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Taking a Look at the Rangers Penalty Kill

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NHL: New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

This article was ideally supposed to be up before the season started, but it took a bit longer than I hoped. If you haven’t seen the first piece of this series, focusing on Rangers power play, you can find it here. In this article I’ll be taking an in-depth look at the Rangers penalty kill from last year using data that I collected from the playoffs last year.

Here are diagrams of a few of the formations that will be discussed:

Terms & Notes:

-Suc% = The percentage of entries that were successful

-Control% = The percentage of entries that were controlled

-# Pass = The number of passes completed before entering the zone

-InForm% = The percentage of how many times the team successfully got into formation in the offensive zone

-Time into Form = The total time it took to get into formation in the offensive zone

-Time to 1st SA = The total time it took for the offensive team to register their first shot attempt

-Time in Zone = The total time the offensive team spent in the zone

-SA = Average shot attempts per entry

-SC = Average scoring chances per entry

-S = Average shots per entry

*Stats are for how the opponent performed against the forecheck*

PK Forecheck

Forechecking Formations Shot Attempts Scoring Chances Shots Success% Controlled%
Forechecking Formations Shot Attempts Scoring Chances Shots Success% Controlled%
NYR Retreating Box 0.65 0.45 0.4 87.00% 34.80%
NYR Passive 1-3 0.88 0.4 0.56 92.30% 57.70%
Playoff Avg. Retreating Box 0.823 0.481 0.418 86.80% 56%
Playoff Avg. Passive 1-3 0.701 0.289 0.38 89.40% 65.90%

It was interesting to see the splits in how effective the different types of forechecking formations were for the Rangers and how they compared to the rest of the league. The two most common forechecking formations the Rangers used on the penalty kill were the Retreating Box and the Passive 1-3 setup (while they used others, there wasn’t a large enough sample for them to make it worth posting the data).

Based on at entry and shot metrics, it looks like the more effective option for the Rangers was the Retreating Box, as it outperformed the Passive 1-3 formation in almost every category. With the Retreating Box, the Rangers saw a 5% decrease in success percentage by the attacking team and limited the attacking team to only 35% controlled entries, compared to 58% when set up in a Passive 1-3 formation.

While the success percentage with the Retreating Box was similar to the postseason averages, the controlled percentages were startling lower than the postseason averages – as the attacking team had a significantly tougher time at entering the zone with control against the Rangers in the Retreating Box than against the rest of the league; the same goes for shot metrics as well. The attacking team averaged .88 shot attempts and .56 shots per entry against the Rangers when facing the Passive 1-3 setup, but those numbers dropped to .65 and .40 respectively when the instead Rangers used the Retreating Box forecheck.

It’ll be interesting to track the Rangers penalty kill forechecking systems this season and see if they continue to perform better with the Retreating Box setup.

And as a quick aside, it’s interesting to see the league splits between different forechecking formations. The thought process behind using a more passive system is that, while conceding the entry to the opposition, you should be able to limit the number of prime scoring chances given up and we see that appear in the data. With the postseason averages, the attacking team was more able to enter the zone and enter with control when facing the Passive 1-3 setup instead of the Retreating Box, successfully entering the zone 89.4% of the time compared to 86.8%. They also entered the zone with control more often, entering with control 65.9% of the time against the Passive 1-3 formation compared to 56% of the time when facing the Retreating Box setup.

However, things change when looking at stats inside the offensive zone. When teams used the Passive 1-3 formation, on average in the postseason, they surrendered about .701 shot attempts, .289 scoring chances, and .380 shots per entry. Yet with the Retreating Box setup, teams gave up an average of .823 shot attempts, .481 scoring chances, and .418 shots per entry. So while it was easier for team to enter the zone when facing the Passive 1-3 setup, they had a more difficult time generating shots and scoring chances.

PK Formations

PK Formations SA SC Shots
PK Formations SA SC Shots
NYR Low-High Press 1.375 0.75 0.75
NYR Czech Press 0.778 0.333 0.407
Playoff Avg. Low-High Press 1.226 0.443 0.528
Playoff Avg. Czech Press 1.45 0.619 0.687

*There were other penalty kill formations, but there wasn’t enough data for the results to have much meaning*

When looking at the Rangers penalty kill formations, we see a pattern similar to the forechecking options. The differences between the Rangers’ Low-High Press and their Czech Press were stark, with the Rangers allowing a lot chances when in the Low-High Press. When using the Low-High Press, on average the Rangers conceded 1.375 shot attempts, .75 scoring chances, and .75 shots per entry. However, when using the Czech Press, these averages dropped down to .778, .333, and .407 per entry, respectively.

But what’s interesting is that the opposite is true when looking at the league averages for the postseason. Even though the Rangers were incredibly successfully when employing the Czech Press, the Low-High Press generally outperformed the Czech Press around the rest of league during the playoffs. Teams that setup in the Low-High Press performed much better in all of shot attempts, scoring chances, and shots. Per each entry, on average the attacking team generated 1.226 shot attempts, .443 scoring chances, and .528 shots when going against the Low-High Press. However, when facing the Czech Press, the numbers rose to 1.45 shot attempts, .619 scoring chances, and .687 shots per entry.

Overall, the Rangers penalty kill seemed to perform very well throughout the playoffs, even better than they did during the regular season. Although it's not off to a fantastic start this year, hopefully we can see it rebound to and perform well throughout the rest of the season.