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Your Best Penalty Killer

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As cliche as it is, there's truth to the old hockey-ism that in order to survive shorthanded, a team's goalie must be its best penalty killer. Given how poorly the Caps' penalty kill has performed on the season, one would assume that their goaltenders haven't been up to the task when a man (or men) down. Let's take a closer look at that assumption.

Per Behindthenet, 51 goalies have appeared in at least ten NHL games so far this season, including Brent Johnson and Jose Theodore, and here's how the top four-on-five goals against averages shake out, with the median (26th ranked) and locals thrown in for the sake of comparison:

  • 1) Pekka Rinne, 1.31
  • 2) Ryan Miller, 3.28
  • 3) Nicklas Backstrom, 3.55
  • 4) Henrik Lundqvist, 3.87
  • 5) Jason LaBarbera, 3.99
  • 26) Dan Ellis, 6.44
  • 38) Jose Theodore, 7.70
  • 43) Brent Johnson, 8.37

Ouch. Now a look at the four-on-five save percentage leaders, with our median and locals thrown in (not surprisingly, it's a similar group):

  • 1) Pekka Rinne, .944
  • 2) Niklas Backstrom, .932
  • 3) Ryan Miller, .925
  • 4) Henrik Lundqvist, .915
  • 5) Tim Thomas, .909
  • 26) Chris Mason, .850
  • 30) Brent Johnson, .848
  • 42) Jose Theodore, .815

Finally, to provide a little more context, here's a look at fewest shots faced per sixty minutes of four-on-four hockey, with our familiar group of subjects:

  • 1) Pekka Rinne, 23.6
  • 2) Martin Gerber, 31
  • 3) Martin Brodeur, 32
  • 4) Steve Mason, 34
  • 5) Marty Turco, 34 (it's good to be a Marty, I suppose)
  • 18) Jose Theodore, 41.6
  • 26) Roberto Luongo, 44.5
  • 51) Brent Johnson, 55

So Brent Johnson has faced an absolute ton of rubber shorthanded, far more than his teammate (likely the result of Johnson getting the bulk of the playing time since the team has been so decimated by injuries), but neither netminder has been very good shorthanded. At all. The defense (forwards and blueliners), of course, share the blame for the Caps' poor penalty killing, but the goalies are the ones who get tagged with these ugly numbers, and perhaps rightly so - they should be, after all, the team's best penalty killers. So far this season, the Capitals' goalies - and the penalty kill on the whole - have not been good enough.

Oh, and since you're bound to ask - in the incredibly small two-game sample we're been privilege to, Simeon Varlamov posted a 3.04 GAA and .917 save percentage (36.5 shots faced per sixty) four-on-five. Anyone interested in seeing that sample size increased?