NHL Penalty Kill Extremes: Early Season Trends in 2023

Jonas Brodin leads the Minnesota Wild in shorthanded ice time so far this season.

In the 2023 NHL season, teams are exhibiting extreme variations in their penalty-killing performances. Some are setting records for their efficiency, while others are struggling significantly in this crucial aspect of the game.

Leaders in Penalty Killing

The Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, and Calgary Flames are outperforming the rest by a considerable margin, each with the potential to surpass the NHL’s all-time record for penalty kill efficiency. These teams are showcasing exceptional defensive prowess when playing a man down.

Boston Bruins’ Impressive Form

The Bruins continue their exceptional penalty-killing from last season, currently killing penalties at an astounding 94% success rate, potentially breaking the record set by Peter DeBoer’s 2011-12 New Jersey Devils. Despite being one of the most penalized teams, they have maintained a top-tier penalty kill.

Dallas Stars’ Strategic Excellence

Under Peter DeBoer’s guidance, the Stars are also showing formidable penalty-killing capabilities. They’ve been shorthanded less frequently than the Bruins but have maintained a 92.5% success rate, showcasing tactical efficiency and disciplined play.

Calgary Flames’ Surprising Turnaround

The Flames, while struggling overall defensively, have shined on the penalty kill. With a 90% success rate, they have significantly improved from their performance last season, displaying a newfound resilience under Ryan Huska.

Struggling Teams on Penalty Kills

Conversely, teams like the Minnesota Wild, Edmonton Oilers, and Nashville Predators are facing severe challenges in their penalty-killing efforts, with performances that could lead them towards historically low success rates.

Minnesota Wild’s Unexpected Decline

The Wild, known for their defensive solidity, have unexpectedly fallen to a 66.7% success rate in penalty kills. This dramatic drop-off from last season’s top-10 performance has left them vulnerable, especially with key players missing due to injuries.

Hampus Lindholm and Charlie Coyle

Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators’ Struggles

Both the Oilers and Predators, despite having excellent penalty kills last season, are now facing difficulties, with success rates below 70%. This decline has significantly impacted their overall defensive play.

Analyzing the Penalty Kill Extremes

  • Boston Bruins: Leading with a 94% success rate.
  • Dallas Stars: Not far behind, with a 92.5% success rate.
  • Calgary Flames: Showing remarkable improvement with a 90% success rate.

Teams Struggling in Penalty Kills

  • Minnesota Wild: A surprising drop to a 66.7% success rate.
  • Edmonton Oilers: Struggling at 68.9%.
  • Nashville Predators: Also below par, with a 69.2% success rate.

With more than a third of the league experiencing extreme penalty-killing performances, the question arises whether these trends are sustainable. Historical data from previous seasons suggest that teams may gravitate towards more average performances as the season progresses. However, the early season extremes indicate that teams will need to adapt and adjust their strategies to maintain or improve their penalty kill efficiencies.

Conclusion: The Importance of Penalty Killing in the NHL

The early season trends in penalty killing highlight the importance of this aspect of hockey. Teams with strong penalty kills are enjoying significant advantages, while those struggling are finding themselves at a considerable disadvantage. As the season unfolds, it will be interesting to see if the current leaders can maintain their pace and if the strugglers can find ways to improve their performance in this critical area.

Hockey Expert
reviewed by: Jeremy Karamen (Hockey Expert)

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