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PENALTY KILL

I sent a tweet with this video last week that got a huge reaction from the hockey community…with youth coaches all the way up to professional coaches reaching out to me about it.  Turns out, there are a ton of little things going on with this clip from a coach’s eye, and a lot of differing opinions on how to approach the play!

Background: In the clip, New Jersey is on the Power Play and Palmieri shoots it wide.  The puck rolls around to the point where Butcher gathers it.  Janmark, the penalty killer from Dallas, comes out in Butcher’s lane…and this is where it gets interesting.  Let’s break it down:

My initial reaction to seeing this clip had me yelling “Goooo!!” at Janmark.  Butcher got the puck in a compromising position, closed off at the corner of the blueline.  I thought it was the perfect situation to be aggressive and try to engage Butcher.  By using his stick from the inside out forcing Butcher on his backhand towards the wall, I think it was a situation Janmark could have caused a turnover.  But as I say that, here are some things to consider:

1.I love an aggressive penalty kill, so MY mind naturally goes there.  Offensive players want time and space and I don’t believe that the penalty kill is a time to back off completely when there are opportunities to anticipate and jump.  I want to try and force the offensive players on the PP out of their comfort zone by challenging them aggressively, rather than allow them to feel comfortable by passive penalty killing.

2. With that, I have yet to coach in the NHL…where players can burn you by making plays with the littlest of time and space.  If Janmark goes hard (or any penalty killer) rushes out to the wall, naturally it opens up space in the middle of the ice.  Butcher certainly has the ability to make a little play to Hischier as the bumper or Hall on the half-wall, and then NJ can have numbers going down to attack the net.  And looking at Janmark’s stick positioning it’s very possible that Dallas’ prescout read – “GET A STICK IN HALL’S PASSING LANE!” After all, he is the reigning Hart Trophy winner.

3. Going along with this, I think that the Dallas strong-side defenseman can anticipate a play down to Hall more aggressively (instead of stopping). When Butcher gets the puck initially, he has limited options with little space (especially if Janmark jumps). The other forward has Hischier covered up in the middle, and I think the Dallas defenseman should have jumped up on Hall.  If both he and Janmark were aggressive, I think they would have created the turnover.

4. The PK has to be about anticipation.  I’ve watched a lot of NHL video and the best teams on the PK last year were ones that anticipated bobbled pucks, 50/50 battles, and were on their toes ready to attack in any uncomfortable situation for a PP player.  Yes, they got burned occasionally.  But teams at the top of the league in PK percentage I thought played much more aggressively than many of the other teams in the league.

5. In this instance, I think Janmark should have anticipated and gone hard on Butcher and the strong-side Dman should have anticipated towards Hall.  Since they were passive, it allowed Butcher to take the puck to his forehand and pass it right in Palmieri’s wheelhouse (who is ON FIRE right now).  Klingberg wasn’t in the shot lane, and it was GAME-OVER from there.

I love how one simple play can garner so much debate and an uber-detailed breakdown.  Twitter only allows so many characters, so we thought it would be cool to give you a really thorough breakdown.  Hope you liked it!