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Hockey Analytics

Hockey Analytics: Power Kill Revisited

by Gus Katsaros
Updated On: April 22, 2021, 11:09 am ET

Toronto’s Adam Brooks scored shorthanded against the Vancouver Canucks in game action Tuesday night for the Leafs third of the season. Montreal and Boston lead the NHL with eight shorthanded goals each. Anyone paying attention to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron recognize that Boston is deadly down a player.

For the Leafs, a team that regularly throws Mitch Marner over the boards to kill the initial part of a penalty, three goals seems awfully low. T.J. Brodie leads the NHL with on-ice high danger scoring chances for (13). Another Leafs is setting the bar for offensive ability while killing a penalty.

The Power Kill! The term coined by Mike Pfeil has a background here. From an older post:

Studying the Flames penalty killing has been Mike Pfeil, who’s project spawned a presentation at the Seattle Hockey Analytics Conference. He gave way to the term ‘Power Kill’ during the conference and it’s stuck as a method of generating offense from the penalty kill. Power killing involves consistent counterattacks with purpose, be it shot generation or time management. Using turnovers and loose pucks to take advantage of getting up ice for an offensive opportunity is more beneficial than simply dumping a puck down the ice only give the opposition the chance to regroup. Good defense is what leads to this, too.

 

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In 2019-20, four players scored four shorthanded goals, Sebastian Aho, Kevin Hayes, Vladislav Namestnikov and Chris Tierney.

So far in 2020-21, excluding games played on Tuesday night, Cam Atkinson has four, and four completely different players than those named above have three, Brad Marchand, Pavel Buchnevich, Patrice Bergeron and Connor Brown.

Diversity among players among the top offensive producers while shorthanded year over year is a small indication of the breadth the idea of adopting the power kill has taken a foothold in the league.

Expanded benefits exist on power play zone entries using the drop pass in the neutral zone – a personal pet peeve. Static mobility along the offensive blueline, thwarting a zone entry sends the play back in transition against what could be a forward playing defense with the four forward formation most power play units have adopted, or players just trying to catch up to a streaking penalty killer.

Both exploitable situations for a talented penalty killer.

WED

21-Apr

6:00 PM

9:30 PM

NHL

Predators at Blackhawks

WED

21-Apr

9:30 PM

12:30 AM

NHL

Sharks at Golden Knights

 

Power Kill poster boy, Brad Marchand, has made a living shorthanded, with 20 goals since the season following the last lockout, 2013-14. His teammate Patrice Bergeron ranks up there with 12. Blue Jackets Cam Atkinson with 13 scored four shorthanded goals in 2018-19, and shows that even with a staunch defensively oriented coach like John Tortorella can benefit by adding an offensive touch to a defensive situation.

Shorthanded Goals Scoring Leaders since 2013-14

 

Goals are the ultimate … well, goal. But are goals in this situation really the best metric to define effective players at 4v5? We can dig deeper, and shot based metrics shed some light.

It all starts with good defensive structure:

“From a theory perspective: You want to create an inhospitable defensive zone while defending which takes advantage of errors, press to force turnovers, etc.; anything to make it difficult to play against.”

Using data from MoneyPuck.com, entering games Tuesday night, Toronto Maple Leafs winger, Ilya Mikheyev had recorded the best individual expected goals across the league at 4v5. Bergeron (0.95) and Marchand (0.74) are 16th and 27th respectively, while only 14 players have an expected goals above one, with the table below highlighting that group of players. Many sport a 100% IPP (individual Points Percentage), meaning they’ve contributed to every goal scored with them on the ice.

