The Penguins’ mindset when it comes to killing penalties is pretty simple.
“For us, it’s all about the next kill and the next time over the boards,” head coach Dan Bylsma said.
But for now, let’s take a look at the last time over the boards. Or in this case, the last 25 times over the boards – which is the number of times the Penguins have been shorthanded during their seven postseason games.
Pittsburgh has surrendered just two power-play goals over that span for a 92-percent success rate. That’s an impressive accomplishment considering that their opening-round opponent – the NY Islanders – had the 10th (tied) ranked power play in the NHL during the season.
“We’re putting a few kills together,” said Craig Adams, who leads the team with 3:47 shorthanded minutes per game. “A lot of that is getting good goaltending and some good bounces. We’re starting to get into a little bit of a rhythm.”
Over the past three seasons, the Penguins boasted one of the NHL’s best PK units. In 2010-11 they killed 86.1 percent of penalties to rank first in the league. In 2011-12 the Penguins had an 87.8-success rate, ranking third in the NHL and setting a new franchise record for kill percentage.
But in 2012-13 the Penguins killed only 79.6 percent of penalties, ranking 25th in the league. Part of the struggles were losing former PK stalwarts Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek, as well as new players trying to fit in. Brandon Sutter, Tanner Glass and Douglas Murray all are new additions for the PK and it took them time to adjust.
“During the regular season it wasn’t how we wanted it to go, but we worked on things throughout the year,” Sutter said. “We had a few new guys this year, including myself, that had to get used to the way to play it. We’ve done a good job.”
Also the Penguins percentage suffered because of the shortened season. Pittsburgh gave up power-play goals early in the year so the percentage suffered. And with 34 less games played than a normal 82-game season, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to raise that number.
“We didn’t have a very good start to the season,” Adams explained. “After that the stats were, I don’t want to say misleading, we’d go four or five games in a row where we did a really good job. Then we’d go 0-for-4. You’re never going to recover from that in a short season statistically. I felt it coming around. It’s been building all year.”
The Penguins held the high-flying Islanders to just two man-advantage goals in six games, and followed that series up with a 5-for-5 effort in Game 1 against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night.
“Special teams are always big in the playoffs,” Adams said. “Our penalty kill was big for us last series and big again (in Game 1). It doesn’t mean that will happen in Game 2, but that’s what we’ll try for.”
“Our goalies are making timely saves and we’re just doing a better job of getting pucks and rebounds out of the way,” Sutter said. “Staying out of the box is the first goal, but when we do get in trouble we find ways to get ourselves out of it.”