The New York Rangers are firing on all cylinders. They are beating playoff teams, repeatedly coming back to win games that they trail and look to be a favorite for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. There’s only one problem area and that is the penalty kill.
All season long, the PK has been a Rangers’ strength, but recently they have been surrendering power play goals at an uncomfortable rate.
So far this season they have killed off 156 of 194 penalties for a success rate of 80.4%. That’s good for 13th best in the NHL, nothing to sniff at, but they have dropped out of the top ten over the last few weeks. Let’s take a look at the numbers this season.
The Rangers got off to a lousy start on the penalty kill in their first two games, surrendering four power play goals the first eight times shorthanded. They then went on an amazing roll, with one of the best penalty kills in the NHL, until early this month.
In the 13 games since March 6 they have been scored on 12 times in 38 times shorthanded. Take out those 15 games and the Rangers have killed off 126 of 148 penalties, a success rate of 85.1%, a number that would put them in the top three in the NHL.
So, the Blueshirts had one of the best penalty kills in the NHL for 20 weeks, another reason the team is in the top three in the NHL in allowing only 2.59 goals per game. It’s really been a decline over the last three weeks that has hurt their numbers.
What’s happening and should we be worried?
The simple answer is no. There a few reasons right off the bat. First, Kevin Rooney has been out since March 2 with an upper body injury. When he was injured the Rangers penalty kill had killed 127 of 153 penalties for a 83% success rate.
Without Rooney, they have killed 29 of 41 or 70.7%. It’s easy to see that we have underestimated Kevin Rooney’s impact on the penalty kill and replacing him with a combination of Greg McKegg and Jonny Brodzinski didn’t make up for his absence.
Another reason is the penalty kill has a radically new look since the arrival of Tyler Motte and Andrew Copp, players who slotted right into the penalty kill as soon as they arrived. The PK has struggled since they arrived and some of that has to be the result of integrating new penalty killers into the mix.
The biggest reason
The adage is that a team’s best penalty killer is the goalie and with the New York Rangers that is definitely true. Here are the numbers (successful penalty kills vs total times shorthanded) for the four Ranger goalies this season:
Igor Shesterkin: 108-126 85.7%
Alexandar Georgiev: 42-61 68.6%
Keith Kinkaid: 2-2 100%
Adam Huska: 4-5 80%
This is not a Georgiev bashing exercise, but he hasn’t done very well when the Rangers are shorthanded. While Shesterkin has allowed 18 power play goals in 44 games, Georgiev has allowed 19 power play goals in 28 games.
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Expected Goals For on the penalty kill when Shesterkin was in net was 26.77. So, he has allowed 18 goals when the opposition was expected to score 27.
The Expected Goals For when Georgiev was in net was 12.06 and he allowed 19.
How good is Shesterkin on the penalty kill? Among the 56 goalies with 75 minutes TOI on the penalty kill, his Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) is the best in the league at 12.39.
Georgiev’s is second worst in the NHL at -6.54 (55th out of 56 netminders).
Shesterkin’s high danger save percentage is 88%, fourth best in the NHL and the best for any of the 13 goalies with over 200 minutes killing penalties. Georgiev’s is 65%, third from the bottom.
It’s shown over the last few games with Georgiev allowing four power play goals the last five time shorthanded. Shesterkin has stopped seven of the last nine power plays.
Sure, the players in front of the goalie play a huge role in the success of the penalty kill, but there are deficiencies when Georgiev is in net and it’s affecting the overall penalty killing.
Kevin Rooney should be back soon and the PK, bolstered by his return and the addition of Motte and Copp and with Shesterkin in net should be formidable once the playoffs begin. It’s just another strength for this resilient Rangers team. So, don’t worry.