We are in the early stages of the 2015-16 season, but one trend that is clearly emerging is the New York Islanders and their ability to kill penalties. It doesn’t matter who has been in net for the Brooklyn team because the three-man triangle and four-man box have been downright surgical.
Special teams percentage really just takes the conversion rate of your team’s power play and penalty kill then adds them together. Anything over 100% is good.
So then there are the Islanders. Their special teams percentage is 120.9%
That is just a ridiculous stat. While the 28.6% power play does not quite lead the league, the 92.3% PK certainly does. We have seen starts like this before from the Blackhawks a couple years ago and the 2012 New Jersey Devils. Both came dangerously close to that magic 90% number. Even the Ottawa Senators did during the shortened year and yet no one has seen it last.
Having a good power play and great penalty kill is like having the best of both worlds. It can make up for so many deficiencies at even strength — whether they be injuries, illness, etc. However, our focus is on the number one ranked Islanders penalty kill.
The Islanders have been on some roll and overall have only given up three power play goals on 39 attempts. Furthermore, they have scored two shorthanded goals. The scary part is this is a team that at times generates more scoring chances on the man disadvantage than their opponents. That translates to about 3.25 penalty kills a game and they have only allowed a goal in about every four contests.
The penalty kill streak has been seen before. As a matter of fact, just in March this was an Islanders team that killed off 22 straight situations over a nine-game span. It starts and ends with goaltending. This quote from March of 2015 really does explain it all.
(Halak) gave us a chance to win again and had some unbelievable stops and some puck luck because a few could have gone either way, but he gave us a chance and that’s why he’s a great goaltender,” Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “He was probably the main reason we won.
Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak have been excellent in net, especially during these situations aside from one game really. The old adage your goalie is your best penalty killer is true.
However, it is more than just the netminder but it is also a mindset of stubborn relentlessness. There was a shorthanded goal on Saturday against New Jersey and honestly every penalty kill the Islanders faced was almost dismissed with ease. Their four man unit led by Frans Nielsen created havoc on the puck all afternoon.
The second goal the Islanders scored was shorthanded and literally the type of pressure they create led to this goal.
The defensive core boxes down on this goal and there isn’t enough appreciation for how good the Islanders do this.
There is a still shot at about 51 seconds in this video that shows how the man disadvantage turns into an advantage for them. It is abundantly clear that New York has New Jersey beat already.
This is how aggressive the Islanders can play because of the confidence brought from a streak like this. We have seen it before but now there seems to be a different look with the team that could potentially be more sustainable than most are thinking.
Watching this game showed a few things. The first is that the Islanders penalty kill is no fluke. They pursue the puck well and if there are any breakdowns, they collapse in front of their goalie well. If that happens to fail, it just seems Halak or Greiss can make that save which used to be so elusive for them on penalty kills.
They kill as a team is cliche but it really is true. As Adam Henrique of the Devils once said to me, “If your goaltender is your best penalty killer, your center has to be the most versatile member of that penalty kill”. Every great team against power plays has had a swift yet cunning center and very good to great goaltending in those situations. The Islanders have the box covered, a great penalty killing center, goalie and defensemen that can rotate enough to pressure teams into bad puck situations.
It is a big reason why the Islanders, despite some bumps, remain a force to be reckoned with in the Metropolitan Division. Can they sustain this? That is always the question early on but they have all the tools to be easily a top three or five kill and maybe even better.