Toronto’s Penalty Kill Success – Can It Last?

Updated: January 10, 2018 at 7:06 pm by Derek Zona

Photo by Uwe Kils, via Wikimedia Commons

While the argument in Toronto has centered around shot rates and shooting percentage, there’s another metric to keep your eye on in Toronto – penalty kill percentage.

Two weeks into the season, I touched on the Maple Leafs’ terrible special teams.  Their STE, which has been terrible for six years, looked to be the same old, same old at that point.  But since then, the Leafs’ penalty kill has been on a tear.  Consider that at the time of the initial article the Leafs had killed just 76% of power plays against, an abysmal number, even for them.

With 26 games now in the books, the Leafs have pushed their penalty kill percentage up to 84.3%, good for 8th in the NHL.  Over the last 16 games, the Leafs have killed off 46 of 50 penalties, for an incredible 92% kill rate:

First 10 games 9 33 72.7%
Last 16 games 4 50 92.0%
Season 13 83 84.3%

League average penalty kill percentage is 81.5% with the Bruins leading at 92.3%

Their shots against rates while short-handed have improved slightly, but the primary driver for the heater has been the goaltenders:

First 10 games 9 43 79.1%
Last 16 games 4 64 93.8%
Season 13 107 87.9%

The league average for SH Sv% this season is .862.  While the Leafs are above average for the season, over the last 16 games, their goaltenders are stopping pucks at an incredible rate.  

The Predictive Rankings now have the Leafs in a virtual dead heat with the Devils for 7th place, so their playoff spot seems secure.  But if the Leafs shot metrics catch up to them and the penalty kill slows down, the Leafs could be in for a bumpy ride through the end of April.