The St. Louis Blues have been strong on the penalty kill all season long. As the team rattled off bad penalty after bad penalty in the early going, the PK units continually bailed everyone out and were a big reason the Blues didn’t fall too far behind in the Central. Many credited Ken Hitchcock’s style of play for the PK’s success, but the switch from Hitchcock to Mike Yeo has actually helped push the units to an even higher level.
On the year, the Blues own the fourth-best PK unit with a success rate of 84.6%. That ranking and percentage are particularly noteworthy when you also factor in the team has been shorthanded 201 times this season which is the sixth-most in the NHL.
Once Yeo took over, the Blues went on a crazy run where they killed off 21 straight penalties. Carter Hutton attributed the success to the fact the Blues are playing like wolves when short.
Hutton, via STLToday:
“I want to say that we’re almost like a pack of wolves. Say if we’re going to give up the flank: That’s our shot, we (as goalies) are taking it, and if it beats us from outside, then that’s our own fault — and you take care of the other stuff. We give up the one thing, and then everybody swarms and the puck’s gone.
It’s that pack mentality. We’re working as a unit, not individuals trying to do too much, trying to make cute plays. Now we’re just being hard-nosed to play against. Our penalty kill almost transitions into our five-on-five.”
The eye test says the Blues were playing real well on the penalty kill earlier in the season, but the surge in success can be attributed to every single player pushing the envelope and closing down the opposition down early since Yeo took over.
It’s important to avoid attributing too many successes or failures to a head coach, but the overall mentality under Yeo has shifted and it’s leading to some impressive play by the whole roster including a dominant penalty kill.