The 3-1-1 record that the Winnipeg Jets had earlier this week is a distant memory, following the recent three-game road trip that saw regulation losses to the Montreal Canadiens, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite averaging three goals per game on the trip, the Jets averaged six goals against, culminating in the 8-3 destruction at the hands of the Lightning. It wasn't a pretty sight.
But perhaps the most alarming thing that arose out of the trip was the Penalty Kill, or the lack thereof. The Jets gave up 8 PP goals in the three games, including two game-winners in the 3rd period, and had their PK percentage drop to a league worst 59.3%.
That's right. 59.3%.
Despite giving up the 5th-least amount of PP opportunities with only 27 through 8 games, the Jets have given up the most PP goals against in the league with 11 (tied with the Flyers and the Red Wings). Eight of those have come in the last three games. And that doesn't count Tampa Bay's 4th goal the other night, when Evander Kane had just stepped on the ice before Cory Conacher potted his 5th of the year.
To give some perspective about just how bad the Jets' PK is right now, let's have a look at the history books. Our good friend Gabe Desjardins (@behindthenet) wrote about the worst penalty-killing teams in history a few years ago when the Toronto Maple Leafs were also sucking at killing penalties, so I thought I'd borrow from his post and apply it to the Jets this year. Note that the NHL didn't begin tracking PK percentages until 1963-64. Below is a list of the lowest penalty-kill success rates in history, and where the Jets currently sit.
|1979-80||Los Angeles Kings||67.7|
|1982-83||Los Angeles Kings||68.24|
|1981-82||Los Angeles Kings||71.29|
|1985-86||Los Angeles Kings||71.7|
Only two teams have finished a season with a PK percentage below 70%. We are currently below 60%, and over 8% behind the worst PK of all-time. This could be history in the making, folks.
So why is this happening? There are a few potential reasons, so let's discuss.
1. Goaltending - Ondrej Pavelec was absolute garbage this past week, as he allowed all 8 of those powerplay goals and now features the 53rd best PK save percentage in the league at 0.714. He's allowed 10 goals on 35 power-play shots, whereas Devan Dubnyk of the Oilers has allowed 5 goals on 68 shots. He also now has an overall save percetage of 0.888, which has undone all of his good work to start the season. Now, I'll be the first to admit that a few of those goals were unlucky as I recall at least two that went in off of defender's skates. But I also recall three or four wide open looks that went right through him. Our "MVP" from last year must take his share of blame for this.
2. Defence - Our best defender, Zach Bogosian, has missed all season so far and is still a few weeks away. Add in to that that Dustin Byfuglien has missed the last two games as well and we are suddenly short two top-4 defenseman. Obviously that will affect a team's ability to kill penalties, but the bottom line is that good teams find a way to kill penalties. Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey, Mark Stuart, Grant Clitsome and Zach Redmond are obviously trying their best, but right now their best isn't good enough. But this is also on the forwards too, as the collective PK unit needs to take their share of blame as well.
3. Perry Pearn - To be fair, assistant coach Pearn was brought in during the offseason and didn't have much of a training camp or any pre-season to implement his systems. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now, but I'm really hoping the problems aren't systemic. As an FYI, the 2011-12 Montreal Canadiens was 2nd-best in the league at 88.6%, though he was removed halfway through the season...
4. Sample Size - "But Ryan, we are only 8 games into the season! Give it time and things will even out!" I suppose that could be true, but how much time is needed? In this shortened 48 game season, the Jets have already played 1/6th of their games. This entire season is a small sample size. While one good week of penalty killing will certainly raise the PK percentage, what will another bad week do? I do hope that some good play and some puck luck will help raise the numbers to a more acceptable level, but recall that last season that their PK was ranked 24th overall (albeit with an 80.1% percentage). And in order to get their PK% back to 70%, they need to kill the next 11 penalties in a row. After watching the last three games, I don't see that happening.
At the end of the day, I suppose that all four of the above reasons are playing a role in these pathetic numbers. Luckily, the Jets have only allowed 2 PP goals against at home this season, which is where they play 5 of their next 6 games. Also, the team hasn't played since last Friday and don't play until tomorrow, so a few good days of rest and practice might help. But this is something to keep your eye on for the rest of the year, as a team that can't kill penalties won't host many playoff games, either.