NHL

Ranking Every NHL Team's Penalty Kill in 2013-14

Rob VollmanContributor INovember 12, 2013

Ranking Every NHL Team's Penalty Kill in 2013-14

1 of 31

    Graig Abel/Getty Images

    Which NHL teams have been the most effective at killing penalties this year? According to the underlying numbers, it isn't at all who you think it is. In fact, you might even have it completely backward.

    This early in the season, too much emphasis can be placed on what amounts to be a few lucky bounces, which is why a look at pure penalty-killing percentage can be very deceiving.

    It's far better to look at who is actually preventing the opponents from gaining the zone, controlling the play and creating opportunities for themselves. In other words, which teams are suppressing the shots.

    The results are consequently quite shocking. Teams with high penalty-killing percentages are ranked far lower than expected, while some units generally considered to be dogs are actually near the top.

    Where does your team rank? Probably not at all where you'd suspect.

     

    All statistics are based on four-on-five shorthanded situations only. Attempted shots and save percentage are from Extra Skater, penalty-killing percentage is from NHL.com, and all other advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted. 

30. Edmonton Oilers

2 of 31

    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 4.05 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .870

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 79.0 percent (22nd)

     

    How can a team absolutely stacked with blue-chip, high-scoring prospects continue to struggle year after year? By ignoring the rest of its game, that's how.

    The Oilers acquired Boyd Gordon in the offseason, and that has helped. Unfortunately their two other brand new penalty-killers, Andrew Ference and Will Acton, don't have the same credentials, and haven't had as helpful an impact.

    Coach Dallas Eakins, who is also new, even (inadvisedly) toyed with the idea of using his young offensive-minded players in shorthanded situations. It didn't work. The Oilers are just one goal shy of the league "lead" in power-play goals allowed. 

    While there's every reason to expect this team to improve as a whole, its penalty kill likely will not. This is especially true having just traded away Ladislav Smid, the type of player they should actually be looking to add, not subtract.

     

29. Phoenix Coyotes

3 of 31

    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.90 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .893

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 78.1 percent (26th)

     

    The Phoenix Coyotes are once again surprising everyone with their overachieving ways, racing off to a 12-4-2 start to place second in the Pacific Division, but that's been no thanks to their power play.

    Despite having Zbynek Michalek, one of the league's better penalty-killers, playing alongside underrated superstar Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes are tied with four other teams for the most power-play goals allowed so far this season.

    Phoenix has the talent, the depth, the coach, the system and the goaltending it needs to improve. All the Coyotes need is time.

     

     

28. Buffalo Sabres

4 of 31

    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.81 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .902 (10th)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 79.7 percent (21st)

     

    Nothing has been going right in Buffalo this year, and that includes the Sabres' terrible penalty killing. The fact that they're among the league leaders in penalties committed makes this situation even worse.

    Buffalo's shorthanded struggles are nothing new, with the team having allowed 3.29 attempted shots per two minutes last year, which was fourth highest in the NHL.

    This offseason the Sabres invested in Henrik Tallinder, but it will take a lot more than that to significantly improve the situation. GM Darcy Regier would be well advised to pick up several more strong defensive-minded veterans to keep games close while their wealth of speedy young prospects develops.

     

     

     

     

27. Colorado Avalanche

5 of 31

    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.77 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .926 (third)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 87.5 percent (third)

     

    It's time for the first shocker. The team currently third in penalty-killing percentage, the Colorado Avalanche, is ranked 27th on our list.

    What is the reason for this madness? Remember that this list is ordered by those who do the best job in preventing the other team's power play from gaining the zone, controlling the play and creating opportunities for themselves.

    Colorado has not been succeeding from that perspective. Not this year, and not even last year when the 3.36 attempted shots per two minutes they allowed were third most in the NHL.

    Fortunately for the Avs, their goaltenders have been bailing them out, posting the third-best shorthanded save percentage in the NHL this year. They consequently have allowed just six goals, fewer than all but one team. That never lasts forever.

    On the plus side, Jan Hejda is an amazing penalty-killer, even if their blue line is otherwise weak in this regard. And Max Talbot, who was recently acquired from Philadelphia in exchange for Steve Downie, should help improve the situation up front.

     

26. Dallas Stars

6 of 31

    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.69 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .898

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 81.8 percent

     

    The all-new Dallas Stars remain this year very much what they've been for quite some time, a league-average team.

