A former NHL executive told me a story once about how his team’s powerplay was struggling so much at one point that, for a brief time, when the other team took a penalty, they would take one as soon as their powerplay started. They were better at 4-on-4 so that’s the way they played it. Unorthodox, no doubt but it worked for them until they got things straightened out on the man-advantage. The Philadelphia Flyers might want to heed that advice tonight because their opponent, the Arizona Coyotes, are scoring at a higher rate shorthanded than the Flyers are up a man.
In fact, if the Coyotes penalty kill was a powerplay, it would rank 21st in the league, scoring at a rate of 18.4% – ahead of 10 teams, including their own powerplay (14.7%) and the Flyers’ (14.6%).
Early November is an interesting time of year as there’s enough of a sample size to get a good picture of what’s likely real and what isn’t, however, there are always a few things that can still be filed in the ‘that’s bats*#t crazy’ folder – this is one of them. That’s not to say the Coyotes have been lucky killing penalties – they rank at or near the top of the league in a number of key defensive areas that speak to their 90+% success rate on the PK. Arizona pursues the puck aggressively when down a man, forcing a high number of turnovers in all three zones. Not surprisingly, the Coyotes lead the league in shorthanded scoring chances, averaging 0.4 for every 2 minutes they are shorthanded. Brad Richardson leads the league with 3 shorties and Michael Grabner is right behind him with 2.
Speaking of the ‘bats*#t crazy’ folder, Richardson and Grabner’s expected goals for percentage when killing penalties sits at 37.8%. Keep in mind, this is when their team has one less guy on the ice. That’s a better expected goals for percentage than Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek have managed in 68+ minutes together at even-strength this season (36.2%)!
That said, all you have to do is look at some of the shorthanded goals Arizona has scored to know that there’s no way they will be able to sustain anything close to the amount of offense they’ve produced so far when down a man. This goal ring a bell?
But, the Coyotes are a good penalty killing team and they have speed that gets on you quick. Who knows, maybe the ‘Yotes will score another shortie tonight. Then again, maybe the Flyers will take a quick penalty if they get a powerplay so they don’t have to deal with the hottest PK in the league 🙂
(Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)