Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The PK is far from OK

Jets continue a long legacy of penalty-kill suicide

  • Print

OTTAWA -- Given all their challenges in trying to improve, this may not have been a high-priority issue but it's not out of character.

The Winnipeg Jets and the Atlanta Thrashers before them have almost always had problems killing penalties.

So this year's start by the Jets, ranked at the bottom of the 30-team NHL in that category with a success rate of just 63.6 per cent (21 for 33) is again in the dreadful range. But it's the neighbourhood in which the team has resided for most of its 12 previous seasons.

Only once in that time has the franchise ever cracked the top 10 in NHL penalty killing, and in 10 of the 12 years, including last season's move to Winnipeg, the team was ranked 23rd or worse.

Bad luck doesn't usually last that long.

-- -- --

The seriousness of this season's penalty-killing predicament was deepened with last week's road trip in which eight power-play goals were surrendered in 16 chances over three games.

If Winnipeg were to kill its next 20 short-handed situations -- bordering on a small miracle -- its percentage would come up to 77, still in the NHL's bottom half and still three points below the league average.

So what has been wrong, is wrong, with the Jets/Thrashers? And how are they looking to improve?

Well, as you might expect, it's a touchy subject, given that four of the team's five losses so far this season can be directly pinned on a lack of penalty-killing success.

Jets head coach Claude Noel and assistant coach and special-teams specialist Perry Pearn both declined this week to take questions on the matter, in particular what they think makes a good penalty-killer.

-- -- --

Can what happened five or 10 years ago to the Thrashers still be relevant today?

Coming out of the lockout, a member of the Thrashers of 2005-06 said he really couldn't pinpoint why the team gave up a whopping 102 power-play goals that season.

J.P. Vigier was a regular on the Thrashers' penalty-killing unit for a good part of that season.

"I'm not sure I have an answer for that," Vigier said. "It's such a tough scenario. It could be a rut, bad bounces, a bad spell. There are so many things that go into it so it's really hard to explain why it's been so long that way. I wouldn't be able to put my finger on that."

The search for explanations to the prolonged poor performance likely has something to do with franchise success.

The Jets/Thrashers have but one playoff appearance to their credit in a dozen seasons.

Last season, just to review, Winnipeg was in fairly decent shape in the penalty-killing deparment halfway through 2011-12, right around the middle of the pack at 82.7 per cent and slightly better than the NHL average.

But a second-half swoon sent the Jets diving down to 24th place, finishing at 80.1 per cent.

They gave up 58 power-play goals on the season, more than double the total of the league leaders in New Jersey, who yielded just 27 over the whole year.

This season, many things have gone wrong, from goaltending to bad bounces to bad penalties to bad decisions to a rash of five-on-threes against.

And it hasn't helped that the team's most-used player on the penalty-kill from a year ago, defenceman Zach Bogosian, hasn't played a minute yet this season because of a wrist injury.

-- -- --

So what do the Jets do to reverse history?

One man with ample experience in this area says many things are required.

Jacques Martin, the long-time NHL coach known to stress the defensive end of the game, said this week he didn't have enough background to comment specifically on the Jets/Thrashers years of struggles in penalty killing.

But he knows what teams should and must do if they want to succeed in this area.

"Well, goaltending is a big part of penalty-killing no matter what you say," Martin told the Free Press.

"The other areas? I would include aggressiveness. You've got to be willing to commit to blocking shots and being in the shooting lanes. To me, that's such a key, having proper lineups and being willing to block shots."

But it's not all just about a defender sacrificing his body, Martin said.

"To be all on the same page, all of the penalty-killers, that's knowing when to be aggressive and when you are, you all have to be," Martin said. "Many times then, if you can outnumber the opposition on loose pucks, or at least keep the numbers the same and win the battle and have good support, that makes your penalty killers very successful."

Another element to good teams in this area is they have good skaters who can be a disruption to teams coming up the ice, or to teams trying to enter the zone to set up the attack.

"A lot of teams line up three across, trying to make it difficult to enter," Martin said. "If you can't be penetrated with puck control, then you can look at overloading one side where the dump-in goes.

"But there are many things that go together, and they include players good at stops and starts, players with good sticks. And the goalie to make saves."

-- -- --

The Jets will try to get going in the right direction today in Ottawa against the Senators.

Martin said he has confidence the Jets' penalty-killing will get better because they have made an excellent hire in assistant coach Perry Pearn.

"Perry's one of the best I ever worked with," Martin said. "It's going to come around."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

A legacy of failure

Jets/Thrashers penalty-killing history:

 

         GP GA Att. PK% Rank

11-12 82 58 292 80.1 24th

10-11 82 64 285 77.5 27th

09-10 82 57 320 82.2 16th

08-09 82 88 366 76.0 29th

07-08 82 75 354 78.8 27th

06-07 82 79 391 79.8 T-26th

05-06 82 102 491 79.2 T-25th

03-04 82 58 391 85.1 T-8th

02-03 82 65 355 81.6 T-23rd

01-02 82 65 358 81.8 25th

00-01 82 90 408 77.9 30th

99-00 82 76 386 80.3 24th

(GP- games played; GA-power-play goals against; Att-times shorthanded)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 9, 2013 C3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Key of Bart - Evil Las Vegas

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.
  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(Standup photo)- Humming Around- A female ruby -throated hummingbird fly's through the bee bomb  flowers Friday at the Assiniboine Park English Garden- Nectar from flowers are their main source of food. Hummingbirds wings can beat as fast as 75x times second. Better get a glimpse of them soon the birds fly far south for the winter - from Mexico to South America- JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Sept 10, 2009

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How many wins do you think the Bombers will finish with this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google