It isn’t just a good goaltender that makes for a successful PK. The four skaters on the ice have to be aware and make plays to keep their opponents from getting any shots away.
A successful penalty kill can raise a team’s morale, as it means they’ve stripped their opponents of an excellent goal-scoring opportunity.
As of Nov. 15, 2023, the Boston Bruins have the highest penalty kill (PK) percentage in the NHL with 91.2%. The Dallas Stars (90.2%), Columbus Blue Jackets (89.4%), Calgary Flames (88.0%), and Los Angeles Kings (87.2%) make up the rest of the top five. Each team has killed over 40 penalties this season.
For these to be the top teams in PKs is a bit unusual, as they’re scattered around the standings. The Stars and the Bruins are at the top of their divisions while the Flames and the Blue Jackets are struggling to get points.
The NHL’s top penalty-kill teams are scattered throughout the standings.
Looking at how a team manages its PKs can give insight into the flaws of a struggling team and the merits of a team that’s winning.
The Stars, Bruins, and Kings are all doing well in the league. They all have a goal differential in the positives, with the highest being the Bruins at 21.
Their ability to excel both in PKs and in 5-5 gameplay shows the strengths that the teams have in all facets of the game. This is especially good for the Stars and Kings as they were not in the top five PK percentages over the last few seasons.
The Stars are currently tied with four other teams for the most short-sided goals this season so far with four to their name.
They are not only able to keep pressure off their own goal but put pressure on their opponents’ goals with good results. As the Bruins and Kings don’t have any short-sided goals right now, their priority is keeping their opposition from scoring, something they are succeeding in.
For the Flames and the Blue Jackets, having a high PK percentage is not doing much to help them win games. What it does show is that they have the tools they need to perform well but are struggling to implement them.
Even though they have the second and fourth-best PK percentages, both teams have goal differentials in the negatives. The defense seems to be holding things afloat as both the Flames and Blue Jackets are having to battle for goals.
The Flames, like the Stars, have been able to use PKs to their advantage and score short-handed. They have two short-sided goals so far and, as they attempted multiple shots on the Montreal Canadiens during PKs on Nov. 14, they may continue to add to that number.
The Blue Jackets haven’t scored any goals during PKs but that hasn’t affected their incredible performance during them.
The rankings for PK percentages change with each game. One goal scored during a power play can drop a team from the top five while one PK can raise another. The teams that do the best in a PK situation are the ones who can protect their goalie from having to make save after save.
While the teams in the top five all have goalies who can hold their own, the players need to stick together and work with each other to keep the power play from succeeding.
The Bruins, Blue Jackets, Stars, Flames, and Kings have all demonstrated that ability so far in the season. Whether that continues or not is yet to be seen.