Florida Panthers: Taking a look at why the penalty kill is worse than last year

SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 7: Derek MacKenzie
SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 7: Derek MacKenzie /

The Florida Panthers penalty kill went from top five last season to bottom of the league in the first twelve games this season.

One of the bright spots from a poor 2016-17 campaign was the penalty kill. The Cats finished last season with an 85.3% penalty kill success rate, just second behind the Boston Bruins who were just a mere .4% better than the Panthers. Coming into this season, the penalty kill seemed like it was going to be as dominant as it was last season, but through twelve games it has not.

Through the first twelve games this season, the Panthers penalty kill is ranked 29th (in the NHL) with a 70.8% success rate ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and the Arizona Coyotes. Part of the reason why the penalty kill has struggled is because of the new system that coach Jack Capuano has implemented.

The system that Capuano has implemented is a triangle base with a floater who follows the puck. This means that there will be three players who are forcing the puck to the outside while the other player is chasing the puck handler. This system has hurt the Cats throughout their first twelve games and it seems the Panthers will need some time to adjust to the new system.

This system is supposed to force opposing power plays to make quicker decisions with the puck, but instead, it’s allowed the opposition to move around freely and get open for easy shots on goal. The main theme/area of concern throughout the Cats penalty kill has been players left wide open on the wings/slot, which has allowed opposing snipers to have an easy pathway to goal.

What the Panthers could change for the penalty kill is switching the system to a four man box. This system is basically playing zone defense, where the forwards and defensemen on the ice only go after the player (with the puck) in their zone. This then forces the opponent to stay on the outside while throwing pucks to the net from bad angles. The quality of scoring opportunities/shot selection given will be quite poor for the opposition, which in hindsight, gives the Panthers a better chance to kill off the penalty.

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Ultimately, we will see throughout the season if the Cats want to change the way they kill penalties. If the team thinks the current system works, then hopefully this early season struggle is just the players learning the new system.