Killing off penalties key to NHL betting

By: Barry Daniels | Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Pittsburgh Penguins top the NHL with the most penalty minutes.

Identifying which teams spend an exorbitant amount of time in the penalty box and which are adroit at killing penalties are two important ingredients bettors use when handicapping hockey games.

Ironically, the Pittsburgh Penguins top both lists.

Pittsburgh is just five points behind the first-place Philadelphia Flyers in the Atlantic Division despite leading the league with 1,122 penalty minutes through its first 59 games.

Fortunately for the Penguins, they also lead the league by successfully killing 87.6 percent of the opposition’s power play. The Penguins are ranked 13th on their own power play with an 18.3 percent success rate.

The Nashville Predators are utilizing the league’s second-best penalty killing unit to their advantage. The Preds are in second place in the Central Division thanks to fighting off 86.3 percent of their opponent’s power play opportunities.

A proficient penalty killing unit isn’t that imperative for the Predators, as they have accumulated just 519 penalty minutes through their first 58 games. That is the 28th fewest penalty minutes in the league.

The Florida Panthers are sitting in the Southeast Division basement, but it isn’t due to their penalty killing unit. The Panthers own the league’s third best mark when they are shorthanded with an 85.9 percent success rate.

It also helps that the Panthers have just 474 penalty minutes through their first 57 games, which is the fewest in the league. Florida is next-to-last on its own power play, connecting on just 13.5 percent of its opportunities.

The Washington Capitals are fourth in killing penalties with an 85.5 percent success rate, which has surely helped their ninth-ranked defense. The Caps have amassed 703 penalty minutes, which is 16th fewest in the league.

Prior to the season, experts predicted the Caps would enjoy one of the league’s most proficient power play units. That has yet to come to fruition, as the Caps rank a poor 23rd with the man advantage at 16.5 percent.

The league-leading Vancouver Canucks round out the top-five best penalty killing units. Vancouver is tops in the league defensively (2.3 GPG) thanks largely to a penalty killing unit that is enjoying an 85.3 percent success rate.

Vancouver also ranks first on its own power play by connecting on 25.2 percent of its chances with the man advantage. Reinforcing the theory that little things win hockey games, the Canucks are also first in the faceoff circle with a 55.4 percent success rate.

The other end of the spectrum finds the Edmonton Oilers with the poorest penalty killing unit at 75.5 percent. The leaky defense has much to do with the Oilers owning the fewest points (44) in the NHL. It also hasn’t helped that the Oilers have collected the third-most penalty minutes in the league at 870.

Edmonton also ranks last on its own power play, connecting on just 11.8 percent of its chances with the man advantage.

Atlanta has killed off 76.5 percent of its penalties, which is the league’s 29th poorest mark. The Thrashers have been whistled for 647 penalty minutes through their first 59 encounters (23rd).

Toronto and Colorado round out the league’s top-four poorest penalty killing units. The Maple Leafs have a 77.8 percent success rate while shorthanded, with the Avs close behind at 78.0 percent.

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