Yesterday morning, the Rangers signed winger Daniel Paille because, as Alain Vigneault put it, “he is a solid fourth line penalty killer and our penalty kill needs help.” It’s no surprise that the Rangers are struggling on the penalty kill, they 25th in the league with a 78.9% kill rate. This is a huge contrast from last year, when they were 6th in the league at 84.3% efficiency.
The only major difference from last year’s unit to this year’s is that Carl Hagelin is no longer with the team. As the second most used penalty killer, he was extremely efficient with Dominic Moore. They both had a CA/60 in the high-70s, at 76.98 for Moore and 78.60 for Hagelin. Those are excellent shots against rates. They aren’t the only ones to have solid Ca/60 rates on the PK either.
The above is a list of all forwards that played 50 minutes of PK time last year. Moore and Hagelin were clearly the best, but the middle three were posting solid numbers as well.
Compare that to this year’s players who have played 25 minutes of PK time (half a season so far, so half the minutes), and the results are ugly.
This is just terrible. While the Rangers certainly miss Haglein on the penalty kill, his impact wouldn’t have this great of an effect up and down the lineup. The biggest drop-off is Jesper Fast, who is seeing almost 20 more shots per 60 minutes. Dom Moore and Derek Stepan aren’t that far behind either.
Notably absent from this list is Oscar Lindberg, who didn’t qualify because of ice time. He’s under 25 minutes for the season on the PK. His CA/60: 67.81, by far the best on the team. He misses the cutoff by 4:30, so assume five more games and he will qualify for this list. By far their best penalty killer in terms of limiting shots against, not getting significant time.
Those are solid numbers for their top four penalty killers, minimum 100 minutes played on the PK.
Compare that to this year, and it’s a tire fire:
Obviously there is a huge drop-off for Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh here. Marc Staal and Kevin Klein have some drop-off, but it’s nowhere near as extreme. For comparison’s sake, Dylan McIlrath has played just 23:08 of PK time this season, and has a CA/60 of 83.00, the best on the club.
Identifying a cause from these tables is almost impossible. There are just too many factors at play, and they all likely have an impact. Moore is aging, and it’s been clear from the start of the season he isn’t the same. Girardi has been awful. McDonagh not far behind, especially when paired with Girardi. All of the forwards seem lost in coverages, specifically Fast.
The club seems to think Daniel Paille is their penalty kill savior. Last season he played 96:05 on the PK for Boston, putting up a 102.41 CA/60 in those minutes. Even Tanner Glass had better numbers. He’s not the answer.
If I had to take a guess, it’s that the diamond force PK that the Rangers run, which is aggressive by nature, may require too much skating for some players. We’ve established that Girardi has been struggling all year, and a more intensive skating system with fewer players on the ice doesn’t help. Same might be true for Moore. When one player has an issue, it has a ripple effect on everyone else on the ice.
Another aspect is that Alain Vigneault may not be playing his best penalty killers this season. The problem is that his best penalty killers in the past are not his best penalty killers today. There is little logic behind Lindberg getting so few minutes on the penalty kill. Ditto McIlrath.
There are multiple problems with the PK, so there is no “quick fix” so to speak. Playing the right players is a start, but perhaps it’s time to recognize that some of these guys may not be able to keep up in a diamond force PK. If that’s the case, a more conservative hybrid approach may benefit the club. Whatever they choose, they cannot go into the playoffs with a sub-80% penalty kill. It won’t end well."What is actually wrong with the Rangers penalty kill?",