Friday, 9 January 2009

Penalties Kill

An amazing set of posts recently on the subject of the Edmonton Oiler's penalty kill problems. Some of them can be found using these links:

IOF - "That's killed us all year long. It killed us again tonight."

IOF - Corsi on the PK

IOF - Loaded Dice and NHL Penalty Killers - I wish Brownlee hadn’t written about PK faceoffs

And Just Because It Was Interesting

Oilers Nation (Jonathan Willis) - Penalty Differential

Collecting the Thoughts

Some point to a poor faceoff winning percentage and others point to a distinct lack in committment to the shotblocking principle. Others may also point to, what appears to be at least, a passive pk system that allows opposing teams to set their plays up at leisure. One might point to the youth on the team as an issue but to their credit the press guys do a pretty good job of debunking that myth.

The stats guys do a pretty good job of backing-up/crediting the players own observations that the number of players a team has on the ice heavily affects faceoff winning percentage and mudcrutch points out that the Oilers goalies have, seemingly, forgotten how to stop the puck in a penalty kill situation (collective save % has dropped through the floor compared to last year).

What I Think

Myself... I think it is all of the above.

With the new rule in place for this year we are seeing, to my eye anyways, an extra 10-20 seconds or so of powerplay time taking place in the defending teams zone. As a standard powerplay is only two minutes long this is an astounding increase in immediate pressure on the defending team.

Few seem to remember that the big effect here isn't actually the faceoff - it is possession time in the offensive zone for the team on the powerplay.

Given that faceoffs represent a stopped game moment in time to affect puck possession I have to to think that they play a role. But how much? Winning a face-off doesn't mean much if the rest of the unit isn't any good at clearing the puck or if the guy taking the face-off can't cover worth damn.

Few seem to remember that the big effect here isn't actually the faceoff - it is the ability of the entire PK unit to capitalize on a faceoff won.

Blocked shots has always, seems to me, been a matter of high-reward to risk taken. Not only is there the reward of blocking the shot, there is also the (much more likely) reward of breaking up the flow of the play in general and, with luck, deflecting the puck out of the zone.

Few seem to remember that the risk of not blocking the shot is that of a clean(er) shot on net - and even if 'saved' there are always guys like Smyth just hanging out.

What I Do Not Know

Not a quick listing of all I do not know (I would be typing forever) but a listing of the interesting questions that come to mind when I consider the difficulties the Oilers are facing while on the penalty kill:

Is there a specific skill set in play and is it measurable? **

It may be (read: it is probable) that there are players good at taking faceoffs but not at killing penalties. It may also be (also probable) that some faceoffs aces are better utilized on the powerplay and so it is impossible to measure if they are any good at killing penalties.

How important is it the way in which the face-off is won?

Maybe a guy can't kill penalties worth a damn, but what if he wins face-offs clean? Straight back clean. Perhaps, in that situation, it may be profitable to use the player on the penalty kill if the two backing defensemen are (very) good at clearing the puck from the zone.

Which teams are using shot location to change team results?

We know that the location from which a shot is taken is measurable and we know where the danger zone is. It can be broken down game by game, team by team and year by year. Using that data one could:

a. determine if the goalies are just having a bad year or not

Really. If the ratio of the danger-zone shots being faced has changed dramatically then how much of it is the goalie's fault?

b. determine the composition of powerplay units which will be trouble

Which teams generate large numbers of high-percentage chances against the penalty kill units and is there a trend to it?

c. determine who should be on the penalty kill units or not

If certain teams are jumping into the slot and getting a high-percentage shot whenever player A is on the ice then maybe...?

When do we go MLB or NFL?

If we can figure out what type of powerplay a team uses then why aren't we seeing more situational staffing of the penalty kill units? Maybe a player is no good against a powerplay heavy on the point shot but what if that same player is superior against the powerplays that rely on puck control?

Just wondering.

There are a lot of good questions that arise but those are the early ones that jumped to mind when reading through the material.

** As I noted in a response on one of Showerhead's posts at IOF

Core Issue

From where I sit I do find it interesting that in all the talk of 'what is wrong with the Oilers penalty kill' that few seem to mention the core problem.

Taking penalties. If you can't kill 'em then don't take 'em.

Methinks it is time for the Oilers to commit themselves to taking fewer penalties. Perhaps the leadership of the team can set the example.


Have a great evening everyone.

No comments: