Penguins Notebook: Penalty-killing has chance set franchise mark
March 25, 2011 4:00 AM
Lou Capozzola/Getty Images
Penguins forward Chris Kunitz scores in the shootout against Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky during Thursday's game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PHILADELPHIA -- The Penguins have had the best penalty-killing in the NHL for much of this season.
Might even turn out to be the finest in franchise history.
The Penguins entered their game Thursday against Philadelphia with a kill rate of 85.9 percent, tying Los Angeles and Washington for the top spot in the league. Vancouver was immediately behind those three at 85.8.
The Penguins relinquished sole possession of first place by allowing opponents to go 2 for 4 with the extra man in each of their previous two games. Still, they have been more efficient while short-handed than almost any of their predecessors since the team entered the league in 1967.
The 1992-93 squad finished higher in the team rankings, fourth, than any other Penguins team and the 1997-98 team posted the franchise's loftiest success rate, 86.4 percent.
Earning first place in the league rankings obviously would be a major accomplishment, but penalty-killer Craig Adams noted that there are more important things than claiming a spot on a list.
"It would be nice to finish first, but ... if we kill at 99 percent the rest of the year and the Kings kill at 100 percent and finish ahead of us, good for them," he said. "I think we'd be pretty happy with that.
"If we get the job done, we'll be right at the top or near the top."
No clear No. 1
The Stanley Cup playoffs will begin in less than three weeks, and the Flyers have not settled on a No. 1 goaltender.
That's significant, because ordinary goaltending -- or worse -- has sabotaged more than a few of their postseason runs since the Ron Hextall era.
Rookie Sergei Bobrovsky appears to be the front-runner, although veteran Brian Boucher remains a possibility.
Bobrovsky got the start Thursday two nights after being pulled from a 5-4 shootout loss to Washington after giving up three goals on nine shots.
"I'm sure he wants to get back in there after the last game," Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. "No one wants to sit on a game like that."
How Bobrovsky's showing against the Penguins will affect his playoff workload, if at all, is hard to say, because, if Laviolette has decided on whom he will lean during the postseason, he isn't letting on.
"I've answered enough No. 1 questions," he said. "We have two great goalies."
The Penguins haven't announced a target date for defenseman Brooks Orpik to return to the lineup, but apparently are shooting for the middle of next week.
Coach Dan Bylsma said he hopes Orpik, recovering from a broken finger, will be able to play in "five or six" games before the playoffs. That means Orpik would return to the lineup for the rematch with Philadelphia Tuesday at Consol Energy Center or Thursday at Tampa Bay.
The Flyers game was the 12th Orpik has missed since his finger was fractured by a shot Feb. 23 from San Jose's Patrick Marleau.
The Penguins played their 74th game of the season Thursday night. For left winger Chris Kunitz, it was No. 59.
That's not a surprise, because guys who throw their bodies around the way Kunitz does rarely set ironman records.
Bylsma, though, clearly is willing to accept the tradeoff.
"I'd rather end up with [him having] bumps and bruises and worn out than safe and sound, without a bump," he said. "He's a guy who plays a certain way and he's terribly effective that way.
"He's going to get bumps and bruises, but he's also a guy who's going to continue to play his heart out and lay it out there that way. Because that's what makes him a great player."