The success rate ebbs and flows, but quality penalty killing has generally been a staple of Los Angeles Kings hockey since the later stages of the Terry Murray era.
The Kings tied for the postseason lead with a 92.1 penalty killing percentage en route to capturing the Stanley Cup in 2012 and followed that up with a robust 87.7 rate in reaching the Western Conference Final last spring.
Though there hasn’t been a drastic change in personnel, Los Angeles’ rate this postseason is 81.9% following Wednesday’s perfect three-for-three performance against New York. It’s an odd number, one influenced by the outstanding offensive clubs that the team has faced this postseason and a pair of significant streaks.
From Game 5 in San Jose through Game 1 in Anaheim, the Kings killed off 19 consecutive power plays. Since then, however, they’ve operated at a 77.3% success rate, having killed off 34 of 44 penalties.
Los Angeles was a perfect three-for-three on the kill in Game 1, and in games in which they do not allow a power play goal, they’re 9-0 this postseason.
There’s a deep, deep pool of players at Darryl Sutter’s disposal while shorthanded. Of the 13 forwards to have suited up in a playoff game, eight receive regular to semi-regular penalty killing time, led by Anze Kopitar and Jarret Stoll, both of whom average better than two minutes of power play time per game.
Dustin Brown, who didn’t receive much penalty killing time midway through the season but has been a significant presence in the team’s shorthanded play both this season and for the better part of his time as a King, spoke about the team’s depth when killing penalties.
“I think it’s something I’ve done my whole career, and then this year I kind of didn’t do it as much,” he said. “Since the playoffs I’ve been doing it more. It’s one of those things where the more you do it, the more comfortable you become in it. In this room we don’t have any bad skaters. I think that’s probably the key for a penalty killer, is you have to be able to skate because there is just too much ice and the game is too quick if you can’t skate. That’s about the only thing when you look at PKing is skating ability and reads. And we have players that are capable of both. I think when you get into penalty kills, it’s more about rhythm. Me and Kopi have PKed together for five, six, seven years and it makes a big, big difference. I think you’ve seen some of the goals we’ve given up this year in the playoffs in particular, sometimes it’s with guys that haven’t PKed together. And there is just that little indecision. Everyone is capable. I think pairs and you get a comfort factor when you’re PKing with Kopi or Rick and Carts kind of going together. I think that’s a key to our success on the PK. At the end of the day, a lot of people can PK. It’s just picking the right guys really.”
Dustin Brown, on Drew Doughty’s leadership:
I think more importantly it’s his leadership capabilities that he is starting to harness and develop. I don’t really think I expected him to do it two or three years ago because he was a younger guy. But now with our group, we already have a lot in place and it’s about him taking that step. Because if he wants to be the so called the guy, he needs to have that aspect of his play be a part of it. You can’t just be a superstar on the ice and not be in a leadership role in some capacity off the ice. He’s starting to take more responsibility in that. You see that not only on the ice but more so in the room being vocal, not that that’s what leadership is about, but he’s being more vocal and you start to breed confidence in him when he’s able to take on that leadership role. It snowballs for him.
Brown, on whether Drew Doughty needs to tone down his emotions on the ice:
I think the emotion is awesome. I think, again, he’s still learning how to use that emotion the right way. I think there are some times when people blow it up that he’s so emotional. I think it’s great. I think it’s awesome. I think there are other times when I’ve had talks with him, he’s had talks. He understands. It’s not an easy thing to do. He’s learning it, but it’s about using that emotion. When you use that emotion the right way you see, everyone has seen, what he can do when he uses that emotion the right way. Again, it’s something he learns. It’s something that all players [learn]. I mean I learned my tendencies early on in my career. There were things I had to change about the way I approached the game with my emotion and probably not under the magnifying glass that he’s going to be under. But everyone learns it and it’s just part of the process for him.
Brown, on the challenge of keeping emotions in check during the Stanley Cup Final:
I think that’s one of the benefits or strengths of our team, is we’re very even keeled given the situation we’re in. Tensions and emotions are high, but it’s about focusing in. Again, I think emotion at this time of year, you have to find a way to use it in a positive way. It’s a fun time to play. It’s good emotion most of the time.
Brown, on how the offensive production affects their reliance on Jonathan Quick:
I think it’s a mixture of both. I think everyone is comparing him to what he did in 2012 and, I don’t know about the numbers, but I don’t know if any goalie has played that well. We’ve had goalies that have won the Conn Smythe and played very well, but I don’t know if there was a team that relied on their goalie as much as we did in 2012. In saying that, this year everyone is talking about his numbers but… I guess the best example is in Game 1 when he has a breakaway save with 30 seconds left. I don’t care if his save percentage is 89. He makes the save at the right time that allows us to win games. He did that numerous times in Chicago, numerous times in Anaheim and numerous times in San Jose. His numbers aren’t the same, but his impact on our team is very similar. In the sense that we don’t rely on him as much because we’re scoring, but he’s making those key saves at key times which you can’t quantify that in a stat.