In this article, the 2nd in a series on Special Teams, I am going to talk about your Penalty Kill unit(s).
I’ve you’ve ever played hockey yourself, you would know that there is nothing quite as important as killing off your oppositions powerplay. There is also nothing quite as rewarding as knowing that for 2 minutes (or more) you successfully managed to keep them from scoring, even though they had the man advantage.
Taking penalties and the resulting PK is a natural part of hockey. It’s pretty much impossible to play game in game out and not take penalties. So, you need to make sure your PK unit(s) are good enough for the job.
The Penalty Kill Unit Setup:
In PPM you only have to deal with the 4-man PK Unit. On this lineup, you have a Center, a Wing, and 2 defensemen. While the PK screen specifically mentions a Right Wing (RW), it should be noted that you can play either wing position here without penalty. You can also play Defensive players in Forward roles on your PK unit, again, without penalty (according to what we’ve been told on the PK forums).
Non Specific Key Attributes:
During my discussions with many other managers, and from my own personal experience there are 3 vital attributes that make up a good Penalty Killer. While not all the players on the unit need to have these, doing so can greatly increase the quality and success of your PK line.
1) Technique. This is possibly one of the most important attributes of the game actually, and there is no such thing as “too much”. High technique players have more control and better skill, 2 things vital on a PK line.
2) Defense. There has been a growing trend in recent seasons where managers have started to train forward in defense. One manager recently told me he trains his forwards defense to between 10% and 20% of his Offensive attribute. This is optional of course, and many players do have defense when they come out of the Sports Academy.
3) Passing. Like technique, there is no such thing as “too much”. High passing attributes doesn’t mean they will pass more than shoot, it simply means they are better at it. A top player should be skilled in both shooting and passing, and when you couple that with a high technique attribute, you have a highly skilled all-round player.
4) Aggression. You need to ensure that whoever you put on your PK lines has a low aggression, or if not low, at least has a technique attribute HIGHER than his aggression. This is an issue debated by many managers, however I believe no player (and i mean NO player) should have aggression higher than technique! Doing so just encourages penalties.
Position Specific – Center:
I personally think of my 2 forward positions as being separate. Your center MUST be good in all aspects of the game, and that means having great passing and tecnhique, a little defense and low aggression. Quite often, your top line center will fit the bill for this role, but don’t be afraid to look at your other centers also.
Position Specific – Wing / Defense:
While your center needs specific play-making skills to win face-offs, your wings and defense are there to simply clear the puck and/or stop goals being scored by the opposition. They don’t “need” to be able to shoot or have killer offensive skills at all, in fact, defense is far more important on this particular special team. Many managers play 3 defensemen and 1 center on their PK units for this very reason. Naturally, you need to ensure all the guys on this line have technique higher than or equal to their aggression attribute. In fact, technique and passing are vital attributes for players in these positions.
A simple word of advice… unless you are aware of the risks, NEVER play a low experience rookie on a PK unit. Experience is used by the game engine to add strength to a players skills (according to sources) so an experienced player will always be far better than an inexperienced one. This applies to your powerplay lines also.
Practice & Tracking:
As with your powerplay lines, it can be helpful to track the teams you play and your PK stats. This can help determine which of your PK lines is most effective and which ones need work. Experiment if you have issues and be willing to take a few chances on different players. Just because someone has high defense doesn’t necessarily make them the best player to use on the PK.
Good luck with your upcoming games, I look forward to any comments you may have.s