Killer Penalty Killers

Justin Goldman




A goaltender's ability to kill a penalty is an important part of not only tracking their performances, but quantifying their potential short and long-term success. Within a game, killing a penalty forces a goalie to increase their focus, awareness and timeliness. They also have to exert more energy, deal with more traffic and usually make those extremely tough lateral post-to-post pushes.


Because of these things, we know what kind of influence strong and weak penalty killing has on the outcome of a game. And regardless of how weak or strong the opposition, there's nothing easy about stopping shots a man down. Now that we're ten weeks into the season, this is a good time to look at one of the most revealing goalie stats around – power play save percentage.




I've spoken about this stat many times before, especially during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Stopping pucks when the pressure is high and the scoring chances are at a premium goes a long way in separating the men from the boys. Ultimately, it gives you great insight on a goalie's strengths, weaknesses, mental toughness and future potential as a durable NHL goaltender.


For prospects, killing penalties gives great insight on their current skill level and on a number of key goaltending dynamics. Are they able to track the puck through and around bodies? Do they effectively eliminate space in the corners? How do they handle tips and deflections? Can they battle through traffic and establish a presence in their crease? Are they mentally tough or easily rattled? Can they control rebounds, absorb initial shots from the point and stay square to second and third opportunities? These are all questions that are answered much quicker when a goalie kills a penalty as opposed to normal five-on-five hockey.


And before I dig into some PK stats, I want to discuss the importance of a goalie's hand positioning when killing penalties.


Because goalies dominate shots down low, good hand placement is the true essence of PK success. The most effective hand positioning right now is seen with goalies such as Carey Price, Kari Lehtonen and Pekka Rinne. Their hands are held higher than normal, usually closer to their lower chest then their upper hips, and well out in front of their body. Their blocker arm is tight, but not locked, to their hip and is also held in front of them in order to eliminate time and space on plays right around the net.


If the hands are held too tight and close to the body, a goalie is more likely to get beat over their shoulders, under the crossbar or just inside the posts. When hands are held further ba