Penalty killing has become secret to success

ADAM WAZNY

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

The magic number is 100.

Hockey teams -- any hockey team in any league -- aspire to find that number with regard to their specialty teams' percentage. Take the power-play percentage (a figure that averages out to about 17%) and add it to the penalty killing efficiency (which usually plays out to about 83%) and there you have it: One hundred.

Anything higher is a bonus.

Coming into last night's 4-2 victory over the San Antonio Rampage at MTS Centre, the Manitoba Moose power play was clicking at a 17.8 clip, a number that was good for 14th in the 29-team AHL. While the unit has scored some timely goals during Manitoba's recent high level of play, the penalty killing unit has been the real story.

Before Peter Vandermeer banged home a rebound in the second period of Wednesday's 3-2 Moose win, Manitoba had been on an impressive PK run, snuffing out 27-of-27 opposition power plays.

As the club blisters through March (they have just one shoot-out loss in nine games this month), that aspect of the Moose game has gone relatively unnoticed -- an oversight according to head coach Scott Arniel.

"Coaches notice it," he said yesterday morning. "I knew the first half of the year, we were always sitting somewhere up around the 10th (spot), and we were No. 1 at home and we were 29th on the road. We weren't as aggressive as we usually are at home. That's the one area ... I'd sooner get beat by a couple of real quality passes and beautiful goal because we're aggressive instead of sitting back and letting teams just pound, pound, pound."

Manitoba has a rare weekend off and won't see action until Tuesday when they begin a four-game road trip in Cleveland.

MAKE DUE: Arniel was pleased to hear that Hershey Bear Jason Morgan received a four-game suspension for his elbow to the head of Moose forward Kevin Estrada on Saturday, but said it wasn't a perfect penalty.

Given the nature of the AHL, where justice is only as swift as the couriers who carry the videotapes to the league office, an ideal situation for the Moose would have been for Morgan to have not been in the Bears lineup the next day.

"My biggest thing is that I don't want to see that player (the next game)," the Moose coach said. "If my guy is gone in that second game then their guy should be gone. I would have rather seen him miss a game against us."

That being said, Arniel understands why the league took until Wednesday to make the suspension ruling. Estrada hasn't played a game since receiving the elbow.


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