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Penalty Kill Success In Playoffs Set Up To Continue Into 2020-21 Regular Season

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Every time a coach gets fired special teams seem to be a focal point in evaluating the transition from one coach to the next. The move to go from Gerard Gallant to Pete DeBoer was no different in Vegas.

After the disastrous #NotAMajor penalty kill that ended the 2018-19 season, Gallant’s Golden Knights struggled on the penalty kill in 2019-20 which, at least in small, part led to his release. Vegas killed at just 78.9%, good for 19th in the NHL. When DeBoer came in, the system completely changed, and the results got even worse as the players tried to adapt on the fly. DeBoer’s VGK ended the regular season killing at a miserable 70.7%, worse than all but two teams in the league in that span.

Enter a global pandemic, the pause, the pre-playoff training camp, and a playoff run to the Western Conference Final, and the VGK PK turned elite. The Golden Knights killed at an 85.5% rate in the playoffs, by far the best penalty kill numbers the team has seen in a complete regular or post season.

If the Golden Knights continue to succeed at that rate while playing a man (or two) down, that alone would justify the coaching change. It seems unrealistic, but history shows us that it is possible. Over the past decade, 25 teams have killed at a rate of 85.5% or higher for a full season, including five who did it in the 48-game 2012-12 season.

The Golden Knights return each of their top seven skaters in shorthanded minutes from the dominant penalty-killing postseason. The only main player Vegas is losing is Nate Schmidt, who averaged about 90 seconds a game on the kill, but he’s being replaced with Alex Pietrangelo who should easily be able to fill that void.

Plus, the setup for this season bodes well for DeBoer’s pressure penalty kill. Not only does he get another training camp to further implement the system, but they only have to scout seven opponents as opposed to the normal 30. The decrease in number of unique opponents will allow the coaching staff to hone in on tendencies that should assist the penalty kill even more.

Also, the teams in the division don’t exactly boast electric power plays. Anaheim, LA, and San Jose each finished in the bottom 10 in the NHL last year, while Colorado and Arizona were both below the league average. St. Louis’ was elite, finishing 3rd in the NHL, but their leader in power play points just so happens to be on the Golden Knights now. (Minnesota was decent finishing 10th.)

The shorter the season, the more important a role special teams plays in any team’s success. The Golden Knights stack up well against the division at 5-on-5, but power play and special teams numbers could be the great equalizer. The Vegas power play needs work from last season, but if the penalty kill can continue the success they had in the bubble, this team should be in for a pretty dominant season.


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  1. James s. hadfield

    well for those of us who like to wager or the politer term “sports invest” I thought that this was very insiteful! (and i am appreciative) I was surprised that gallant got the early axe, especially after bringing an expansion team from Vegas to the finals their first year ( nothing fishy there!) but this article kinda gave one reason for it. love hockey glad to have it back and will keep in mind Vegas as a cup threat. I still think ( know) they definitely Coulda done better naming the team and the hokey logo though! Vegas chips, desert deal, jackpotters! anything but some medieval moniker c’mon. would love to make it out there again to watch OVIE wreak his havoc. peace

  2. James s. hadfield

    moderation? don’t you mean censorship or editing.

  3. DOC

    By the grace of the Gods and my lucky stars, I’m still kicking.

    It’s been right at 100 days since I last posted here. Not much has changed. Still have a number of whiners, complainers and just crazy comments here. But I am determined to grit my teeth and ignor all that.

    I will concentrate on those that coment with sane, positive thoughts and back the Knights as TRUE fans do. It is a miricle to me to still be here and get to root the Knights on to another shot at the cup! It should be a very interesting new season. Getting to play all our Div teams 8 times. Wow!

    My hopes are that we back our coach, our players and especially whomever is in goal on any given night! We need everyone to play well. Just one thing left to say:


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