Scott Hannan

Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

The Washington Capitals went from a penalty kill that was 78.8% successful to one with a 85.5% success rate in just one season. How are they doing it?

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I thought I would plot the shots and goals against from last year and this year to see if anything jumps out at us. The data is from — the same information they use for their Ice Tracker. Circles represent goals scored and ‘X’ is a shot on goal.

Shots goals against on PK 2009-10

Goals were scored all over the ice last season when the Caps were short-handed — especially outside of the “scoring chance” area. This year, it’s a different story:

Shots goals against on PK 2010-11

Shots against are down per 60 minutes of short-handed time, 47.3 this year versus 50.0 a year ago. Goals against from the periphery — especially those from the top of the circles and outward — have been reduced significantly. Additionally, it appears there have been less goals scored immediately to the goalie’s right.

The reduction of goalie screens from teammates, the addition of Scott Hannan and John Carlson, and shorter shifts overall look to be keeping those low percentage goals from hitting the twine, helping Washington’s penalty kill to become one of the League’s best. To be exact, fifth overall in the league, a 20-spot improvement over last season.

  • JW90

    Neil, when would you say the next Prospect Watch comes out?

  • Tim

    Awesome. I’m definitely going to look this over a few more times, there’s a lot to digest here. The decrease in both shots and goals from the points is incredible, and the same for the right circle. I’d love to see an analysis of the system that could explain how they’ve done this, because what those pictures show is incredible.

  • Matt

    There is much improvement with the PK this year. I think also changing up every 30 seconds and keeping shorter shifts has helped as well. Is the first chart all 82 games?

  • BobbyG

    Wow. Awesome stat, writeup and analysis Neil. Thanks again for helping me understand the nuances of hockey better. If the Caps stay the course with PK and get the PP rolling, they will be a force to contend with the rest of the season and the playoffs.

  • Didn’t Theo catch with the opposite hand? Would that have made any difference in ‘where’ the goals came from?

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