The Toronto Maple Leafs penalty kill over the last five seasons, for lack of a better term, has been absolutely brutal. Every possible stone has been overturned: the system is bad, the personnel is bad, so what is there left to change?
So, this, naturally, popped up over at Arctice Ice Hockey:
Quoth James Mirtle: “It’s comical at this point how poor the Leafs PK continues to be. I don’t even know what more there is to write on it after three years.”


Toronto’s Save % at 4-on-5:
2007-08: 855 (28th)
2008-09: 824 (30th)
2009-10: 848 (28th)
2010-11: 835 (30th)
2011-12: 829 (28th)
Are the Toronto Maple Leafs a statistical anomaly? Has Toronto suffered through bad save percentage on their penalty kill because they’ve employed terrible goaltenders? That can’t really be right, since Jonathan Willis looked at the numbers and found that goalies saw little year-to-year correlation in their penalty-killing save percentages.
So maybe there is an ability for teams to control shot quality. After all, it would explain how lousy Toronto is. I, in turn, mined up all the data I could find over at Behind The Net to see if I could prove that good team save percentages or shooting percentages were sustainable.
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And I failed.
However, let’s step back for a minute. Let’s look at the top worst team save percentages on the PK in the last few years:


The 2009 Toronto Maple Leafs, proprietors of three of the ten worst goalitender save percentages since the Behind The Net era began back in the 2007-2008 season. But they are also the only team among them who appear on the list twice.
Worth noting, however, that the ’11 Avalanche, ’10 Islanders, ’09 Red Wings and ’09 Thrashers all changed their goaltenders the following season. The Leafs have as well, but they inexplicably kept riding Jonas Gustavsson and Vesa Toskala when it was apparent that they weren’t NHL-material.
Here are the ten best:


Again… no goalie appears on the list twice, however now, it appears that specialty teams favour the goaltenders the more recent the years get. Eight of the ten best goalies are from the two most recent seasons of the four we have available. However this could also be because there are fewer called penalties , which meant there was more time for teams to regress in the 2008 season.
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In case you’re wondering, the correlation co-efficient from one year to the next over the last four years has been .015. There just isn’t enough evidence to prove that at the NHL level, teams can consistently perform better or worse than the median as far as preventing quality shots goes.
As for shooting percentages, well, I found the same thing, The year-to-year correlation for shot percentage at the team level was .087, so while there may be a bit of repeatable ability there, the outliers simply don’t repeat the following season(the co-efficient for shots rates at the team level is .301, so it’s a much better predictor of future success).
I did a little experiment. While adding team shooting and save percentages at even strength is a good way to figure out a team’s luck, I also added a team’s powerplay shooting percentage to its penalty killing save percentage. That number, which I’m calling ST PDO (special team’s PDO), is pretty much total guesswork:
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If special team success was a repeatable skill for a team, how come no team keeps doing what they’re doing when they have a high ST PDO? Why didn’t the 2010 Minnesota Wild or Philadelphia Flyers keep doing what made them successful? Those team went from 5th and 9th in their conferences to 7th and 12th, respectively.
Again, though, the only team that is consistently low on the chart are the Maple Leafs, who don’t have a goaltender. New Jersey and Colorado aren’t there for repeating years and made coaching changes since those days.
These are the total outliers. The majority of teams had years fall between 97% and 103% on ST PDO. I just included the teams that saw a large percentage. Big swings in ST PDO were able to influence the standings. The 2009 Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens saw big dips in the standings after seeing big swings in ST PDO, while the two biggest risers in four years were enough to give the 2011 Vancouver Canucks the President’s Trophy and the 2010 Phoenix Coyotes a playoff appearance after being 13th a season before.
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So I checked the ST PDO for this season. Two notes:
  1. The Vancouver Canucks are still extremely successful, so draw whatever conclusions you want to from that.
  2. That said, so are New York’s and Boston’s, who had respective ST PDOs last season of 98.5% and 100.5%, so who knows if they’ve actually changed anything.
Here’s a chart with all the special team’s ST PDO for this season:


