It has been an up and down season so far for the Nashville Predators penalty kill but is starting to show gradual improvement thanks to some key players.
Let’s look at some of the players that have contributed on the penalty kill and how this improvement is a big reason why the Nashville Predators have been getting back in the win column on a more regular basis.
Nashville Predators Penalty Killers
The Predators penalty killing units may be one area of this roster that has not changed a whole lot from the beginning of the season.
The addition of Mark Jankowski to the second penalty killing unit after being called up from Milwaukee and the players that got penalty killing time in Ryan McDonagh‘s absence have been the only real changes to these two units.
The first penalty kill unit has been mainly composed of Colton Sissons, Tanner Jeannot, Jeremy Lauzon, and Ryan McDonagh. This unit, with Sissons centering it, has been a pivotal part to the recent successes of the Predators penalty kill.
Sissons’ ability to win the faceoff in the defensive zone against opposition’s top line allows the Predators to clear pucks and burn valuable power play time. It makes it much more difficult for teams to get set up in the zone and pile up the shots.
This unit has accounted for 42 blocked shots while shorthanded, with McDonagh leading the way with 21. Anytime this unit is out on the kill, the coaching staff and the players on the bench, know that they are going to lay it all on the line and sacrifice the body.
Jeannot, for all of his offensive struggles, has been the steady contributors on the first penalty kill unit. He has also considerably cut back on his penalty minutes.
In 2021-22, Jeannot had 130 penalty minutes in 81 games. Nearly halfway to the amount of games he played in his rookie year, Jeannot is on pace for around 40 fewer penalty minutes.
The second unit has consisted of Jankowski, Yakov Trenin, Mattias Ekholm, and Alexandre Carrier. Looking at this unit, the Nashville Predators have two shorthanded goals this season, courtesy of Trenin and Jankowski.
Trenin has arguably been the best penalty killer for the Nashville Predators this season. Every time his skates hit the ice, especially on the penalty kill, he looks like a human wrecking ball.
Trenin battles for the puck all over the ice, breaks up passes, has 10 takeaways, and a goal. He is absolutely relentless and makes it difficult for the opposing team to get their power play organized and get quality shots on goal.
You also can’t forget about the stellar play of Juuse Saros. A locked-in goaltender can be the ultimate weapon for a team’s penalty kill unit.
In Saros’ 64-save performance against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Predators were able to kill off three of the four power plays despite taking five minor penalties.
Nashville Predators PK Stat Tracker
The Predators penalty kill this year has had a hard time finding a rhythm. Going up against some of the NHL’s top power play clubs already this season and the number of penalties that the Predators take are part of the reason for their struggles.
During the month of October, the Predators penalty kill went 28 for 33 for an 84.8% success rate. Although their record of 3-5-1 did not reflect the good play of these units the PK looked pretty good and looked as though they would be strong all season.
Then came November and the first part of December. From November 1st through December 13th the penalty kill struggled badly. This stretch of hockey saw the Predators PK only kill 44 of 58 chances for a 75.9% success rate. In a league where the average is 77.6%, they were playing below average over this stretch of play.
When special teams struggle, the team struggles. While the penalty kill was struggling the Predators went 9-7-2. Even though it doesn’t look bad being a little better than .500, only two of these wins were against teams ranked in the top-10 in the NHL.
On December 15th against Winnepeg, the Predators went 4 for 4 on the penalty kill and while they lost the game, the PK was a positive note for them.
Since that game, the Predators have gone 32 for 37 on the penalty kill. This gives them an 86.5% success rate. If they would have been doing that the whole season they would be in the top-3 in penalty kill in the NHL. However due to the lack luster play for the middle part of the first half they find themselves mired in the middle of the pack ranking 14th at 79.4%.
How Does the Nashville Predators PK Affect the Game?
In the 18 games that the Nashville Predators have won this season the penalty kill has gone 51 for 56 for an outstanding 91.1% success rate.
On the flip side, the 20 games that they have lost, six being in overtime or a shootout, the Predators penalty kill units have only killed 53 of 70 penalties giving them a 75.7% success rate.
This shows us two things. One, if you stay out of the box and take less penalties, you obviously have a better chance at winning the game. The Predators have taken 14 less penalties in the games that they have won than the games they lost.
Number Two, when the penalty kill is clicking, there is a much higher probability that you win the game.
The Predators penalty killers have always been relied on heavily and this season is no different. As long as Assistant Coach Dan Hinote can keep these killers together and keep this current system in place, they will continue to be successful.