Prior to the 2008-2009 season, Craig MacTavish was an outstanding penalty kill coach. His teams were regularly top 10 teams, even though they lacked high-end goaltending and defense. He relied on three pairs of forwards and they were aggressive and quick to change, and did much of the dirty work for MacT's excellent units. Last year, the wheels came off. The penalty kill's effectiveness was non-existant and MacTavish began using some unusual pairings up front.
With a new coaching duo at the helm, it's expected that the penalty kill will be under the guiding hand of Tom Renney. Let's take a look inside the numbers of Renney's penalty kill.
Renney's system incorporates five defensemen and three pairs of forwards, though he has relied heavily on one centerman to do the work in the faceoff circle over the last three years -- Blair Betts. Renney's success has been previously tied to Henrik Lundqvist and as the chart below demonstrates, Lundqvist was quite good on the penalty kill.
Renney's penalty kill with the Rangers from 2005-2009 was never ranked lower than 12th and the short-handed save percentage was never lower than .866, with a high of .908 last year, when the Rangers penalty kill was 1st in the league.
|Year||PK Rank||Pk Pct.||SHSvPct.|
Craig MacTavish's penalty kill from 2006-2008 was never lower than 8th and his success was ascribed to his strategy and tactics. Typically, the narrative goes that the Oilers have had subpar goaltending rescued by MacTavish's system.
|Year||PK Rank||Pk Pct.||SH SvPct.|
Nikolai Khabibulin has had a rough go of it since signing with the Blackhawks as demonstrated below by his short-handed save percentage. The notion that he suffered at the hands of an inferior team has been circulated since coming to Edmonton, however, in the four years he spent in Chicago, he was outplayed behind the same penalty kill by Brian Boucher, Cristobal Huet and Craig Anderson. His highest short-handed save percentage during the last four years was .877.
Tom Renney will work with a weaker goaltender this year on the penalty kill. How much of his penalty kill wizardry is Tom Renney and how much of it is Henrik Lundqvist? This year should tell. Should he turn the Oilers back into a top 10 penalty kill with Khabibulin in net, he'll get much-deserved accolades. Should Khabibulin post a .880 save percentage or better, Renney should again get credit. If not, the fingers will point back at Lundqvist and the shine will be off of the crown.