The Blues have killed off 93.9 percent of penalties taken this season — the second-best mark in the NHL — and have allowed just one PPG over the last eight games, when they were shorthanded 29 times.
For most, that’s cause for praise (heck in Chicago, it would be cause for a parade.)
Yet for head coach Ken Hitchcock… well there’s this, from the Post-Dispatch:
Hitchcock will talk about just about anything. Except his team’s penalty kill.
Ken, your penalty kill …
“Don’t want to talk about it,” he said last week.
Is that a bad omen?
“Don’t want to talk about it.”
It hasn’t seemed to miss a beat with Rick Wilson taking over for Brad Shaw …
“Don’t want to talk about it. Next question.”
Hitchcock’s refusal to talk could come from a fear of upsetting the hockey gods — thou shall not speak glowingly of thy PK — or maybe he just doesn’t want to draw attention to unit that, historically, has been really good for a really long time.
Last year, the Blues had the league’s third best penalty kill, at 85.1 percent.
The year prior, they finished ninth at 83.7 percent.
The year prior to that? Second, at 85.7 percent.
A big part of this is consistency. Even though the coaching changed over from Shaw to Wilson, several of the contributors stay the same: Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo see the most shorthanded TOI per night, while the likes of Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund and David Perron — back for his second tour of duty in St. Louis — log big minutes up front.
Effective penalty killing is part of the Blues’ DNA, and often leads to success. So it’s probably worth noting that, in last year’s Western Conference Final loss to San Jose, the Blues surrendered four power play goals over the final five games of the series (and had their hands full with Brent Burns).
Related: ‘Invigorated’ Hitch signs on for one final year in St. Louis