I mentioned at the end of my last post that I am not so optimistic about the Habs penalty killing for the upcoming season. Let me clarify. I don’t necessarily have too many doubts about the effectiveness of the PK units; it’s more the effect it has on the teams overall game. As CoachK points out in his article “How The Penalty Kill Killed The Habs Last Season” the increased time our players such as Plekanec and Gomez spend killing penalties takes away from their offensive production. I pointed out to friends many times last season that although Plekanec is a magnificent penalty killer, his minutes spent on the PK are the difference between him finishing the season with 50-65 pts and 65-80 pts.
Heading into the 2011-2012 season the players on the Canadiens roster poised to get the most minutes on the penalty kill are Plekanec, Gomez, Darche and Moen up front with Markov, Subban, Gill and Gorges patrolling the back end. I’m sure Gionta will get some minutes as well which only makes my point stronger when I say that we need to add at least one established penalty killer to the roster.
Can anyone tell me what was wrong with Jeff Halpern? Aside from being our top faceoff man with a 56.9% success rate (Plekanec and Pyatt were next with 50%) he also logged plenty of pk minutes even potting a shorthanded goal. By letting him go I can only assume that the organization’s plan is to mold Lars Eller into filling that role. This bothers me because I tend to see a lot of potential in Eller to be an effective offensive threat. He has size, a willingness to get to the puck in the dirty areas of the ice and shows flashes of brilliance with his stick work. I personally think it would be a waste to limit him to mostly defensive duties.
Now onto the penalty kill itself. As my father always stresses, the most important penalty killer is your goalie. I don’t feel I need to point out how many penalties Price has killed off on his own with his calm demeanor and unquestionable talent between the pipes.
Next, face-offs. Gaining possession off of faceoff wins during the pk is instrumental in killing precious seconds off the clock on the pk. Last season there were 3 Habs who had a success rate of 50% or higher, 2 of which are no longer on the roster. Without a dominant faceoff man the Habs will find themselves scrambling around in their own zone trying to get the puck in order to kill off penalties. This will lead to the Canadiens using Pleakence in the faceoff circle more often than any other centerman taking away time he should be used at even strength and on the power play.
Roman Hamrlik and Brent Sopel led the Canadiens with 192 and 152 blocked shots respectively during the 2011-2012 campaign, good for 4th and 24th in the entire NHL. Although, these are impressive stats that would help any teams penalty kill I don’t feel there is a big whole left to be filled with the departure of these 2 shot blocking machines. If there is one thing I will never question, it’s the heart of the Montreal Canadiens. I don’t doubt that the players currently wearing the historic “C” on their chest will shy away from oncoming pucks, not as long as Hal Gill (151 blocked shots, 25th in the league) is leading the charge.
With all of that said, I don’t see the Canadiens dropping many spots in the overall standings when it comes to the PK, but as long as we’re tiring our top offensive threats with ice time meant for players with more defined roles and until we acquire someone who can win more face-offs it’s going to hard for our forwards to chalk up more points while playing 5 on 5 or on the man advantage.
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