Yesterday I showed off one play featuring new Toronto Maple Leafs third-or-fourth-line centreman Jay McClement killing a penalty and how Colorado used him to be one of the more effective PK units in the NHL last season.
Officially, the Avalanche were 12th in PK success rate. They were 11th, however, in goals against per 60 minutes at 4-on-5 and 4th in the NHL in shots against. In the same categories, Toronto were 28th, 25th and 18th. There’s lots the Leafs can take away from the way the Avs killed penalties.
It may start with personnel, it may not. All I know is that in the games I watched to get a feel for how the Leafs killed penalties, their clears were usually followed by one guy making a timid play into the offensive zone with no real forechecking pressure. The team would try to trap the opposing team on entry, a play that seldom worked.
Here’s something I liked out of McClement’s game. Not only does he do a very effective job at tying up sticks and leaving the puck for teammates, but look how often he gets up ice after a face-off.
These are all from the same game. In this first frame, McClement ties up Evgeni Malkin after taking the draw and it skirts free to Daniel Winnik:
You can see just seconds later, Winnik and McClement have forced a defensive zone face-off:
Later in the game McClement ties up his man again, and the puck goes free for Winnik to pick up:
Winnik didn’t see him coming forward and dumped it in, you can still see McClement hustle up ice to apply forecheck pressure:
Another Avalanche PK in that game. A scrum ensues off a face-off, McClement calmly tips it to the side boards where Winnick is there to pick it up:
After exchanging the puck at centre, here’s McClement gaining the zone flanked by Winnik:
Final example, this time, Malkin decides to push the puck forward rather than trying to win it back. Defenceman Jan Hejda beats James Neal to the puck and fires it up the boards:
Winnik and McClement are there to apply pressure again, gaining an entry in the first few seconds of a powerplay:
Generally it’s accepted that a standard clear takes :20 off the penalty clock. Forcing the puck in deep and applying an effective forecheck can take a few extra seconds off. Without a large amount of data, there isn’t a direct measure of how many goals this prevented from going into the Avalanche net, but having a good centreman who can think in both directions is obviously pretty key to having a good penalty kill.
This is also only one game, but it was a game where McClement, and the Avs’ PK unit, was very effective.