The Florida Panthers had a tough season in 2016, one they’d definitely like to put behind themselves. With the good comes the bad and vice versa, but something the Cats did well last season is kill penalties.
Their success when down a man helped them end the 2016-17 season as the leagues second best PK. With an 85.3% penalty killing percentage, the Panthers only trailed the Boston Bruins (85.7%) in that category.
The Cats have quite a few forwards who are really strong defensively and especially on the kill. Derek MacKenzie, Colton Sceviour, Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck all played a huge part this past season.
MacKenzie, the captain also served as the leader on the PK as it’s pretty well known, that’s where he thrives. It’s almost like he hits a switch and goes into another mode, D-Mac will sacrifice the body to get in front of shots and passes in the lane.
He has the ability to get to those dirty areas along the boards and around the net to make the play. MacKenzie also has the knack to turn turnovers into shorthanded scoring opportunities.
Mac and Colton Sceviour would team up to score multiple shorthanded goals this season. Sceviour’s ability to break up plays and chances would lead to a lot of those SH goals and chances.
He hadn’t scored shorthanded in his NHL career, but would go on to score a total of three “shortys” on the campaign.
Vincent Trocheck just seems to blossom into a better player every season, this year he showed just how well rounded his game was. He put up very solid numbers defensively CA/SCA60: 49.05 (Scoring Chances Against 14th among forwards) GA/xGA60: 5.31 (Expected Goals Against 29th among forwards).
His partner on the penalty kill, Reilly Smith also impressed us with his play in the defensive end despite his offensive woes. He’d rank third among forwards in Scoring Chances against at 41.96, leaving him behind only Wayne Simmonds and Tyler Toffoli.
Both guys not big or physical at the blue line, but fast, skilled and nimble with the poke check. The two defensemen can get opponents off the puck in other ways besides hits and blocked shots.
It was unfortunate that the Panthers couldn’t find the same groove on the power play as they did when down a man. However if they can continue the success on the PK surely the power play will follow.