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Goaltending Is Keeping The Canadiens’ Penalty Kill Afloat

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Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen

MONTREAL– A quick look at the team’s special units efficiency reveals a significant juxtaposition between the Montreal Canadiens’ power play and their penalty kill.

And though the Canadiens did score a power play goal in overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night, they’re yet to score a 5v4 goal this season.

The penalty kill, on the other hand, has excelled, allowing only a single goal in 12 shorthanded situations, resulting in a sparkling 91.7 percent penalty kill efficiency, which places them among the top-10 teams in the league in the early part of the 2022-23 campaign.

Compare that number with their 75.6 percent efficiency last season, good for 27th in the league, and it’s clear the Canadiens enjoying a significant uptick in results when they’re short a man.

But is it sustainable?

The short answer is no.

The Canadiens have allowed the third-most shots and scoring-chances against in the NHL when they’re shorthanded.

The longer answer is maybe, but it will depend on a few factors.

Fortunately for the team, despite allowing a bevy of shots against on the penalty kill, they have managed to mitigate high-danger scoring chances to a certain degree. They currently rank 13th in the league in that very important statistical category.

If they can continue to force shots from distance, they should enjoy a reasonable amount of success throughout the season. But they won’t be able to sustain their current pace without their goaltending standing out on a nightly basis.

Jake Allen has stopped every single shot while on the penalty, including five saves on five high-danger chances. Statistically speaking, an average NHL goalie would have allowed almost two goals in that situation.

“It’s about simplifying things,” said Allen. Less is more on the PK. You really don’t need to go out of your way, the puck will come back to you. That applies to goaltenders and defencemen. Guys are starting to understand that.”

Samuel Montembeault hasn’t been perfect, he allowed a goal against on 11 shots, but it’s worth noting the only goal he allowed came from a high-danger opportunity from just eight feet away of the goal.

Their solid play on the penalty kill is a feather in their cap, but it’s also a red flag in terms of overall efficiency sustainability.

Montreal Canadiens fans are accustomed to goaltenders saving the day, but it would be unfair to expect the current goaltending duo to maintain their excellent numbers throughout the rest of the year.

(Statistics via NaturalStatTrick)

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