So tonight, we bring you something that has become a growing concern for the crew here at RMNB: the Capitals below average Penalty Kill. Will this do them in when the games really matter? What do you think? Read Neil’s article and let us know in the comments below.]

To misquote Yogi Berra, “95% of hockey is half defense.” Or more precisely, 58.3% defense according to Alan Ryder.

Now whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but what we do know is that goaltending is not the issue for the Caps going into the playoffs – it is their Penalty Killing (PK).

If we look at the teams that won The Cup since the 1979-80 season a distinct pattern emerges:

It is difficult to win The Cup with a PK % of less than 80%. Currently, the Washington Capitals are at 78.49%. And as @DCCheapSeats correctly points out, it is coming on less chances per game than in the last four years.

Teams that won The Cup with Sub-80% PK since 1979-80 also have something else in common – they are all two-year dynasties:

  • ’80 & ’81 NYI
  • ’85 EDM (and they repeated in ’86)
  • ’91 & ’92 PIT

As we look deeper it is evident they were not bad PK teams when compared to the league average:

1980 NYI 77.6% vs. 78.1% league average and the 1981 NYI team was above league average (79% vs. 77%)

1985 EDM was also above league average (78.47% vs 77.80%)

1991 PIT 79.2% vs 80.56% average and 1992 PIT 79.90% vs. 80.76%

As for the 2009-10 Washington Capitals, they are at 78.49% when the League Average looms at a hefty 81.36% – clearly inferior to the league average and enough to be the real cause for concern heading into the playoffs.

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  • Peter

    Woo California! I’m hammertime drink right now. We lost? WTF?

  • Well, there is a point here but keep in mind that on home ice the Caps rank 8th with an 85% rate. It has been higher this season but the PK number on home ice are acceptable.

    It is the road PK that is hurting us. It ranks 29th, just ahead of Toronto and is an embarrassing 72.7%. If we can get and hold serve on our home ice, the PK shouldn’t hurt us too much. But if we start dropping games at home or don’t have home ice advantage, we’ll be in trouble.

    That’s one of the reasons why we’re hoping we win the President’s Trophy.