    While their penalty killing is significantly below average, it is actually an improvement from last year when they allowed 3.57 attempted shots per two minutes, highest in the NHL.

    Leading their penalty kill is one of the league's most underrated two-way defensemen, Stephane Robidas, and his sophomore partner Brenden Dillon. Newly acquired Shawn Horcoff is helping Vernon Fiddler up front.

    Dallas' penalty killing may be nothing to proud of at the moment, but the Stars are only a piece or two away from making it like the rest of the team: league average.

     

     

     

     

25. Tampa Bay Lightning

7 of 31

    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.68 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .912 (seventh)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 85.3 percent (ninth)

     

    The Tampa Bay Lightning are off to a red-hot start, going 12-4-0 to open the season, and are yet to post back-to-back losses. How much of that can we expect to continue?

    Their penalty killing may be one of the first things to slow down. Other than Victor Hedman and his 39-year-old partner Sami Salo, the Lightning's shorthanded squad features relatively unknown and obscure players like Tyler Johnson, Nate Thompson, B.J. Crombeen and Ondrej Palat.

    While this bunch may have managed to squeeze into the top 10 in terms penalty-killing percentage, they're well into the bottom 10 in the number of shots being allowed.

    It's only solid goaltending from Ben Bishop that's keeping them competitive; otherwise this year might be a repeat of the 2011-12 season when they finished with a 79.2 percent penalty-killing percentage, fifth worst in the league. Don't be surprised to see them slide back down almost that far again.

     

     

     

24. Pittsburgh Penguins

8 of 31

    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.60 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .912 (eighth)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 83.7 percent

     

    Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi are among the best blueliners in the league when down a man, making their low ranking on this list somewhat of a surprise.

    While they're giving up a lot of shots, thankfully their red-hot goaltending has kept them from giving up the goals. The Penguins are currently tied with three other teams in allowing the second-fewest power-play goals in the league. Of course, part of that is having the second-fewest shorthanded minutes in the league too, with just 70.6.

    Perhaps one way to turn things around is to introduce somewhat of an offensive threat to their game. The Penguins have attempted just five shots of their own while killing penalties, the lowest in the NHL.

    The Penguins boasted the third-best penalty-killing percentage in the league in 2011-12 at 87.8 percent, a level to which they could climb this season if their star defensemen pick it up and their red-hot goaltending continues.

     

23. New York Islanders

9 of 31

    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.51 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .806 (29th)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 74.1 percent (30th)

     

    It has been an absolutely awful season so far for the Islanders' shorthanded squad. They currently lead the league with 14 power-play goals against, and have the second-highest goals-against average while shorthanded, 9.63.

    There are two ways the Islanders can improve their penalty kill. First would be to find some defensemen who can share the load with the highly underrated top duo of Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald. Secondly, they need some better luck in the net, where one of every five shots is being let in.

    The Islanders certainly have the right ingredients up front, from young Casey Cizikas, to big hitter Matt Martin, speedy Michael Grabner and the all-around gem Frans Nielsen. Just like the team as a whole, the secret to turning around its penalty kill is some help on the blue line and in goal.

     

     

22. Washington Capitals

10 of 31

    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.5 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .947 (first)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 88.2 percent (second)

     

    It's time for another shocker: The Washington Capitals are ranked in the bottom third of the league in killing penalties.

    Just like Colorado, the Capitals have been allowing opponents to enter the zone, control the play and create opportunities for themselves, and the only thing keeping them afloat is red-hot goaltending.

    The Capitals are consequently tied with three other teams for allowing the second-fewest power-play goals; they also have the lowest goals-against average in the league while shorthanded (3.32).

    Once the goaltending falls down to earth, the Capitals could wind up very much like last season, when they allowed 3.45 attempted shots per two minutes (second in the NHL), and had the fourth-worst penalty-killing percentage in the league at just 77.8 percent. 

    That being said, Washington isn't far from turning the corner for real. Brooks Laich is a great penalty-killer, especially when joined by either Troy Brouwer or Joel Ward. On defence, John Carlson and Karl Alzner make a great top unit and just little need a little more help from a secondary unit. The Capitals could be a legit top-10 team soon enough.

