'The killers' have definitely been 'Mr. Brightside' for the Red Deer Rebels.
Despite their penchant for taking some inopportune penalties, the Rebels penalty killing unit has been nothing short of superb in recent games.
Heading into tonight's game at the Enmax Centrium versus the Regina Pats, the Rebels have killed off 66 of their 79 shorthanded situations. A success rate of 83.5% (one tenth of a percentage point behind fourth place Kelowna.). Even more more impressive is the fact that the Rebels are 29/30 on the PK over their past 7 games (thanks to Mooner for pointing that out to me). The team's record over those games... 4-2-1-0, 9 points out a possible 14.
It's not all about how many penalties you kill off, but when you do it... situational penalty killing, if you will. Take this past Sunday's game in Cranbrook for example. The Rebels were shorthanded just twice and were able to kill off both Kootenay powerplays. Rebels won 3-2.
"Both the penalties were not necessarily tough calls," said Rebels Head Coach Jesse Wallin "But they were they type of penalties where you just need that kill. Ryley Boomgaarden took them both, he was being hard on his opponent down low in the zone... I though the guys really dug in for him... They were relentless. Turner Elson had a shift [in the third period] where he ragged the puck for about 30 seconds in the offensive zone."
So, what has been the key to the Rebels strong play while a man (or two) short? According to Wallin, it's nothing more than paying attention to detail.
"We had a slow start to it [penalty killing]," Jesse Wallin admitted yesterday in reference to his team's early season penalty killing struggles. "We just making really blatant errors. It wasn't even little breakdowns, they were just huge mental mistakes. Since that point in time we've just tightened things up and guys are reading off of one another."
Also, in line with the tradition which Rebels fans come to expect from their favorite team, hard work has also played a role in the penalty killing success.
"It really comes down to the four guys on the ice outworking the other five that are on the powerplay. When we've had opportunities to create battles we've done a good job of pressuring. When the other team's gotten set up, we've been pretty good at our details as far as positioning and sticks. And, guys have been blocking shots. That's a huge part of killing penalties these days is being in shooting lanes and being willing to put yourself in front of the puck and our guys have been doing that."
What's more impressive is the Rebels have been getting their fair share of scoring chances while playing shorthanded. While the team has just one shorthanded goal this season (Tyson Ness versus Calgary) they've come oh so close on numerous other occasions. Needless to say, playing in the opponent's end of the rink is a rather effective way of killing penalties.
Conversely, and somewhat quietly, the Rebels powerplay has also crept into the WHL's top ten at 21.8% (12 for 55). They obvious key to this bit of success (and while he does a fantastic job of beating his own drum at times, all in good fun, of course) has been Charles Inglis.
The 20 year old forward busted out of his recent one goal in nine games scoring drought two more powerplay goals on Sunday versus Kootenay... including the game winner (sticking with the 'situational' theme).
Inglis is tied for first in the league, with Calgary's Cody Sylvester, having scored seven powerplay goals this season. No other Rebels skater has scored more than one powerplay goal so far this season (Elson, Bellerive, Hamilton, Millette, and Mayor each have one).
For the record... let's take a quick look at the special teams tale of the tape for tonight's opponents, the Regina Pats. The Reginians have the league's 14th ranked powerplay (11 for 61, 18.0%). Dyson Stevenson and Morgan Kilmchuk each have three powerplay goals, Chandler Stephenson has two. The Pats have the 12th ranked penalty kill (40 kills in 66 shorthanded situations for 75.8% success rate).
Game time tonight at the Enmax Centrium is at 7pm. If you can't make it in due to the somewhat scary travelling conditions, feel free to tune us in on 106.7 The Drive starting at 6:30pm.