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The Capitals PK has been great recently... but what if it was never really bad?

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to Tom Wilson’s return to the lineup, the Capitals had the third-worst PK in the league, both in overall percentage and in terms of goals allowed per sixty minutes of shorthanded time; since his return they have the third best. It’s easy to assume that one has been influenced by the other - but as we all know, correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation.

So let’s look at a few different metrics to determine whether the penalty kill is better now than it was before...and maybe if it was ever even bad in the first place.

Let’s start with the basics:

Data from Natural Stat Trick

When looking at shot quantity, the Capitals actually look worse since Wilson returned to the lineup than they did before. Strong goaltending makes even the worst penalty kill look good, but let’s see if shot quality is driving the increase in save percentage.

Data from Natural Stat Trick

On average teams convert 17% of high danger shot attempts into goals, 8% of medium danger, and 4% of low danger. When you apply those percentages to both periods of data you get an expected GA/60 of 6.55 during Wilson’s suspension and 6.62 since his return, both of those numbers are better than the league median of 7.34. Below average goaltending made the Capitals PK look worse than it really was prior to Wilson’s return and has made it look better than reality since.

It’s important to note that T.J. Oshie has been out for much of the time that Wilson’s been back in the lineup, so it’s not unrealistic to expect the PK could be even better with both of them in the lineup... but it was never really that bad!