     

     

21. Toronto Maple Leafs

11 of 31

    Graig Abel/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.44 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .914 (sixth)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 83.8 percent

     

    The Toronto Maple Leafs are an excellent example of the fickle nature of penalty-killing percentages. They went from 77.3 percent in 2011-12, third worst in the NHL, to the best in the league last year at 88.2 percent. The key wasn't improved defensive play, but having the second-highest shorthanded save percentage in the league (.901).

    This year isn't that dissimilar from the last, with the Leafs allowing lots of shots, but being kept in the game by red-hot goaltending. This is especially important for a team that's currently second in the NHL with 110 minutes spent killing penalties.

    Once you remove all the smoke and mirrors, how good is Toronto's penalty kill? Actually, it all depends.

    When Jay McClement, who leads the league's forwards by averaging four-and-a-half shorthanded minutes per game, along with their effective top pairing of Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson are on the ice, they're potentially a top-10 team. Otherwise...not so much. 

     

20. San Jose Sharks

12 of 31

    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.37 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .921 (fourth)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 86.0 percent (sixth)

     

    The San Jose Sharks have allowed the fewest power-play goals in the NHL this year and boast the third-lowest shorthanded goals-against average in the NHL (4.01). However, a lot of that is from red-hot goaltending.

    That's not to say that the Sharks don't have their fair share of defensive weapons. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and his partner Justin Braun are a strong top unit, and Scott Hannan has remained effective in a penalty-killing role even after the rest of his game has begun to slide. 

    Up front their arsenal of great two-way penalty-killers like Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture pose a constant scoring threat against sloppy power plays.

    Nevertheless, there is a little bit of air in their totals so far this season. They're obviously much improved since the 2011-12 season, when their 76.9 penalty-killing percentage was second worst in the NHL, but likely still a little bit below par.

     

19. Anaheim Ducks

13 of 31

    Jen Fuller/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.35 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .822 (27th)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 75.9 percent (28th)

     

    The Anaheim Ducks are tied with four teams for allowing the second-most power-play goals, and though they lack depth, they're actually not that bad.

    Francois Beauchemin is one of the league's best penalty-killers, and Daniel Winnik and Saku Koivu are highly effective up front. When these players are on the ice, the Ducks usually do just fine, assuming their goaltending doesn't get them into trouble.

    However, they are a little thin after their top unit. Bryan Allen is capable but slow, and Cam Fowler's defensive game is still developing. Up front the Ducks really haven't settled on a regular rotation, without anybody really stepping forward to claim a leading role.

    Certainly expect Anaheim's penalty killing to improve, but it's currently up in the air where it will ultimately land.

     

18. Boston Bruins

14 of 31

    Steve Babineau/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.27 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .891

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 84.0 percent

     

    Led by Zdeno Chara, one of the league's best defensive players in any situation, the Boston Bruins finished with the third-best penalty-killing percentage in the league last year at 87.1 percent. They allowed just 2.61 attempted shots per two minutes last year, second lowest in the NHL.

    The Bruins have taken a small step back this season, but for no obvious reason. They still have the same crew of strong defensive forwards like Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly, all committed to the same defensive system.

    Absent a clear explanation for the increase in shots allowed, it may be best to chalk it up to a slow start, and expect Boston to rise back up into the top 10 by season's end. 

     

17. Columbus Blue Jackets

15 of 31

    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.24 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .866 (21st)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 78.9 percent (23rd)

     

    The Columbus Blue Jackets had the worst penalty-killing percentage in the league in 2011-12, at just 76.6 percent. Then they acquired Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky from the New York Rangers in the Rick Nash trade, and have taken significant strides in the right direction.

    There is still more work to be done. While Fedor Tyutin is great, their blue line is otherwise patrolled by offensive-minded players like Jack Johnson or inexperienced defensemen like Dalton Prout.

    The Blue Jackets likely lack the defensive talent to climb any higher on this list and may indeed slide back to the higher end of the bottom 10.

     

16. Detroit Red Wings

16 of 31

    Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.24 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .888

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 84.9 percent (10th)

     

    The Detroit Red Wings performed admirably last year in the absence of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart. Niklas Kronwall was the one who stepped up on the blue line, and he and partner Jonathan Ericsson have been joined by the surprisingly effective youngster Danny DeKeyser. 

    Drew Miller is their big killer up front, along with Joakim Andersson and solid veteran Danny Cleary. Their big weapon is their large collection of solid two-way veterans who can be used when required. Stephen Weiss, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson are all used sparingly but capably.

