How the Los Angeles Kings Can Fine-Tune Their Penalty-Killing Unit in 2014-15

The Los Angeles Kings are a stellar five-on-five squad. In 2013-14, they finished fourth in the NHL with a plus-0.5 rating over 60 such minutes. In the postseason, they posted a league-best plus-0.8 on the way to a second Stanley Cup in three years.

On special teams, however, they didn’t fare quite as well.

Marian Gaborik’s arrival at the trade deadline did push the team’s power-play efficiency from 15.1 percent (27th in the league) in the regular season to 23.5 percent (sixth) in the playoffs, which is promising.

Meanwhile, the penalty kill remained disappointing for such a defense-oriented club.

LA held opponents off the scoreboard on 83.1 percent (11th) of its short-handed situations in the regular season, and that mark more or less trod water in the postseason (83.3 percent, ninth).

In the fierce Western Conference, an improved penalty kill would greatly benefit the Kings’ repeat bid.

Considering how exhausting the club’s recent playoff run was—three Game 7s on the road—the coaching staff should place a strong emphasis on this area of the game to carve an easier path to the top in 2014-15.

LA’s penalty kill doesn’t need a full-on reconstruction. It can fortify this unit with a couple of simple tweaks.



This seems fairly obvious, but it bears repeating: Penalty-killing differs from even-strength defense.

A three-zone standout at five-on-five is not necessarily a short-handed dynamo.

Anze Kopitar is a prime example of this. The Selke Trophy finalist is a superb two-way pivot who can suffocate opponents with his blend of puck possession and sound positioning. 

Head coach Darryl Sutter rightfully leans on Kopitar at even strength, assigning him the most minutes and toughest matchups around.

On the penalty kill...

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