Heading into the 2016-17 National Hockey League campaign, Glen Gulutzan and his coaching staff wanted to utilize Deryk Engelland’s skills on their penalty kill unit.
It’s paid off, as the rugged, experienced, six-foot-two 214-pound defender, is one of the most frequently used players on the penalty kill outside of Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano.
“He grabbed a hold of it right away,” Gulutzan was saying. “I think he’s become an excellent penalty-killer. Coming from some teams that I’ve done penalty killing with in year’s past, where we’ve had good success. He’s a high-end penalty-killer.”
Heading into Friday’s game against the San Jose Sharks, the last time Engelland was on the ice for an opposition’s power-play goal was when the Alex Ovechkin-propelled man advantage unit scored near the end of the second period in Calgary’s 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on March 21.
And, keep in mind, Engelland logs a pile of short-handed time — the second-most among the penalty-killers behind Mark Giordano. In fact, Giordano and Engelland are the second and third-most utilized players on their team’s penalty kill (3:13 and 3:12, respectively, on average per game), outside of Boston’s Zdeno Chara. Meanwhile, the Flames, as a team, logged the third-most penalty kill time with 448:09 while their PK was a tidy 81.2 per cent and good enough for 12th in the NHL (prior to Friday’s game).
The last five games, prior to Friday, Engelland had been part of the Flames’ unit that killed off 11 of 12 penalties. Overall, he was on on the ice for 29 of 49 power-play markers from the opposition, which, along with Giordano, was the most on the team (and sixth-most in the NHL) before Calgary’s game against the Sharks.
Thirteen of 24 five-on-four goals (54 per cent) had come in the first 33 games of the season which, of course, was a rough patch for the team in many ways: their special teams, goaltending, and top-end players were all struggling.
So, factoring in that life — and especially hockey — doesn’t happen on a calculator, Engelland has clearly continued to earn the trust of the Flames coaching staff.
He enjoys the role which he also had when he played with the Pittsburgh Penguins for parts of five seasons.
“Before in Pittsburgh, I was killing a ton,” Engelland said. “I’ve been out there a lot this year. It’s nice, I like it. It’s part of my game. I pride myself on it and like to be relied on … to be out there and killing all the time, it’s nice to get those minutes and blocking shots.”
But it’s not just a one-man show.
There’s three other players on the ice and a goaltender that must work simultaneously to keep the puck out of their net.
“It’s a group thing,” Engelland said. “You need everyone in sync and communicating and working together as a unit. If one guy runs out of position, the (opposition’s) power-play is going to pick you apart. Everyone’s gotta be on the same page and working together.”