Penalty kill expectations


Digging through Arizona’s on-ice results with Dave Tippett behind the bench, I was expecting, and really hoping, that his special teams numbers would have been average-to-good – especially the penalty kill. The Oilers have had dreadful results shorthanded, and it’s an area that will have to improve if the team wants to compete for a playoff spot.

Unfortunately, the penalty kill results over the course of eight seasons under Tippett were poor. Only twice did the Coyotes post a goals-against rate that ranked in the top ten league wide – 2009/10 and 2011/12. And those were largely due to outstanding goaltending performances from Ilya Bryzgalov as the club ranked near the bottom of the league when it came to the rate of unblocked shot attempts against (i.e., Fenwick, a proxy for scoring chances) and shots-on-goal against. Six of the eight seasons, the Coyotes would rank near the bottom of the league when it came to the rate of goals against.

Below is a summary of the Coyotes penalty kill, including goals, Fenwick and shots. Included is the team’s ranking in the league.

Season Goals against/60 Fenwick Against/60 Shots against/60
2009/10 5.66 – 6th 77.51 – 24th 54.51 – 19th
2010/11 8.12 – 26th 89.35 – 30th 63.84 – 30th
2011/12 5.2 – 8th 79.6 – 29th 55.62 – 27th
2012/13 7.53 – 22nd 70.24 – 20th 49.63 – 19th
2013/14 7.73 – 27th 77.97 – 22nd 57.36 – 21st
2014/15 8.42 – 29th 86.39 – 30th 62.69 – 30th
2015/16 8.09 – 28th 71.9 – 10th 50.79 – 12th
2016/17 8.29 – 26th 80.98 – 27th 53.84 – 16th

While the coach can’t control the goalies performance on the penalty kill, they do have a big impact on the structure to prevent the rate of shots and scoring chances against. Coaches are significant drivers on special teams, and their influence can be detected using the shot-based metrics.

And that’s what I found surprising looking at the Coyotes’ numbers. I had thought the penalty kill results (i.e., goals against) were driven by poor goaltending. But looking at the shot metrics, it appears the team did a poor job preventing scoring chances and shots against. The Coyotes were regularly allowing a higher than normal rate of shots, making me wonder what exactly the Coyotes coaching staff was thinking when assessing their results and making adjustments. They had eight seasons to correct things, so it’s a little concerning that they weren’t only bad league-wide, but consistently bad.

I’m doubtful that it was a lack of talent that drove these results – the Coyotes had the “grit” and role players that often find success shorthanded. So I’d really be curious to know what information Tippett and his staff were looking at over those years and how they came to decisions regarding tactics and deployment. It’ll be interesting to see how Tippett fills out his coaching staff this off-season, and what he has in store for the penalty kill.

Data: Natural Stat Trick

6 thoughts on “Penalty kill expectations

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