For a majority of last season, the Hurricanes were spectacular in shorthanded play. Through December of 2016, Carolina had given up only seven goals when down a man. With tepid goaltending and the departure of Ron Hainsey and Viktor Stalberg, the penalty-kill faltered down the stretch. However, the team still managed to finish sixth in the league at 84.2 percent.
Of course, the easiest way to kill a penalty is to not take one. Carolina proved to be the most disciplined team in 2016-17 —only taking 225 trips to the sin bin for an average of under six penalty minutes a game. Chicago, the second most disciplined team, took 253 penalties.
The team sported a 36.3 corsi-for percentage and generated ten short-handed goals, good for second and tied for fifth in the league, respectively.
Being an elite penalty killing unit is nothing new for the Canes. Since Steve Smith was hired in June of 2014, the Carolina PK has ranked second in the league at 84.4 percent. During that same span, Carolina has the best faceoff win percentage (53.2%) which is undoubtedly a factor in the penalty kill’s success.
It’s totally reasonable to believe this year’s unit could build upon last season’s momentum and sport the league’s best PK. Marcus Kruger, who played 156 shorthanded minutes with Chicago in 2016, will prove to be an instant upgrade over Jay McClement. Bringing in Josh Jooris washes out the loss of Viktor Stalberg. Trevor Van Riemsdyk and average-to-above-average goaltending from Scott Darling will also help tremendously.
Even with these additions, Carolina will still count on Jaccob Slavin to be backbone of the kill. The Colorado native played the fifth most shorthanded minutes in the in the league last season and was second in takeaways with 83. He will be paired with Carolina’s other experienced PKers Jordan Staal, Brett Pesce, and Joakim Nordstrom.
Given offseason improvements and the continual growth of the young core, the Hurricanes will ice the best penalty killing unit in the league in 2017-18 campaign. Book it.