Just four games into the 20011-12 season and the Americans are ranked 18th out of 22 teams on the penalty kill at 68 percent (8 goals on 25 chances). Even in 2002-03 when the Americans won just 20 games, they mustered a penalty kill percentage of 77.6. I know it's early, but jeez.
The PK used to be a source of pride for the Americans. Guys blocking shots, clearing the pucks around the net and sending it down the ice. The last two years they were ranked 15th in the league at 78.5 and 78.7 percent. It's never good to take a step back in this department.
Saturday, the Spokane Chiefs were 4-for-12 on the power play against Tri-City. First, 12 power plays is about 12 too many to give a team like Spokane. Second, the PK appeared to have no life at times. Guys trying to get the puck out of the zone sent it to a Spokane player at the blue line and the Chiefs were back in business.
Over the last 10 years, the Americans ranked in the top 10 in the WHL five times, finishing first in 2007-08 with a sterling 88.4 percent kill rate. In 2005-06, they were 13th, but their average was a respectable 83 percent.
With players like Mason Wilgosh, Justin Feser, Brendan Shinnimin and some long-armed defensemen, 68 percent is unacceptable. These guys have proven they are some of the top PK guys in the business — and again it's still early — but we haven't seen that killer instinct come out yet.
The one way to improve in this category is to stay out of the penalty box. Last year, the Americans were one of the least penalized teams in the WHL. In four games, they averaging 20.5 PIMs a game.
Something's just not right here.