Friday, October 19, 2007

Impact of Special Teams Play

It was great to see the Isles get a win on the road vs. the Caps, considering the relatively long layoff since their previous game in Philly. After getting off to a very slow start, they began to get their legs back under them midway through the first period and dominated the majority of play from that point forward. With only two games in the next 13 days, the team's ability to get going early is going to be particularly important.

The aspect of last night's game (and really the whole season thus far) that took precedence for me was the special teams play. I know it's still early, but the team's success on the PP and PK is what is giving me the greatest confidence that we can sustain success for the season.

As of today, our penalty kill is ranked fourth in the league. We've killed off 90% of our penalties overall - 18 of 19 at home (95%) and 18 of 21 on the road (86%). Whether fairly or not, the Isles seem to get called for a disproportionate number of penalties - we are currently seventh is the league in terms of times shorthanded - so dominance on the PK becomes even more critical. Beyond the numbers, I've been very impressed thus far with the aggressiveness and positioning of our PK'ers. Beyond the usual suspects (Witt, Sutton) we have a lot of guys that are willing to sacrifice their body to keep the puck from reaching the net. And speaking of the net, your goaltender always has to be your best penalty killer, and DP has been great so far.

On the flip side, our power play is now ranked third in the league at 25.8%. Unlike the PK, at this point the team is doing a far better job on the road (7 of 17) than at home (1 of 14). Berard has clearly had an impact on the PP, and so far he's not been a liability in 5-on-5 situations (unlike "healthy scratch" MAB). Under the direction of Coach Gallant, the team worked extensively on the PP during camp. Honestly, I can't define exactly what is different from last year, but the results have been impressive so far.

I hate to trend out early season performance (did anyone else have them at 82-0 after they swept Buffalo in the home-and-home to start the year?) but continued success on special teams will certainly go a long way to ensuring a return to the post-season.


Anonymous said...

...and another PP goal tonight against the Devils. What has to worry you is the team's terrible 5 on 5 goal ratio, which ranks almost at the bottom of the league. Special teams keeping them in the hunt early on which is good but they have to get better at 5 on 5.

Mike Carey said...

It's a complete role reversal from last season, when they were great 5-on-5 but couldn't get much going on the PP. It'll be nice if they can put it all together. Hopefully this schedule won't hurt them too much, with so much downtime between games.