    The end result? Detroit has a solid, if unspectacular, penalty kill which serves as an excellent halfway barometer for all others.

     

15. Ottawa Senators

17 of 31

    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.22 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .903 (ninth)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 86.1 percent (fifth)

     

    Last year the Ottawa Senators had the second-highest penalty-killing percentage in the league at 88.0 percent. Why? Because they also had the highest shorthanded save percentage in the league (.921). It's easy to kill penalties when the goalies are stopping everything.

    This year Ottawa leads the league in total shorthanded minutes, with 116.8, making effective penalty killing that much more important. Fortunately their goaltending has remained up to the task.

    The bottom line is that the Senators have taken a big step back defensively and are giving up way more shots than last year, and in all manpower situations. There's no obvious explanation for this defensive lapse, but its correction is required quickly in order for Ottawa to turn this season around in time.

     

     

     

14. Calgary Flames

18 of 31

    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.21 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .813 (28th)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 75.5 percent (29th)

     

    Calgary has actually done a reasonably decent job in limiting the number of scoring chances opposing power plays have created so far this year, but has done a terrible job in stopping them from becoming goals. They currently have the third-highest goals-against average in shorthanded situations (9.47).

    Their already frustrated penalty-killers will really be put to the test in the absence of Mark Giordano, Lee Stempniak and Curtis Glencross to injuries. That leaves the relatively untested Mikael Backlund and Dennis Wideman as their top penalty-killers.

    An improvement in nets and the acquisition of Ladislav Smid will both help, but perhaps nothing will stop their injury-fueled slide down the standings—both on the penalty kill and overall.

     

13. Chicago Blackhawks

19 of 31

    Glenn James/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.19 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .796 (30th)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 77.6 percent (27th)

     

    The Chicago Blackhawks have the highest goals-against average in the NHL while shorthanded so far this year, at 9.93. This despite boasting the fifth-best penalty-killing percentage in the league last year at 85.7 percent. What happened?

    First of all, penalty-killing percentage tends to be fickle. In 2011-12, for example, they had the fourth-worst penalty-killing percentage in the league at 78.1 percent.

    One thing that can cause these percentages to bounce up and down is goaltending over small sample sizes. A team like Chicago can expect to spend the equivalent of six full NHL games killing penalties over the course of an 82-game season. Just as it is easy for a goalie to be cold (or hot) over a six-game stretch, so too can they be cold (or hot) killing penalties over a full schedule. And this year they've been ice-cold.

    That's why it's best to take a closer look at the underlying team. The Blackhawks' blue line, for example, is fantastic. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook stepped back over the last couple of years, and it's actually been Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya serving as the top unit.

    Up front, Marcus Kruger is the top penalty-killer by some margin, usually playing with one of their highly skilled two-way stars like Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews. Add it all up, and the Hawks are clearly a solid team when down a man.

12. Montreal Canadiens

20 of 31

    Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.19 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .919 (fifth)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 87.3 percent (fourth)

     

    Led by Josh Gorges, one of the league's top penalty-killers, the Montreal Canadiens have the fourth-lowest shorthanded goals-against average in the NHL this year, at just 4.08. They are also second in the NHL with 36 attempted shots of their own while killing penalties.

    They had some bad luck last season, struggling through the fourth-lowest shorthanded save percentage in the league (.841), but had the second-best penalty-killing percentage in 2011-12 at 88.6 percent.

    Montreal could climb higher up this list as it does a better job preventing shots. Top forwards Tomas Plekanec and Travis Moen can help with that.

     

11. Winnipeg Jets

21 of 31

    Michael Martin/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.17 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .893

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 85.7 percent (seventh)

     

    The Winnipeg Jets are using some of their top offensive players on the penalty kill, like Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane. This has resulted in 51 attempted shots of their own while killing penalties; no other NHL team has more than 36.

    This offensive threat has obviously been the key to turning around their penalty killing, which ranked fifth worst last year with 79.0 percent. Switching between players like Byfuglien and Kane, and their defensive leaders Mark Stuart and James Wright, has kept opponents off-guard and unable to generate the same number of offensive opportunities as they used to.

     

     

     

10. New York Rangers

22 of 31

    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.17 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .875

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 83.1 percent

     

    The New York Rangers got off to an injury-riddled slow start, but have fought back with six wins in their past seven games.