Player

Team

 TOI/60

xGoals

Gls

Pts

 IPP

Ilya Mikheyev

TOR

1.09

1.87

0

1

100.00

Connor Brown

OTT

2.12

1.71

3

3

100.00

Tom Wilson

WSH

1.03

1.55

1

1

100.00

Trevor Moore

L.A

0.93

1.37

2

2

100.00

Jake Evans

MTL

1.02

1.28

1

2

100.00

Ryan Hartman

MIN

0.97

1.13

1

2

100.00

Mika Zibanejad

NYR

1.60

1.13

1

3

100.00

Alex Killorn

T.B

1.32

1.13

0

1

100.00

Blake Coleman

T.B

1.55

1.13

0

0

0.00

Lars Eller

WSH

1.18

1.06

0

0

0.00

Cam Atkinson

CBJ

1.23

1.06

3

3

100.00

Evander Kane

S.J

1.24

1.04

2

3

75.00

Erik Haula

NSH

1.37

1.03

2

2

66.67

Josh Bailey

NYI

0.74

1.00

0

0

0.00

 

Connor Brown has excelled in Ottawa while being one of 16 players that has been on the ice for over two minutes per 60 league-wide. Trevor Moore has found scoring luck in Los Angeles, according to expected goals but getting into the offensive zone and firing aimlessly can produce the odd goal, it’s about consistency and pushing the offense. Deeper into the zone, into higher danger areas to force power play teams to play chaotic defense with their most offensive players on the ice.

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Moore has shown that willingness to getting to the high danger areas. He’s played most with Blake Lizotte and Adrian Kempe. Players alone aren’t finding success with the power kill, progressive teams will adopt this vital tactic to capitalize on defensively vulnerable power play units.

According to Natural Stat Trick, Moore is tied with the Rangers, Mika Zibanejad for the league lead with seven individual high danger scoring chances – meaning all his scoring chances have come from high danger areas. Eye-popping is that he’s done it in 55.7 minutes of time on ice – talk about being effective.

Player

Team

GP

TOI

iSCF

iHDCF

Trevor Moore

L.A

42

55.72

7

7

Mika Zibanejad

NYR

45

96.47

9

7

Ilya Mikheyev

TOR

45

66.18

17

6

Connor Brown

OTT

46

129.18

13

6

Erik Haula

NSH

43

83.85

8

6

David Kampf

CHI

46

104.50

9

5

Zach Hyman

TOR

43

81.15

6

5

Ryan Hartman

MIN

39

59.87

8

4

Jake Evans

MTL

36

66.87

8

4

Evander Kane

S.J

45

75.38

5

4

 

Some curious names on this list of players, like David Kampf from Chicago and Jake Evans in Montreal who don’t have a lot of NHL history, and something to keep an eye on into the future.

Charting the success rates by expected goals and scoring chances, using data from Money Puck, the chart below shows the breakdown of expected goals versus individual 4v5 scoring chances.

Mikheyev’s impact has been quite apparent, yet hasn’t scored a goal and only put up a single assist in 66 minutes played. Same with Brown, both at the high end of the shot metrics, but he’s had more scoring success. Players are clustered among different scoring chance values, while the color refers to shooting percentage. The size of the circle denotes points. Brand Marchand’s bubble would be the biggest leading the NHL in shorthanded points (6).

2020-21 Expected Goals vs Scoring Chances at 4v5

 

Focusing only on scoring chances and the effect of high danger scoring chances. The group of players located to the right of the midway point, (like Kampf, Hyman, etc.) are distinguishing themselves from the rest of the league at this point of the season. Moore and Zibanejad seems to make the most of their scoring chances, while Jake Evans has generated half of his scoring chances in into high danger areas.

2020-21 Scoring Chances and High Danger Chances at 4v5

 

This being a shortened season I think I would have expected more coaches to embrace more high risk chances, especially with growing familiarity with each game as the season has moved along. The pace of scoring shorthanded has actually slowed in comparison to seasonal averages going back to the first season after the lockout, which seems counter-intuitive. I think there’s more complexity to the power kill as well and there is likely a better way to integrate metrics with offensive production in comparison to defensive success, killing off penalties.

A growing field to learn much about, it’s the Power Kill.

Gus Katsaros
Gus Katsaros is the Pro Scouting Coordinator with McKeen’s Hockey, publishers of industry leading scouting and fantasy guide, the McKeen’s Annual Hockey Pool Yearbook. He also contributes to popular blog MapleLeafsHotStove.com ... he can be followed on Twitter @KatsHockey