The Canucks, Bruins and Rangers are pulling away in goal differential this season from much of the pack, although, scary thought, so is Detroit, who are getting below-the-norm goaltending at 4v5. San Jose is also a sleeping giant here, who are low in both categories on specialty teams.
Also, as far as the Leafs are concerned, the reason they aren’t feeling the effects of their horrible penalty kill this year is because they also sport the highest team shooting percentage in 5v4 situations. If the Leafs problems are goaltending-based, that’s another huge anvil for Toronto as we head forward.
Anyway, we had 6 teams last year outside the 97-103% range, and we have 17 through mid-December this season. Certainly there are still some teams who have room to rise and fall.
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So, this was a failed attempt to “prove” that teams could continue to shoot or save at high rates over the course of seasons. Any additional commentary or thoughts are welcomed.
YEAR
TEAM
Sv%
2009
TOR
82.3%
2009
DAL
83.2%
2011
TOR
83.5%
2011
COL
83.7%
2010
NYI
84.3%
2009
PHX
84.3%
2010
NSH
84.6%
2009
DET
84.6%
2010
TOR
84.7%
2009
ATL
84.8%
YEAR
TEAM
Sv%
2009
MIN
93.3%
2009
NYR
92.0%
2011
FLA
91.6%
2010
STL
91.5%
2010
BUF
91.3%
2010
BOS
90.9%
2011
VAN
90.6%
2011
OTT
90.6%
2010
PHX
90.5%
2011
MTL
90.3%
YEAR
TEAM
ST PDO
2009
MIN
107.5%
2011
VAN
107.2%
2009
PHI
107.1%
2008
EDM
104.5%
2008
MTL
104.5%
2010
STL
103.7%
2009
WSH
103.7%
2008
PHI
103.6%
2011
OTT
103.4%
2010
BUF
103.4%
2008
MIN
103.3%
2009
S.J
103.3%
2010
CHI
103.1%
2011
MTL
103.0%
YEAR
TEAM
ST PDO
2010
TOR
93.8%
2009
DAL
93.9%
2009
TOR
94.3%
2010
NYI
94.3%
2010
NSH
94.5%
2009
PHX
95.4%
2011
COL
95.5%
2009
N.J
95.6%
2011
TOR
95.7%
2011
CBJ
95.8%
2011
N.J
95.9%
2010
DAL
96.4%
2008
ATL
96.4%
2009
COL
96.7%
TEAM
ST PDO
5v4 SH
4v5 SV
VAN
107.1%
16.1%
91.0%
NYR
105.9%
14.6%
91.3%
BOS
105.6%
14.5%
91.1%
N.J
104.5%
9.8%
94.8%
ANA
103.4%
11.9%
91.5%
EDM
103.4%
15.6%
87.9%
PIT
103.0%
12.4%
90.6%
TOR
102.4%
19.6%
82.9%
NSH
102.4%
13.3%
89.1%
FLA
102.3%
12.2%
90.1%
MIN
102.2%
11.0%
91.2%
CGY
101.8%
12.8%
88.9%
ATL
101.8%
13.0%
88.8%
L.A
101.7%
9.6%
92.2%
NYI
100.6%
13.1%
87.5%
OTT
100.5%
13.5%
87.0%
BUF
100.4%
10.9%
89.5%
DAL
100.3%
13.0%
87.2%
PHI
99.4%
15.3%
84.1%
PHX
99.2%
8.2%
91.0%
T.B
98.1%
11.7%
86.5%
WSH
97.9%
11.0%
86.8%
DET
97.7%
11.8%
85.9%
CHI
97.5%
11.1%
86.4%
STL
96.0%
9.7%
86.3%
CAR
95.9%
9.6%
86.3%
MTL
95.6%
6.4%
89.2%
COL
95.1%
13.1%
82.0%
S.J
93.5%
7.8%
85.7%
CBJ
85.3%
6.8%
78.5%