    On their penalty kill those injuries have hit them up front, but their blue line continues to feature three of the league's best in Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal.

    The last time they were all together in 2011-12 they finished the season with the fifth-best penalty-killing percentage in the league at 86.2 percent. The Rangers took a dip last year, largely because of their shorthanded save percentage dropping to just .848, the fifth lowest in the league.

    As players continue to return from injured reserve, the Rangers' penalty kill will continue to gain momentum and could once again climb into the top five.

     

9. Vancouver Canucks

23 of 31

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.09 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .928 (second)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 89.1 percent (first)

     

    Vancouver's penalty kill is off to a great start this year with the healthy return of Ryan Kesler and new coach John Torotrella's usage of the Sedin twins on the secondary unit.

    The Canucks are currently tied with three other teams for allowing the second-fewest power-play goals, and they have the second-lowest shorthanded goals-against average in the league (3.45). Depth center Brad Richardson already has two shorthanded goals, one shy of the career high he set in 2006-07 as a 21-year-old with Colorado.

    This level of success is no surprise. Last year the Canucks allowed just 2.70 attempted shots per two minutes, the fourth lowest in the NHL. The only surprise is that there are eight teams who are at least as effective as they are when down a man.

     

8. New Jersey Devils

24 of 31

    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 3.05 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .869

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 84.0 percent

     

    One of the keys to an effective penalty kill are the top defensemen, and you can't do much better than Anton Volchenkov, Bryce Salvador and Andy Greene.

    Of course, those three don't exactly pose much of an offensive threat. The Devils have attempted only eight shots of their own while killing penalties this year, the second lowest in the NHL. Last year they actually led the NHL with 10 shorthanded goals.

    As effective as they've been this year defensively, they were also better in their own end in 2012-13 when they allowed the fewest attempted shots per two minutes in the entire league, with a miserly 2.39. Unfortunately, their .824 shorthanded save percentage was also the league's lowest, negating most of that effectiveness.

    The 2011-12 season provided a glimpse of what New Jersey can do when everything is working at the same time. That year the Devils led the NHL by killing an amazing 89.6 percent of their penalties. With a little bit of luck, they have the skill to do that again this year, too.

     

7. Philadelphia Flyers

25 of 31

    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 2.91 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .885

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 85.3 percent (eighth)

     

    The Philadelphia Flyers have a lot of problems, but the penalty kill isn't one of them. Their penalty-killing percentage is eighth overall this year (85.3 percent) and was fourth best last year (85.9).

    Unlike some other successful teams, Philly's penalty-killing percentage isn't being bloated by red-hot goaltending. The Flyers have allowed the seventh-fewest attempted shots per two minutes this year (2.91) and the fifth-fewest last year (2.73).

    The Flyers have been successful by using their depth of young players up front to prevent opposing power plays from gaining the zone, controlling the play and creating scoring opportunities. Their success when down a man should therefore continue.

     

6. St. Louis Blues

26 of 31

    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 2.91 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .883

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 82.1 percent

     

    Top penalty-killer Jay Bouwmeester, acquired from the Calgary Flames at last year's trade deadline, is joining Alex Pietrangelo and Barret Jackman to form one of the league's best blue-line trios.

    In front of them they have the killer line of Alexander Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie taking two-man turns on the penalty kill, joined by Vladimir Sobotka.

    The Blues have tremendous defensive talent, all of which fully subscribe to Ken Hitchcock's proven system. Expect their success to continue.

     

5. Nashville Predators

27 of 31

    John Russell/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 2.88 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .844 (25th)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 81.5 percent

     

    The Nashville Predators had the second-worst penalty-killing percentage in the league last year at just 75.5 percent, due in part to the second-lowest shorthanded save percentage (.834).

    This year, in contrast, the Predators are practically built for the penalty kill. Paul Gaustad, Nick Spaling and Mike Fisher are now joined by new arrivals Matt Hendricks, Eric Nystrom and Matt Cullen. They're so deep that they're not even using David Legwand to kill penalties any more.

    While their blue line may be suffering in the absence of top penalty-killers like Scott Hannan and Hal Gill, they still have Shea Weber and Kevin Klein, and are quite fortunate that Seth Jones is one of those rare youngsters capable of being used on the top penalty-killing unit in his rookie season.

