Though the Los Angeles Kings have opened the 2013-14 season by winning hockey games at an all-time franchise rate, recently the stretch of play had been maintained in spite of the team’s discipline woes. Only two teams – Philadelphia and Ottawa – have taken more minor penalties than Los Angeles’ 174.
The Kings haven’t earned more power plays than their opponent since a win over the New York Islanders on December 7 and have been shorthanded at least four times in four straight games and in eight of the last 11. Though Los Angeles is a quality possession team with a top-five shot differential at plus-3.8, they have curiously drawn 22 fewer power plays than they have allowed. In Monday’s loss to Dallas, Valeri Nichushkin scored the game-winning goal on a power play feed from Tyler Seguin, while Mike Fisher scored a go-ahead goal late in the third period of Saturday’s loss in Nashville that came while the Kings were shorthanded.
“We’ve got to be more disciplined. There’s no getting around it. We have to be more disciplined,” Jake Muzzin said. “Our penalty kill’s been good and needs to continue getting better. One way to make it better is less penalties, so you’ve got to take less penalties.”
The Kings’ penalty kill has emerged in recent years as one of the strongest aspects of a Cup contending team, and during the 2012 Stanley Cup run, Los Angeles killed off 70-of-76 shorthanded situations. By virtue of a 9-for-13 penalty killing stretch over the last three games, the Kings have dropped to seventh in the league with an 85.0% kill – which are still quality numbers despite the recent goals against.
Until this point, however, the opposition hadn’t been able to take advantage of the chances provided with the man advantage by any great margin. Los Angeles’ December penalty kill has killed off 39 of 46 shorthanded situations, an 84.8% rate.
So though teams generally will take advantage of surplus opportunities – as highlighted during this recent two-game skid – there’s not exactly a great deal of concern expressed by a team that has lost back-to-back games in regulation only twice this season.
“I don’t think there’s one single thing. I don’t think it’s an undisciplined thing,” Darryl Sutter said. “I think, for example, a boy like Tyler takes that holding penalty last night in the third period. Well, I don’t know if he had a penalty coming into it. It’s just something for you guys to single out and be critical of. We lose the odd game and [you] find reasons why we did.”