Nugent-Hopkins on the Penalty Kill

Over the two seasons with Todd McLellan and his coaching staff behind the bench, the Oilers penalty kill remains pretty average. In the 2016/17 regular season, the Oilers finished 16th overall when it came to goals against/60 with 6.38, a slight improvement from the year prior when they finished 19th in the league with 6.53 goals against/60.

Looking at the rate of unblocked shot attempts against (i.e., Fenwick), which can tell us if a team’s penalty kill success is sustainable or not, the Oilers finished 15th in the league with 74.0 events against per hour in 2016/17. A lot of the Oilers success shorthanded has been thanks in large part to their goaltending, which for two years in a row now has been just above league average.

Season Goals Against/60 Fenwick Against/60 Save%
2015/16 6.53 (19th) 75.5 (23rd) 87.7 (13th)
2016/17 6.38 (16th) 74.0 (15th) 87.7 (14th)

Related: The Oilers Penalty Kill is Killing Penalties Again (2017, March 31)

Something that stands out when you dig into the most recent season is how poorly Ryan Nugent-Hopkins performed when the team was shorthanded. After six NHL seasons, and 395 regular season games, he’s developed a reputation as being a responsible centerman and capable of taking on tougher match-ups. He’s a smart, skilled player, skates well and does a great job of stripping the puck away from opponents, all of which should make him an ideal option when the team is shorthanded. So it’s surprising to see that when Nugent-Hopkins was on the ice this season on the penalty kill, the rate of unblocked shots actually increased considerably.

Below are the Oiler forwards who played at least 40 minutes shorthanded (4v5) this past season and their rate of unblocked shot attempts relative to the team average.

EDM - 4v5 - RelTM - Forwards

Here we see that when Nugent-Hopkins was on the ice, the rate of unblocked shot attempts was 82.19 per hour, and 13.42 higher than the team average. To put things into perspective, the worst team at suppressing shots against when shorthanded was Buffalo (90.4 per hour), followed by Arizona (81.9 per hour). And among the 101 NHL forwards who played at least 100 minutes shorthanded (4v5) this past season, Nugent-Hopkins had one of the worst rates of shot attempts against, relative to team average (97th out of 101).

What’s worth noting here is that heading into the 2016/17 season, Nugent-Hopkins had some decent success shorthanded. He didn’t get tasked with killing penalties until his third season, as the Oilers had experienced centermen like Shawn Horcoff, Eric Belaner and Boyd Gordon as regular options. But over the three seasons prior to 2016/17, he’d been pretty reliable when it came to suppressing unblocked shot attempts against.

Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

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