Inside the Numbers
How big has the Penguins play on the penalty kill been? When you break down the Penguins goals against numbers at even strength (5-on-5), it’s been huge.
The Penguins enter Tuesday first in the NHL on the PK at 87.9% and rank 12th in the NHL in goals against at 2.45 per game. Yet, the Penguins are in the bottom-12 in even strength goals against (5-on-5), giving up 93 five-on-five goals, ranking 20th in the NHL.
Last year it was a bit of a reversal for the Penguins. They were 12th in the NHL in giving up 79 five-on-five goals in 48 games but 25th in the NHL on the penalty kill.
The only other team in the bottom-10 (ES Goals Against) that is in a playoff spot right now is the Toronto Maple Leafs who are 22nd in the NHL in giving up 96 five-on-five goals in 51 games. The Leafs, though, are very poor on the penalty kill, 28th in the NHL, and 24th in the NHL in goals against per game at 2.94.
Last season, the New York Islanders, Minnesota Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs were the only teams to be in the bottom-13 in even strength goals against to make the playoffs.
As the league has evolved into more of a game built on size and playing heavy in the offensive zone, being a very good team defensively at even strength has been a telling point to success in the playoffs and most notably winning a Stanley Cup.
The last three Stanley Cup winners have all ranked in the top-5 in even strength goals against during the regular season:
2013: Chicago Blackhawks, 3rd in NHL in ES Goals Against, 71, (5-on-5)
2012: Los Angeles Kings, 2nd in NHL in ES Goals Against, 121, (5-on-5)
2011: Boston Bruins, 2nd in NHL in ES Goals Against, 126, (5-on-5)
With the Penguins about to hit the 50 game mark, this is a possible area of concern for them moving forward.
12 WORST TEAMS DEFENSIVELY AT EVEN STRENGTH/ PK SUCCESS
A lot of the time, if you’re a bad defensive team at even strength, you are normally a poor or mediocre team on the penalty kill. The numbers mostly back that up again this season.
12 WORST TEAMS AT EVEN STRENGTH DEFENSIVELY
Edmonton (121 GA), New York Islanders (110 GA), Nashville Predators (110 GA), Calgary (109 GA), Winnipeg (103 GA), Dallas (100 GA), Florida (98 GA), Ottawa (97 GA) Toronto (96 GA), Washington (94 GA), Pittsburgh (93 GA), Philadelphia (92)
Among the teams in the bottom-12 in even strength goals against, the numbers show that you are likely to be a poor team on the penalty kill, with the exception being the Penguins and a lesser extent the Flyers:
No team in the bottom-12 in even strength goals against, ranks in the top-15 on the penalty kill, except for the Penguins (No. 1) and the Flyers (No. 8).
The penalty kill is a big reason why the Penguins are giving up just 2.45 goals per game, compared to 2.6, 2.7+ per game if they had a middle of the pack PK.