It’s not just your intuition. Penalty shots are being called much more frequently early in the NHL’s 2023-24 season.
Against the Blue Jackets on Saturday, Tom Wilson was awarded the NHL’s 15th penalty shot of the season, following a hook by Columbus defenseman Damon Severson.
Wilson would not score on his attempt as he was stopped by goaltender Elvis Merzlikins. But there’s a bigger story here.
— Capitals Replays (@capsreplays) November 4, 2023
Wilson’s penalty shot marked the Capitals’ second in 10 games this season, matching their entire count from the 2022-23 campaign with 72 games still to be played.
Alex Ovechkin earned the team’s first of the season on October 24 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ovechkin was hooked by defenseman Mark Giordano, but failed to get the puck past goaltender Joseph Woll.
Washington also saw its first penalty shot against early in the season, when Darcy Kuemper saved on an attempt by Flames forward Blake Coleman on October 16.
The Capitals aren’t the only team to see more penalty shot calls this season. Penalty shots have been up league-wide this fall, with 15 awarded through November 4.
Just in October alone, NHL penalty shots were up more than double last season. Thirteen were given out through 140 games in October 2023 while only 6 were given out in 146 games in October 2022.
It’s unclear if this is just a random happenstance or some league wide mandate for officials to award more penalty shots, which is inarguably of the most exciting plays in hockey. Coming into the season, officials were encouraged to call more unsportsmanlike conduct penalties to combat coaches’ blowups at the bench. It’s unclear what else was focused on by the league.
What is clear is that this October marked the most penalty shots of any month since the COVID-19 pandemic, beating December 2023’s next-closest count of 11 by two despite teams playing 82 fewer games.
Washington has never drawn more than five penalty shots in a season, setting the franchise’s record in 2011-12. But just 10 games in, they are already well on their way to matching that count.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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