Barring anything totally horrific, the Isles should be a playoff team, with or without their league worse penalty kill, so step one should be hopefully out of the way.
But what happens when they get to the playoffs? How will that penalty kill affect their chances of really making a run?
I looked at just the basic penalty kill percentages of the Stanley Cup Winners and the Runners up for all of the playoffs that have occurred since the lockout. This is a basic snapshot, this doesn't account for shot suppression rates or how each specific goalie did that post season while on the penalty kill, but this should still help us get an idea of where the Isles need to be with their PK% in the playoffs and whether or not we think that they are likely to improve to that number. (Also, the ranks aren't great to use because these teams obviously played longer than all of the others, some first round teams had extremely small samples, etc, but it still helps a bit).
Based on just these basic numbers, and without figuring out the averages, I think the Isles need to get the PK% up to at least 84-85% during the (hopeful) playoff run.
Is that doable based on their current ~74% PK rate? I don't know. Before the last 8 game horrid stretch, the PK was looking good for the previous 15 games before that (or so).
My hope is that the young PKers like De Haan and Strome will continue to improve, even just a bit, and that guys like Nielsen, Clutterbuck and Grabner get back to the top of their PK games. Halak also has to be steady.
I'd love to have a great PK, but I also don't think that a bad PK is an indictment on how the team is ran, as it can swing pretty quickly. Those shiny possession rates and the fact that the team never takes a shift off tells me the "coaching" and "system" aren't big issues. A few clears against Detroit on Saturday and the PK might look different. That, to me, is individual player issues, not "coaching" (although I don't love Cronin).
We'll see what happens, it's still just February, lots of hockey left and lots of adjustments to be made.