If your team is struggling to put pucks in the net, the least you can do as a team is try to keep as many out of yours as possible. Against the Flyers, the Canadiens penalty kill was cut to shreds by Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and it was a major difference maker in the end results.
Taking a mountain of ill-timed penalties is never a good strategy and it’s made even worse when they’re lazy stick infractions. It destroys momentum. In a five minute span, Tomas Plekanec took a penalty (he would have three on the night), the Habs killed it off, only for Byron Froese to immediately send them back to the penalty kill. Artturi Lehkonen would score shorthanded, and shift the ice back in Montreal’s favour, That listed for all of 28 seconds before Giroux gave his team the lead once again.
The Canadiens then tied the game with under 90 seconds left in the second period, then Plekanec would take a hooking penalty with under a minute on the clock to end the period. Less than a minute into the third period Jakub Voracek uncorked a rocket and gave Philadelphia the lead, which quickly turned into a two goal lead in just over a minute, and that was the game.
It’s one thing to take penalties that might prevent goals, or stop breakaway chances, but when you’re the anchor of the penalty killing unit, you cannot afford to spend six minutes sitting in the penalty box in a game. Plekanec is rumoured to be one of the most likely names moved out of Montreal at the deadline, games like this one do him no favours as that approaches, it’s hard for teams to want to offer much in a trade for a defensive player who can’t stay out of the box.
While the Flyers took penalties of their own, the Habs were only able to capitalize late in the game, when there wasn’t enough time to mount an effective comeback. Going forward the biggest challenge facing Claude Julien and his coaches is how they can fix the penalty kill. It has been an issue all year and there’s no better time than now to figure it out.