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Jets penalty killing third-best in the league





These truly are some special teams.

It’s no secret the Winnipeg Jets can be deadly on the power play, with an impressive collection of offensive talent that has put them among the NHL’s very best this season.

Their 23.6 percentage success rate is third-best in the NHL, led by sniper Patrik Laine and his league-best 15 goals on the man advantage.

But now, the local squad appears to have added an element of danger when they’re the ones down a man.

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These truly are some special teams.

It’s no secret the Winnipeg Jets can be deadly on the power play, with an impressive collection of offensive talent that has put them among the NHL’s very best this season.

Their 23.6 percentage success rate is third-best in the NHL, led by sniper Patrik Laine and his league-best 15 goals on the man advantage.

But now, the local squad appears to have added an element of danger when they’re the ones down a man.

Winnipeg’s penalty kill (PK) has also shot up to third-best in the league, at 83.3 per cent efficiency, buoyed by an impressive recent run where they are almost just as likely to score as their opponent.

Consider this: over the past dozen games, Winnipeg has killed off 34 of 37 minor penalties (91.9 per cent).

But they’ve managed to score twice short-handed during that span, for a net difference of just one goal. That’s heady stuff.

Winnipeg has killed off 16 straight minors, including a perfect five-for-five effort in Friday night’s 6-1 romp over Colorado, which also included a shorty from Andrew Copp off a beautiful pass from Mark Scheifele.

You have to go back to Dec. 16 — that’s 25 games ago — to find the last time the Jets gave up more than one power-play goal in a game.

"The PK is really important, and it was really built all year," Jets coach Paul Maurice said following Saturday’s practice, as his team prepared to face the Florida Panthers this evening at Bell MTS Place. It will be the ninth game of a season-long 10-game homestand.

Maurice noted Winnipeg gave up four power-play goals in their first two games of this season — both lopsided losses to Toronto and Calgary — before really digging in. There’s been only 29 given up in the 56 games since (in which they’ve gone 34-13-9 after that 0-2-0 start).

"So, we were behind it statistically (off the hop), but we built and got better. Our goaltender has been really good on the PK. We’ve had penalty killers out of our lineup, but the other guys have come in and done a good job," Maurice said. "Keeping them out of your net is priority one. But there’s some confidence there. Faceoffs are good, clears are good, our stands are better, for sure, at the line. And then, I think we’ve done a pretty solid job of defining what it’s going to look like when the puck gets to the net."

Defenceman Josh Morrissey has been a major part of the penalty kill this season and said confidence is growing by the game.

"When you’re playing against a team that’s dangerous short-handed, you always have to be aware of that. I think it’s a fine line. The first and biggest job is to try and get the kill. If you’re ever in a 50-50 position, make that hard play and get it down the ice," Morrissey said Saturday. "But we have guys with a lot of speed on the kill, a lot of skill on the kill. And if there are those chances, getting a short-handed goal is a huge boost for our team and tough on the other team."

Winnipeg has scored six short-handed goals this season, which puts them in the upper half of the league in that category.

"It’s definitely something that’s a great weapon to have. I think it keeps the other team honest," Morrissey said.

Winnipeg’s penalty killing was 26th and 25th in the NHL the past two seasons. Cracking the top three is a major step and a big part of why they’re battling for first place in both the Central Division and Western Conference, and look poised to make the playoffs for just the second time in seven years since relocating to Winnipeg.

Forward Nikolaj Ehlers said having top-notch special teams bodes well as games tighten up down the stretch. One goal for, or against, can be the difference between a win or a loss.

"PK and power play are both extremely important in the game," Ehlers said Saturday. "As soon as you kill off a penalty, or score on a penalty, you create some momentum for the whole team. And we’ve been doing that lately, and it feels good. We gotta continue doing that."

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Read more by Mike McIntyre.


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