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Laval’s penalty kill is imperial

The Rocket will have their backs against the wall in Springfield against the Thunderbirds on Monday night. It’s obviously an important situation in a series that has been tight from the beginning with three out of the five games needing overtime to decide the winner.

Once again, it will be an emotional but also stressful game for the Rocket fans who have been following the team closely during these playoffs. The good news for those fans is that when their favorite team is on the penalty kill, there is not really more stress to endure.

We can say that because since the beginning of this series, Laval’s penalty kill has been absolutely perfect. In 25 chances on the power play, Springfield still has failed to put up a goal in this series. It’s a big achievement for the Rocket against what was one of the league’s best power play before this series began.

“They do a hell of a job our killers” admitted Jean-François Houle after game 5. “The penalty kill is doing an excellent job to get our guys out of the box after 2 minutes rather than a goal and they keep us in the game. I’m very proud of that.”

Obviously, Laval will want to avoid the penalty box as much as possible and it was a theme during the press conference following game 5. That being said, those penalties have yet to come and haunt the Rocket, who is doing excellent work facing those challenges.

During the first four games, the Rocket limited the Thunderbirds to only 39 shots while being down a man on the ice. Only 8 of those were close to Cayden Primeau and 17 of them came from outside the scoring area.

It’s often said that the goaltender needs to be your best player on the penalty kill and there is no doubt that it has been the case for the Laval Rocket in this matchup. Although, you have to admit that the players in front of the goaltender have put him in a situation to be successful.

“Everyone is willing to block shots” explained Cayden Primeau when asked about the team’s penalty kill success. “Everyone is stepping up. Everyone has elevated their play not even just on the PK but 5 on 5 as well. Everyone stepped up their level of play in the playoffs. Guys are putting their body on the line. When you see that commitment, it’s infectious.”

With their performance in this series, the Rocket now has a 92.6% success rate on the penalty kill since the beginning of the playoffs. It’s by far the best number among teams still pursuing the Calder Cup. The Thunderbirds are the closest team and they are at 86.5%. It shows how important it is not to allow a goal in that situation during this series.

You have to go back a while to find a team who was as efficient as the Rocket is on the penalty after this many games in the playoffs. Actually, you have to go back to 10 years to the 2012 Toronto Marlies. These Marlies made it to the Calder Cup finals while only losing two games in the first three rounds.

That success doesn’t assure victory for the Laval Rocket but it surely puts them in an advantageous position against a team that poses a defensive challenge. Each goal in this series is crucial and up until now, the Laval’s special teams are giving them a chance to win night after night.