Friday, March 7, 2008

Death by PK

If Guy Carbonneau and his staff are making a list of things to improve before the playoffs start, I hope it begins and ends with the penalty kill. Because, honestly, the PK is killing the Habs.

Take the last game against the Sharks. Sharks of course won, 6-4. The difference was the two PP goals given up by the Habs, with no goals for in the special teams department. Which proves a great PK will defeat a great PP, and when it comes down to it, the teams with the better PKs will win playoff series. NHL stats today say the Canadiens' PK is ranked 26th in the league, with a less-than-stellar 80.2%. Or, as I'm sure Carbonneau refers to it, fourth last.

Maybe it's an Eastern Conference thing. The Buffalo Sabres are the top PK team in the east, tied for eighth place with Detroit with an 83.8 success rate. Which means more than half the teams in the west are as good or better on the PK than every single team in the east. The tight defensive style most western teams play, including on the PK, is one reason why every pundit out there expects whatever team wins the east to be anihilated in the Stanley Cup finals.

While some of us would like to think the PKs in the east are so mediocre because they have to face the Habs' PP multiple times a year (ha ha!), the fact remains that the Canadiens need to improve that aspect of their game if they expect to make a serious playoff run. So the question becomes, how do they do that?

I think part of the reason they suffer on the penalty kill is that they're not aggressive enough on the puck carrier. We often see them succeed at retrieving and clearing dump-ins, and turning back opposing attempts to penetrate the defensive zone. But once the other team sets up, it seems as though it's only a matter of time before they score. The Canadiens are working the four-man box properly, but they don't press the puck carrier or move out of the box to block passing lanes like they did when things were clicking along last year. It's obviously not a coaching issue, because if I can see this problem, you can be damn sure the coaching staff...defensive icons all...can see it too. So, it comes down to personnel.

There's a guy at the university of New Brunswick who's collected stats on how many goals against various forward and defensive pairings allow per minute of PK time. Those stats show the best penalty killers at forward, and the most-often used, are Plekanec and Kovalev, with a stellar 3.7 goals allowed for every sixty minutes they play shorthanded. Compare that with the "defensive" forwards Begin and Smolinski, who allow 12.7 goals for every sixty minutes they play on the PK. Interestingly, Francis Bouillon is the best defenceman on the penalty kill, on the ice for 5.9 goals against for every sixty shorthanded minutes.

The problem, of course, is that Kovalev and Plekanec can't play entire PKs when they're also playing a regular shift and on the power play. Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre show some promise as a PK pair, allowing 4.8 goals against per sixty minutes shorthanded. But they've been used only a third of the amount of time as have Smolinski and Begin.

So, perhaps it's time for Carbonneau and his staff to take a close look at who's on the ice for PP goals against, and try the guys who have the better averages at preventing those goals. Because it's easy to play opponents who can't stop the number one PP in the league, which offsets one of the worst PKs on most nights. But when the Canadiens try to compete with teams who can shut down the PP, that porous penalty kill is going to be the death of them.

Written by J.T.


Habs said...

Since you guys started this site, I havent seen ONE positive thing from Mike L. Are you even a Habs fan?

Cant you be happy that were in first?

All you do is try and figure out new was for Carbo, Jarvis and Muller to fix the team. Is there anything broken? So what the PK is hurting us a little bit, it can be fixed, nothing major to think about.

I think our main concern should be faceoffs, were doing prety horribly in that department.

Mike L said...

I am very happy. We have 5 writers on this blog and In order to appeal to all readers we try and talk about different things. If we were to all write about how well the habs were doing then everything would just be redundant and not interesting for the readers. It is because of this that I don't focus my blogs about the wins although I am extremely happy about them.

I think it is important that we constantly examine the team and look at ways to make them better. The only way for top teams to remain at the top is to make minor adjustments that make them better. It is because of that, that I am critical of the flaws that we have.

The team is doing great right now but there will always be flaws. If we can fix some of them then why not?

This article was focusing on our chances in the playoffs and how our team would realistically do in them. If you compare the eastern teams to the west you will notice that the western teams are allot more physical. That will cause our players to take stupid penalties because they are not used to that style. If we can not contain the opposing teams power play, we will let in a lot of unnecessary goals. That is all I was pointing out.
While face-offs is a major problem with the habs right now, I don’t believe that we can fix that right away. Excelling in face-offs takes a lot of practice and right now we don’t have the time to do that. I think that penalty killing is something that Jarvis and Carbo excelled in and we should be and could be doing a lot better. We have the basics already but a little adjustment would help us drastically.

Anyways, I hope that this helped.

Mike L said...

I made a list of the posts I’ve put up. As you can see they are not all negative, rather they are more positive than negative.

- Not What We Ordered
- Death by PK
- Habs have Best Fans in the League
- Our Impact Player
- So much for the Experts
- The Second Season?
- What If?
- What Goes on in the Mind of a Genius?
- Next Up >>>>>> Kovalchuk and The Thrashers
- One Mans Opinion
- Foppa to the Rescue
- What Happened Last Night?
- Next Up ---> Nash and the Blue Jackets
- Trade Rumors

HabsFan said...

I've noticed that as well, compared to last year when we would constantly pressure the player with the puck, this year we sit back and try to tke aways the passing lanes. Its almost as if the players are afraid to get out of position if the other team gets around them. Its funny, im always screaming at my tv "PRESSSURE HIM!!!" We desperately need to work on the pk if we want to compete with the teams from the west.