In the NHL, a widely used benchmark to measure a franchise’s overall special teams success is the 100% rule. If the success rate of the power play plus the penalty kill adds up to 100% or more, the team is considered to have strong special teams.
After six games in 2022-23, the Golden Knights are currently operating at 86.2%, the 5th worst in the league so far. The power play has scored on four of 23 chances for a success rate of 17.4% while the penalty kill has conceded on five of 16 for a 68.8% PK.
In each of the two losses, the Golden Knights were outscored on special teams leading to the difference in the final score of the game.
Obviously, with the new coach and the small sample size, this is not something to be overly concerned about at this point in the season, but there’s no question it must improve as the year progresses.
We’re definitely not quite where we want to be but we’re trending (in the right direction) I think. -Mark Stone
Our penalty kill has had pockets of really good kills and there are times, including the two losses, where we get outscored, but I don’t want to necessarily blame them. -Bruce Cassidy
The Golden Knights currently rank 27th in the league in penalty kill, and it could be worse if not for a close goalie interference call that erased a goal in Calgary.
Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, and Zach Whitecloud have been VGK’s primary defensemen on the penalty kill. As for the forwards, it’s been a bit more of a mixed bag aside from William Karlsson and Reilly Smith consistently leading the way.
Before the season, Cassidy made it clear that one of his objectives was to utilize his bottom-six players a bit more in the penalty kill to lighten the load on the top-six while also allowing a strong fresh line to hop over the boards when the penalty is killed. Karlsson is currently a 3rd line player, so he qualifies, but Cassidy knows this is still an area he must focus on moving forward.
I would like to build Carrier and Kolesar more into it, but at the end of the day I’ve leaned toward Stone, Jack and Howden a little more. I’ll have to balance that at some point and I believe we will. -Cassidy
The bigger area of attention is the other special team though.
Penalty kill is hard, it’s grunt work, and when it doesn’t go your way you’d like to match it on the power play. -Cassidy
After scoring three PP goals in the first three games, the Golden Knights have added just one in the following three. Along the way, Cassidy made a few changes to the makeup of the units, including a switch of Smith for Marchessault on the first unit. The most significant changes have been seeing Eichel swap from the left to right half-wall and Stone and Stephenson trading places to now see the captain in the bumper.
We’re trying to get guys to take pride in a spot. Whereever I go I’m going to try and help the team win. I think the middle guy, if you take pride in doing it, you’ll get some really quality chances. -Stone
It certainly looked better against Colorado than Calgary. However, the Avs are currently ranked 31st on the PK while the Flames are 9th.
For the head coach, he still wants to see quicker puck movement and a better understanding of how to sort through pressure. Also, he’d like to see an old habit from the last regime worked out as well.
A couple of shots from up top got blocked and we didn’t recover them. If you are going to put those wristers through, you’ve got to make sure you go and recover them. -Cassidy
In the end, the new left half-wall player probably said it simply and best.
A good power play comes down to small execution. -Marchessault
It hasn’t been good enough yet, but there’s still plenty of time to turn it around.