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Hextall on Hockey: The Winnipeg Jets’ league-worst penalty kill

Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor reacts after scoring a goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, in Denver.
Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor reacts after scoring a goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, in Denver. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The Winnipeg Jets are dead last among NHL teams when skating shorthanded, with a penalty kill operating at 71 per cent.

Most of us would take that score on a test – at least I would, happily – but an effective penalty kill runs at around 85 per cent.

Winnipeg’s PK is operating well below average, which many would point out is expected after the loss of marquee names on the Jets’ kill like Byfuglien, Myers, Trouba, Tanev and Chairot.

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But those players weren’t available to the Jets in November, and the team’s penalty kill was in the top three in the league, running at over 90 per cent. In fact, the Jets relinquished just three goals on 23 attempts in the 30-day span.

So what has evaporated from the Jets’ PK to the point that it now resides in the basement of the NHL’s 31 teams?

READ MORE: Hextall on Hockey — New year will be a busy one for the Winnipeg Jets

Personnel is a factor – the Jets have suffered injuries to players who play a pivotal role on the kill. Bryan Little, Andrew Copp, and Dmitry Kulikov are all sidelined.

Winnipeg’s current personnel in Neal Pionk, Luca Sbisa, Anthony Bitetto and Mason Appleton have stepped up and embraced the role, but as the season marches toward the playoffs, the Jets need to resolve to tighten up on the penalty kill and continue to be disciplined and stay out of the box.

Currently, the Jets account for the third-fewest penalty minutes per game in the NHL. That needs to extend into 2020.

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Experts say most New Year’s resolutions are broken by the end of January, but if the Jets don’t resolve to be better on the penalty kill, the team could see its season end only a few months into 2020.

Winnipeg Jets welcome family of fallen RCMP Const. Allan Poapst into dressing room
Winnipeg Jets welcome family of fallen RCMP Const. Allan Poapst into dressing room