At some point you knew the Pittsburgh Penguins were going to allow their opponents to score a power play goal. It was inevitable. It finally happened in the third period of Sunday’s 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils, snapping an incredible PK streak that went on for more than a month.
That streak has not only helped give the Penguins what is, by far, the best PK unit in the league, it has been a big part of their recent 12-2-1 stretch over the past 15 games that has put them right back in the middle of the race for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
Now that the PK streak has officially ended and they look to start a new streak, let us take a look back at some numbers from the past month for that unit. Its performance was every bit as good as the numbers might make it sound.
- The streak covered 16 games, starting with the November 16 game against the Buffalo Sabres and continuing into the third period of Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
- In total the Penguins successfully killed off 39 consecutive penalties during the streak. Nathan Bastian’s deflection of a Dougie Hamilton shot on Sunday during a Mike Matheson penalty would have extended the streak to 40 consecutive penalties.
- When the streak began the Penguins’ PK unit was seventh in the league at 86.1 percent. As of Sunday, it jumped to first in the league at 92.1 percent, making them just one of two teams at the moment to have a mark higher than 86 percent (Carolina is second in the league at 88.7 percent).
- But it is not just the fact they did not allow goals. This was not the case of goaltending carrying it (though that certainly did help). The Penguins have been legitimately great at not allowing teams to generate chances or shots.
- Since the streak started the Penguins have allowed just 67 total shot attempts per 60 minutes of PK time. That is the second best mark in the league.
- They allowed 34.7 shots on goal per 60 minutes, also second best in the league.
- Their 4.35 expected goals against per 60 minutes is, you guessed it, also second best in the league.
- Their 34.0 scoring chances against per 60 minutes is third best.
- Their 13.4 high-danger scoring chances against per 60 minutes is also third best.
- They have a .977 save percentage since the streak began (Jarry allowing just that one goal on Sunday evening) which is obviously the best mark in the league.
- Thanks to Teddy Blueger’s shorthanded goal on Sunday, that means when the Penguins have been shorthanded over the past month they have played teams to a 1-1 tie on the scoreboard, which is an insane statistic.
Beyond the overall numbers and the goaltending effort, it has been a total team effort. The Penguins have used 19 different players for at least one shift on the PK since November 15, including seven different players that logged at least 20 total minutes: John Marino, Brian Dumoulin, Brock McGinn, Teddy Blueger, Chad Ruhwedel, Zach Aston-Reese, and Kris Letang.
Marino, Dumoulin, McGinn, and Blueger all have logged at least 34 minutes of shorthanded ice time since then. Of the 157 players that logged at least 25 minutes of shorthanded ice-time since November 15, the Penguins have three of the top-20 players in terms of suppressing opponents shot attempts, including the BEST player in the league during that time, Chad Ruhwedel, who has been on the ice for just 49.97 total shot attempts against per 60 minutes. That is not only the best mark in the league during that stretch, it is the best mark by a fairly significant margin (the next lowest number is Carolina Hurricanes forward Jesper Fast at 53.7 shot attempts against per 60 minutes.
Even more impressive, is that Ruhwedel has been the most efficient penalty killer in the NHL during that stretch, being on the ice for the fewest total shot attempts against, shots on goal against, expected goals against, scoring chances against, and high-danger changes against per 60 minutes. He leads the league in ALL of those categories on the PK over the past month.
It is still an incredible turnaround for this group given how much they struggled a year ago. Give a lot of credit to the goaltending, but also give it a lot of credit to the skaters in front of them for absolutely dominating in those minutes.