Killers topping NHL charts

Head coach Bryan Murray of Ottawa Senators. (SUN/Sean Kilpatrick)

Head coach Bryan Murray of Ottawa Senators. (SUN/Sean Kilpatrick)

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:25 AM ET

It's not likely going to be a good night for a struggling power play (oh, hello there, Senators) to get on track.

When the Senators meet the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre tonight, it'll be a matchup of the NHL's second- (Ottawa) and third-ranked (Montreal) penalty-killing units in the league.

There are currently five teams in the league that have killed penalties at a better than 90% clip this season. It's early, but no teams finished above 90% last year.

The Wild leads the league at 92.9% this season followed by the Senators at 92.3% and the Habs at 90.6%.

The Ducks (90.3%) and Sabres (90.2%) are the other teams over 90% this season.

"Teams are doing a much better job. They're more aggressive, the goalies are better, it's tougher, for sure," Senators centre Jason Spezza said yesterday.

Spezza said he's really noticed a trend toward teams having their penalty killers out near the blue line "trap down" on the man with the puck along the half-boards.

That used to be a bit of a dead zone between defenders where players could find some time to make a play.

"My personal opinion is we have to try and spread out more, get five guys hustling and move, move, move the puck until you try and 2-on-1 somebody," added Spezza. "That's the whole idea of the power play, to get that 2-on-1 matchup."

The Senators' power-play unit goes into tonight's game last in the league at home (5.9%), 13th on the road (17.4%) and 26th overall (10.5%).

Senators coach Bryan Murray sees a trend among teams' approach to penalty killing.

"Most teams have gone to their better players killing penalties. It's not just the guy who can get in position, it's the guy who can attack you. I think speed is a part of it. Video is a big part of it. I think coaching is ahead right now. Everybody is playing an attacking style now."

He was asked what goes through his mind when the Senators go on the power play these days.

"Right now I know (the opponents) are going to kill the penalty," he joked. "We don't show very much patience, in particular in the 5-on-3 (Saturday night against the Bruins in Boston) ... We had a chance to make some patient plays and break down the defenders a little bit if we could. Instead we tried to do it in a very kind of a hurry-up mode and we made, I think, four bad passes. Bad because they did a good job of defending or bad because we tried some impossible plays. They weren't completed and as a result we don't put ourselves in a good position to get a shot on net."

The Canadiens, meanwhile, should give the Senators' penalty killers a good test. The Habs went into last night's play with the No. 1 power play on home ice in the league and third overall.


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