The Golden Knights’ penalty kill might be the best in the NHL again. Just not in the traditional sense.
The Knights are only 13th in penalty-kill percentage at 83.3 after leading the league at 86.8 last season. But they’re scoring so much it almost doesn’t matter.
The Knights are first with six short-handed goals and have three in their past two games. Not only are they shutting opponents down but they also are creating opportunities and changing the feeling of games.
“Our penalty kill is something we take for granted that’s going to be good all the time,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “It wasn’t great early this year, but it’s found its rhythm now. We want to win that special teams battle every night. If our penalty killing can shut them down, and we can chip in a power-play goal here or there, it makes a difference.”
The Knights have allowed 11 power-play goals to go with their six short-handed tallies. Their minus-five goal differential on the penalty kill is tied for the best in the NHL with Edmonton and Pittsburgh. Vancouver is last at minus-26.
The reason for their short-handed scoring bonanza is their aggressive approach. The Knights give teams space in the neutral zone on the penalty kill but attempt to deny entries at the blue line. If teams try to pass their way into the offensive zone, there’s a chance of a turnover that can be taken the other way.
The Knights also pressure the puck if opponents gain the zone. Any mistimed pass or fumbled puck can lead to an odd-man rush the other way with their speed, especially if other teams get flat-footed in their setup or push too hard for a scoring chance.
That’s what happened Friday against the Arizona Coyotes. Defenseman Zach Whitecloud swiped a puck loose in the defensive zone, and right wing Reilly Smith recovered it. The Coyotes, looking to attack, had four players below the faceoff dots when possession changed hands.
shorthanded goals — SO in right now 👏 pic.twitter.com/ugkJKKzh4b
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 4, 2021
It led to a two-on-one for Smith and center Chandler Stephenson, and Smith left Stephenson with a wide-open net after a pass across the offensive zone. It was Smith’s third short-handed point of the season. Only six teams have three short-handed goals or more.
“(Smith) made an amazing pass there to (Stephenson),” left wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “It definitely gave us a lot of momentum.”
The scoring streak overshadows the strides the Knights have made preventing chances. They gave up eight power-play goals in their first 13 games but have allowed three in their past 10. They’re 8-for-8 on the penalty kill in their past three games despite facing two of the three best power plays in the league in Edmonton and Anaheim.
They get another challenge Sunday at T-Mobile Arena in Calgary, tied for the fifth-best power play in the league at 25.8 percent.
“For the most part, we’re not really looking for (short-handed goals),” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “We’re looking to kill it. But when the time comes, we have good reads and good sticks, and it allows us to get odd-man rushes. We’ve got a few of those lately.”
Who: Golden Knights vs. Flames
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: T-Mobile Arena
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757)
Radio: KKGK (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
Line: Knights -130; total 5½