    When a team posts a dramatic improvement, it's important to dig deeper to see if it's just random variation, or if a team has made specific adjustments in the target area. In the case of the Nashville Predators, their success this year appears to be a result of the latter.

     

     

4. Los Angeles Kings

28 of 31

    Harry How/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 2.69 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .843 (24th)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 81.2 percent

     

    The Los Angeles Kings are currently tied with four other teams for allowing the second-most power-play goals, but don't be fooled: They're good. These goals are the consequence of some bad luck in net and having the second-most penalty minutes to kill (110.1).

    The Kings have one of the most impressive penalty-killing lineups in the NHL. While most of the top teams have three great defensive blueliners, the Kings have four: Willie Mitchell, Drew Doughty, Robyn Regehr and Matt Greene. 

    Up front the Kings have great two-way stars like Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to go with more defensive-focused players like Trevor Lewis and Jarret Stoll. That's a big reason why they're currently tied for the league lead with three shorthanded goals.

    The Kings were fourth in the NHL with a 87.0 penalty-killing percentage in 2011-12. With some improved goaltending, they should climb that high again this year.

     

3. Florida Panthers

29 of 31

    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 2.83 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .866 (22nd)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 78.4 percent (24th)

     

    It's time for another shocker. The Florida Panthers are one of the three best teams in the NHL at preventing power-play scoring opportunities.

    This comes as a huge surprise, given that they had the worst penalty-killing percentage in the league last year at 74.2 percent, and were sixth worst the year before at 79.5 percent. The Panthers are in the same terrible zone again this year. How could they possibly rank in the top three?

    Have you ever heard the expression that your goalie has to be your best penalty killer? Well that's not the case in Florida. They're 22nd in shorthanded save percentage this year (.866), and were 28th last year (.837). It doesn't do any good to limit scoring opportunities when your goalies just let them in anyway.

    Florida is a team of tremendous potential once a small handful of issues are corrected. They made some excellent offseason bargain acquisitions and have over the past several years have quietly complemented their young prospects with some value-priced role players like Mike Weaver and Marcel Goc.

    Florida will rebound, starting with its penalty kill.

     

2. Minnesota Wild

30 of 31

    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 2.69 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .843 (26th)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 78.3 percent (25th)

     

    Second place is also a shocker. The Minnesota Wild are tied with four teams in allowing the second-most power-play goals this season. But that has been despite keeping scoring opportunities to a bare minimum.

    They were just as good last year too, when they allowed just 2.64 attempted shots per two minutes, the third lowest in the league.

    The most effective penalty-killing teams in the league have both versatile defence-focused specialists and star two-way players, and that's certainly the case in Minnesota. Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke can be used to handle some of the dirtier assignments, while Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise are available to pose an offensive threat.

    The blue line features Ryan Suter, one of the league's best defensive defensemen, alongside underrated young talent Jonas Brodin. They are joined by Jared Spurgeon, one of the league's undiscovered gems.

    Given their roster it makes sense that the Minnesota Wild are so effective at preventing opposing power plays from setting up. Now if only the goaltenders could stop the few shots that are getting through.

1. Carolina Hurricanes

31 of 31

    Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

    Attempted Shots Allowed: 2.65 per two minutes

    Save Percentage: .855 (23rd)

    Penalty-Killing Percentage: 82.3 percent

     

    Now for the biggest shock of all, the Carolina Hurricanes have been the most effective team at limiting scoring opportunities when down a man.

    This is a brand-new situation in Carolina; the Hurricanes were downright awful last year, finishing with the third-worst penalty-killing percentage in the league (77.6 percent). They allowed 3.28 attempted shots per two minutes last year, fifth most in the NHL.

    How have they turned things around this season? In large part it was the acquisition of some defensively responsible veterans on the blue line. Even without Tim Gleason and Joni Pitkanen, they have Andrej Sekera and Justin Faulk, followed by Ron Hainsey and the surprising Brett Bellemore, not to mention Mike Komisarek.

    The league's most underrated blue line, together with one of the league's best defensive forwards in Jordan Staal, represent the toughest penalty-killing unit in the NHL today. 

     

     

    All advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted. 

    Rob Vollman is author of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, co-author of the annual Hockey Prospectus guides and a featured ESPN Insider writer. @robvollmanNHL

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices