Early in an NHL season, you'll hear the same refrain again and again.
"It's early, so we don't know if this will continue."
So it goes with the Toronto Maple Leafs penalty kill, which is back up at more than 86 per cent after bottoming out to third worst in the league a year ago, one area that really hurt late in the year.
The trouble with drawing any significant conclusions from what we've witnessed this year is the Leafs have only been shorthanded 22 times after six games, but what we can deduce is their shot and shot attempt rate against has come down, which are generally indicators of improvement.
Last year, for example, the Leafs started the season not allowing many goals on the PK, but the indicators were very poor.
This year, they're tracking much better.
A little of what we see in the goals against figure is goaltending. The Leafs shorthanded save percentage in the lockout shortened season was an unsustainably high .901, which dipped to .869 last year and is up to .889 after six games this year.
But the shot and Fenwick rate (which includes missed shots to give us an idea of time spent in the zone) are well down, almost to as low as they were in 2012-13 when the Leafs had the NHL's second best penalty kill (87.9 per cent).
TSN's Jonas Siegel has a good piece on the Leafs PK, but one of the issues is the players quoted are very short on details. The Leafs aren't talking a whole lot of strategy this year, which is probably wise given how heavily covered they are.
What we've clearly seen so far in games is a more aggressive unit, both in zone and in pressuring down the ice, so that is likely part of the improvement in that SHFA/60 number.
The other thing is the Leafs were absolutely terrible on the draw while shorthanded last year (43.8 per cent) and that's started to come up some.
The biggest impact, however, is likely changed personnel. The Leafs have had the best results so far this year with Stuart Percy, Dan Winnik, Brandon Kozun, James van Riemsdyk and Leo Komarov on the ice, and only JVR was on the team last year.
Their worst results a year ago, meanwhile, were with Jay McClement, Nikolai Kulemin, Dion Phaneuf, Tim Gleason and Carl Gunnarsson out there. Other than the captain, they're all gone.
There's a lot of focus this year on the Leafs even strength play, and that's with good reason. But the penalty kill gave up 0.71 goals per game last year after conceding less than 0.40 the year earlier.
That means it explained more than 75 per cent of their goals against increase year over year.
It's absolutely vital Toronto gets its goals against back under 2.85 per game this season, and improving on the PK will have to be a big part of that.
So far, there are signs they have.