Data consistently shows that a goaltender's success on the penalty kill is tough to repeat. Not impossible, but very tough. The more a goaltender plays, the more his penalty-kill save percentage pushes toward that league average of .875. For the most part, this trend ignores the individual's skills and his team surroundings. This isn't a new concept; others have done the number crunching before, including Left Wing Lock in 2012.
To update the data set a little bit, I have the last three seasons calculated for league-wide penalty-kill save percentage. In 2014-15, the mark was .874 before dipping to .873 in 2015-16 and .871 last season. So far this season, the league-wide penalty-kill save percentage sits at .876.
Clearly, the theory still holds water.
On an individual level, it takes some extremes to make this actionable. We'll have a look at a couple of relevant cases this season with an eye to guessing what might come next.
Over the previous two seasons, as he ascended to the Oilers starting goaltender throne, Talbot posted an .884 save percentage on the penalty kill. That's pretty close to the league-wide average and ranked 16th among 60 goaltenders who started at least 25 games during those seasons. However, Talbot has allowed 23 power-play goals on 98 shots for a penalty-kill save percentage of .810 so far this season. He's an ideal candidate for a positive regression. All things considered, his .905 save percentage this season is pretty good considering how much damage he's taken on the penalty kill. If his penalty-kill save percentage was at the magical .875 mark, his overall save percentage would be .914. Interestingly, defenseman Andrej Sekera, who was second on the team in short-handed ice time last season, just returned to action in late December. It could be a good time to get Talbot for the stretch run.
After posting a penalty-kill save percentage of .873 with the Calgary Flames last season and .906 with the St. Louis Blues the season prior, Elliott sits at .831 with the Flyers this season. While we could take a similar approach as we did with Talbot and guess that Elliott is due for an improvement, there's an interesting underlying tidbit here. Among goaltenders with at least 30 starts during the past two seasons, Steve Mason's .837 penalty-kill save percentage was the worst in the league. The players and coaching in front of Elliott remain very similar to those who were in front of Mason for both of those seasons. While luck plays a big role in how penalty-kill save percentage seems to work, it doesn't account for all of the results. It certainly looks like the Flyers' goaltender might be at a disadvantage when it comes to a bounce-back in the save percentage department.
Fleury was right in line with the average for the past two seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, sporting a penalty-kill save percentage over that span of .874. His hot start with the Golden Knights this season and continued strong play following a concussion have him sitting pretty with a penalty-kill save percentage of .930 so far this season. That's almost assuredly going to bottom out. Combine that with Fleury's even-strength save percentage of .938, also a near-unsustainable level, and his ratios are due for a dip. Not to mention, the workload is pretty equally shared with Malcolm Subban at this point.
Darling trended better than average for penalty-kill save percentage during the past two seasons as a backup with the Chicago Blackhawks. His .900 penalty-kill save percentage during those two seasons slotted in at fourth in the NHL among goalies with at least 25 starts. This season, as the starter for the Hurricanes, Darling has struggled to an .823 penalty-kill save percentage and has seemingly lost his grip on the starter's gig for now. While it's OK to ditch Darling to the waiver wire for the time being, once Cam Ward cools off a bit, it may be prudent to give Darling another look. There are suggestions here that his overall ratios could improve.
The sample sizes for recent seasons are smaller (similar to Darling), but Markstrom turned in an .892 penalty-kill save percentage during the previous two campaigns, but is taking a pounding on the penalty kill this season. His .809 save percentage on the penalty kill is better than only Laurent Broissoit among goalies with 10 starts. The Canucks boast many of the same personnel in front of Markstrom that helped him to a decent total last season, so there's no reason not to bank on a positive regression. If the Canucks and Markstrom could take away some of the damage being done on their opponents' power plays, it could go a long way to pushing Markstrom into No. 2 fantasy goaltender territory. That said, waiting until Bo Horvat is ready to return to the ice would be the prudent move, as Horvat and Brandon Sutter are the team's main man-down assets.
Someone has to step up with Mark Scheifele on the shelf for up to two months. Early indications are that Connor is going to share some of the load. Through two games with no Scheifele, the Jets moved Patrik Laine to the top line with Blake Wheeler and Connor. For his part, Connor has two points in each of those two games. His rostered percentage has been creeping up in recent weeks and should take a spike soon, but if you act now, he's still available in almost three quarters of ESPN leagues.
It looks like Couture escaped a long-term concussion absence as he returned to the ice on Sunday after missing just four games over two weeks. He returned to an ugly blowout against the Dallas Stars, but that won't be the norm for the Sharks. Couture still has 26 points in 32 games this season and is on pace to flirt with his career highs for goals and points. He just may need a game or two to settle back into the lineup.
In 183 NHL contests previous to this season, Karlsson accounted for a grand total of 18 goals. Through 37 games this season, Karlsson has a majestic 20 tallies. His shooting percentage sits at an absolute bonkers 26.3 percent. His increase in ice time and an improvement to his role will give him roster-worthy totals at season's end, but the pace almost has to come down over the rest of the campaign. If you can move him now while his value is inflated, great. If not, he's fine to hold on to.
December closes the book on the first double-digit points month of Dumba's burgeoning career as an offensive blue liner. His six goals for the month are a showcase of the shot he packs from the point, in addition to his ability to jump into the offensive zone. His average ice time spiked by more than two minutes for the second consecutive season as the 23-year-old has earned the trust of coach Bruce Boudreau in most situations. He's still hanging around on wires in a quarter of ESPN leagues.
While some goaltenders have managed to defy Father Time in the past, there are very few who do so with fantasy success. His .926 save percentage last season was the second-highest save percentage in NHL history for a goaltender (30 or more starts) who was 35 or older (Tim Thomas posted a .938 save percentage in 2010-11 at 36 years old). In short, this huge regression for the 36-year-old Anderson shouldn't be a shock. Unfortunately, the Sens don't really have a better alternative at this juncture. Top prospect Marcus Hogberg is barely on the North American professional radar, having spent most of this season in the ECHL. He was recently called up to the AHL and recorded an overtime win. Hogberg was also the third goaltender the Senators took to Sweden for their series against the Colorado Avalanche overseas. Still, we probably won't see him until the playoffs are no longer a possibility for the Sens this season. That said, this is a team that brought Andrew Hammond out of nowhere for a tide-turning second half a few years back, so keep Hogberg's name in your back pocket.