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 NHL.com — the same information they use for their Ice Tracker. Circles represent goals scored and ‘X’ is a shot on goal.
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 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.