|The power play booms while the PK busts. (Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)|
As the Pittsburgh Penguins sit 51 games played into the 82 game season, let's take a look at the state of the their special teams this season so far.
Record wise, the Pens sit in 3rd place in the Metro; behind the Washington Capitals (78pts) and tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets (71pts). Both the Pens and the Blue Jackets have two games in hand over the Caps.
As the Metro is the league's strongest division, the Pens are ranked 4th overall when looking at the league as a whole. The Minnesota Wild (72pts) have a one point advantage over both the Pens and the Blue Jackets, all three having played the same number of games.
Power Play - GOOD
The power play has played a large role in the team's success this season. The Pens rank 6nd in the league in power play opportunities (176), but rank 2nd in power play goals scored (40 goals). The Tampa Bay Lightning lead the league with 42 goals on the power play, but have had 21 more opportunities than the Pens.
Percentage wise, the Pens rank 3rd; converting power plays at 22.7%. The Blue Jackets (24.3%) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (23.4%) have slightly higher conversion rates.
Pittsburgh's power play conversion rate is their franchise best since '13-'14 when they converted at a rate of 23.4%, and 3rd best in the last 20 years. The '12-'13 team converted at a rate of 24.7% - incredibly almost one out of every four chances.
Penalty Kill - BAD
As for the penalty kill, Pittsburgh has taken the 12th most penalties in the league at 170. They have allowed 36 power play goals, ranking them 8th in the league. Percentage wise, this places the Pens PK 24th in the league with a 78.8% kill rate. This is tied for their 2nd worst kill rate ('05-'06) in the last 20 years and just slightly better than their worse kill rate (77.2%) in '03-'04, just before the lockout season
The teams currently with a worse PK percentage this season are some of the worst teams in the league, including Colorado (77.9%), Arizona (77.1%), Winnipeg & Chicago (76.4%), Buffalo (73.9%) and Dallas (71.3%). The Blackhawks are the only team among this group that has a decent record, with 69 points in 54 games.
While the lines have been fairly fluid over the past few games, players like Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin, Chris Kunitz and Eric Fehr all play major PK roles. Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley and even Carl Hagelin have had time on the PK, often because of injury. Whether it is worked out through different scheming, more practice time, or a trade at the deadline; the Pens PK is currently a glaring weakness to be addressed as the team heads towards the postseason.