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“Your penalty kill is as good as your goalie”

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Throughout my four years of covering hockey (from high school to the NHL), I’ve heard coaches utter this phrase time and time again.

And the Warriors’ goaltenders are proving the statement true.

Merrimack’s penalty kill sits at an impressive 90.9% through the first six games of the regular season. But, they’ve actually allowed more shots (by 0.22 per penalty kill) than they did last season, when their penalty kill executed at an 83.3% clip.

Most staggering have been Merrimack’s goaltending numbers on the kill the season. Joe Cannata leads the pair with a 2.22 GAA and an eye-popping .950 save percentage on kills while Andrew Braithwaite isn’t far behind with a 4.39 GAA but a .931 save percentage.

Together, the duo has combined for a 3.38 GAA but an impressive .939 save percentage on the penalty kill this season, which is up from last year’s .869 save percentage on the PK.

These numbers could be for a variety of reasons. Simply put, the goalies might have gotten better. But maybe new assistant Glenn Stewart, who oversees the penalty kill units, has implemented something that allows the goalies to see the pucks better, or forcing the shots to come from the perimeter (which MC has done an exceptional job with, thus far).

Regardless of the reason, the Merrimack penalty kill has been exceptional, sitting 11th nationally and is just three percentage points from being in the top-five.

Here is the breakdown of Merrimack’s save percentage on the penalty kill in the past five seasons:

2009-10: .939
2008-09: .869
2007-08: .881
2006-07: .840
2005-06: .860

Some other interesting stats as we near the 1/5th pole of the season:

> Merrimack’s shooting percentage (13.7%) is nearly 6 percentage points higher than last year’s mark (7.8%)

> The Warriors are scoring on one of every four shots (25%) on the power play.

> Merrimack has had more power plays (+ 0.65) and less penalties to kill (- 0.38) than last season, for a total of a + 1.03 swing in chances per game on special teams.

> Francois Ouimet (33.3%), Chris Barton (25.0%), Stephane Da Costa (25.0%), Jesse Todd (25.0%), John Jamieson (25.0%) Justin Bonitatibus (20.0%) and Simon Demers (20.0%) are all shooting at 20 percent or above.

About Mike McMahon

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