Who are the Canucks early penalty killing leaders?

-Why is Andrew Alberts at the forefront in this article about Canucks penalty killing?
(via Richard Lam/Getty)

The Canucks penalty kill allowed two goals last night to Chicago, but otherwise they have been pretty solid since a rough beginning. Much of it is thanks to Roberto Luongo regressing out of his sub-.800 penalty kill save percentage funk, and the team is now a respectable 12th place in traditional penalty kill statistics, killing off 84.4% of man advantages.

So, I have good news and bad news about the Canucks penalty kill. The good news is that, it’s regressed, the Canucks are allowing fewer and fewer goals with a man down, but the bad news is, it’s also kind of regressed too much. Since luck plays a very important role in exactly how many goals a team allows (penalty killing save percentage is almost never repeatable) statisticians like to track how many shots a team allowed on the penalty kill.

For Vancouver, they’ve allowed 54.6 shots per 60 minutes on the penalty kill, or 1.82 per two minutes. That is good for 22nd in the entire National Hockey League, better than just Calgary in the Northwest Division.

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The charts that I’m about to show you here reflect how each player (the top six in PK minutes for both forwards and defense) has done individually on the penalty kill. They shot how many goals and shots a player has allowed against per two minutes on the ice, the goaltender’s save percentage and also, ranks the quality of competition a player faces, sorted by Corsi Rel QoC, which is crude, but gives us a general picture of the type of player a player has faced a man down:

First, the forwards: 

NAME MIN Goals/2 Shots/2 SV% QualComp
Maxim Lapierre 1.93 0.16 1.52 0.893 5
Alex Burrows 1.84 0.19 1.66 0.885 3
Chris Higgins 1.71 0.25 1.72 0.857 2
Ryan Kesler 1.97 0.15 1.74 0.917 4
TEAM 6.50 0.19 1.82 0.894  
Jannik Hansen 2.36 0.22 1.92 0.884 1
Manny Malhotra 2.78 0.19 2.01 0.906


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(Data grabbed from the wonderful BehindTheNet.ca)

Maxim Lapierre has been the Canucks best penalty killer as far as shot prevention goes (while Ryan Kesler has allowed the fewest goals, although he’s gotten very luck) while, overall, Chris Higgins is the one who fights off the best competition with the greatest amount of success. Higgins, however, doesn’t seem to get the amount of PK time that Manny Malhotra has, who appears to be struggling against pretty weak competition. He’s allowed more than a shot per minute so far.

I’ve also written about his struggles at even strength, so maybe there is something to this whole eye-injury business, because he has clearly not been the same player. That’s a huge loss for the Canucks if his play continues, and I’d like to see them limit his minutes in the next while to see if his play improves.

Now, the defensemen: 

NAME TOI/60 Goals/2 Shots/2 Save% QualComp
Andrew Alberts 1.71 0.00 1.30 1.000 1
Alexander Edler 2.50 0.08 1.43 0.941 5
Sami Salo 2.34 0.21 1.71 0.875 2
Kevin Bieksa 2.84 0.22 1.81 0.877 3
TEAM 6.50 0.19 1.82 0.894  
Dan Hamhuis 3.24 0.23 1.91 0.881 4
Keith Ballard 1.19 0.27 2.40 0.889 6

I’ll admit I did a double-take when I saw this and checked the numbers again. Andrew Alberts? Really? Why doesn’t he play the PK more? He’s played nine games and just over 15 minutes at 4-on-5, and still hasn’t allowed a goal against, but not only that, has kept his shot count unbelievably low. It’s true. Search his name here and you’ll find it. What’s amazing is that he’s also been out against tough competition (what?) and still hasn’t been broken.

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So, how does that happen? If Andrew Alberts is such a bad defenseman, why do teams have so little success against him on the penalty kill? So, while Keith Ballard’s injury sustained last night may put Alberts in the lineup, the Canucks are actually improving their penalty kill. That’s just amazing to me.

Sami Salo and Alex Edler are also two guys who have had success, while Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa soak up a lot of minutes and therefore their stats probably contribute more to the team average than anybody else. This calls for an improvement on their part.

What else is interesting about the defense is that the goals against statistic mirrors the shots against statistic perfectly for defensemen. Thus concludes our in-depth look on the penalty-killers after 19 games. We’ll take a look at the powerplay tomorrow, and check in with the special teams at major junctures in the season.