What is actually wrong with the Rangers penalty kill?

J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast
Fast is just one of many struggling penalty killers. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

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.

Player CA/60
Moore 76.98
Hagelin 78.6
Nash 80.87
Stepan 83.44
Fast 84.25
Glass 93.94

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.

Player CA/60
Stalberg 86.80
Nash 91.03
Moore 96.61
Stepan 101.62
Fast 105.24

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.

The problem goes beyond the forwards. The defense on the penalty kill last year was absolutely stellar. Even whipping boys Dan Girardi and Marc Staal were solid PKers:

Player CA/60
Girardi 79.2
McDonagh 80.69
Staal 82.43
Klein 89.75

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:

Player CA/60
Staal 87.13
Klein 93.25
Girardi 96.51
McDonagh 104.95

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?", 5 out of 5 based on 4 ratings.

16 thoughts on “What is actually wrong with the Rangers penalty kill?

  • Jan 22, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    what is basically wrong with penalty kill is they do not have Carl Hagelin his speed attributed them killing the penalty and before that they had Cally there is no speed there and smarts as well

  • Jan 22, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Good article and BTW looks like Paille is scratched tonight so…

  • Jan 22, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Let’s not forget that Zucc is a PK star as well.

  • Jan 22, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Hockey is a young mans game.

    G and stalsie are done. No edge to their game after big contracts.

    • Jan 22, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      The contracts have ZERO, and I mean ZERO, to do with their struggles. It’s the biggest myth in sports that the more a player makes, the less motivated they are. Indeed, the opposite is often true. Younger players in many cases simply lack the mental discipline to know what it takes in terms of preparation to be a quality NHL player. They look to the vets for guidance and to be an example in that area, not the other way around.

      Every September at the start of camp, they put the the players through conditioning testing. Almost invariably, it’s the veterans like Moore who tend to test off the charts much more so than the rookies. Hayes and Etem, by all accounts, did not come to camp in shape. Miller had work ethic issues reported last year. The past two seasons, MSL was widely praised for his insane workout regimen. It makes sense. As you age, you have to work twice as hard to keep up.

      Staal is 29. Girardi is 31. Hardly done. Did it ever occur to you that maybe, they are still recovering from significant off-season ankle surgeries? Maybe that’s the reason they’ve struggled?

      And, while the PK is still a problem, their respective games this past month is definitely rounding into form.

      • Jan 22, 2016 at 2:25 pm

        I think the answer is somewhere in between. Some players are self-motivated (and I can’t believe Girardi isn’t in this group) while others are more influenced by circumstances. Some players will let up after getting a big contract, but most won’t.

        • Jan 22, 2016 at 2:36 pm

          True, Ray. There are always execeptions. I think of a guy like Bobby Bonilla in baseball as an example of a guy who got the big bucks and then seemingly didn’t care.

          Most athletes are incredibly driven and self-motivated. Their professional pride is at stake. Not to mention in hockey, the dream to get your name engraved on the Cup is the ultimate motivator. No chance guys like Girardi and Staal would ever slack off because they’re getting paid well.

  • Jan 22, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    They are not physical enough and chase the puck on the PK. Too many opposition players are left wide open in the slot.

  • Jan 22, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    the problem with our PK is it practices against our PP units 😉 … do the math

    • Jan 22, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      Well done

    • Jan 22, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      Well played.

    • Jan 22, 2016 at 7:31 pm


  • Jan 22, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    If there is one positive sign, the Rangers have dramatically reduced the amount of penalties they have taken, which obviously has helped us durng this recent stretch of improved play.

    But no question, the PK’s ineffectiveness is a huge concern. You can survive with a weak PP in post season. You have no chance if the PK is anything less than excellent.

    Top priority to fix it.

  • Jan 22, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    The Rangers PK is bizarre to watch. They are spread way to wide apart leaving the opposition players wide open. They need to be more compact, keep their sticks active and get in the way of the shooting lanes. The York defenders are cheating- hoping for a fast break, when they should be thinking defence first and preventing shots on goal.

  • Jan 22, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    I agree Walt. Top to bottom the Rangers have been better every game. Possession has improved every game since early December. They have been over 50% every game since 12/11 and every game has improved. I think those numbers are due in part to a slow start to the season.
    I have a feeling that Moore or Fast will be traded and replaced with Paille. Probably Moore since he is the older player. Just a guess. Lindberg will end up taking his place as 4C.

  • Jan 22, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    I’m not really that surprised that Fast’s numbers on the PK are so bad because he looks bad out there on the PK. Lindberg should be out there more on the PK for sure & well I won’t even talk abt McIlrath.

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