For the Kings last year, a funny thing happened on the way to establishing a tried and true method of keeping the puck out of their own net: their penalty kill, which ranked sixth in the league with an 84.7% success rate from 2011-12 to 2013-14, dropped to 16th in the league with an 80.9% success rate.
Part of that was personnel-related – Willie Mitchell had departed for Florida, and fellow shorthanded stalwart Robyn Regehr battled through injury in his final NHL season – and part of it, it appeared, came from some attention to detail in execution.
“I think maybe we just kind of got away from things a little bit here and there,” said Trevor Lewis, long one of the team’s most reliable killers and the owner of one shorthanded goal in each of the last three seasons.
“Off and on it was good, but I think for this team, our penalty kill is such a momentum boost for us. When we get a big kill, you can see the guys on the bench get up and get a little bit more energy, so I think it’s a big part of what we need to improve on this year,” Lewis added.
It should also be added that the Kings were very good overall at keeping goals against down and finished tied for fourth in the league with an average of 2.40 goals against per game.
Still, the shorthanded personnel will evolve. Gone are Regehr (who averaged 2:35 of shorthanded ice time per game) and Jarret Stoll (1:30 SHTOI/GP), as well as Andrej Sekera and Mike Richards, both of whom averaged a shift or two of penalty killing time per game.
The club has been successful through four preseason games – note: PRESEASON – having killed off 15 of the 17 shorthanded situations it has encountered. Lewis also has a shorthanded goal, having beaten Frederik Andersen off a slick feed from Tanner Pearson during two-on-two zone time last Friday in Anaheim.
Speaking of Pearson, he may get an additional look in preseason shorthanded opportunities as the preseason concludes with tonight’s game against the Ducks and Saturday’s game in Las Vegas against the Avalanche. Andy Andreoff and Kyle Clifford have also received shorthanded looks this preseason.
“I think penalty killing is something that system-wise, we’ve made some adjustments, and we’ve obviously had to make a lot of personnel [adjustments],” Darryl Sutter said this morning.
He added: “The penalty killing, we have to make some adjustments on it, again, because there’s a lot of a personnel change if you look at guys who were premier penalty killers for us – defense and forwards – and we want to give some new guys who don’t get a lot of minutes the ability to kill penalties if they can handle it in terms of being in the right place and making the right plays and making the right reads and staying out of the penalty box while they’re killing penalties.”
There’s also the way to kill penalties efficiently – don’t take penalties. Los Angeles succeeded in doing so during Sunday’s 2-1 shootout win at Colorado, having taken their first penalty 62:29 into the game and totaling only 17 seconds of shorthanded play.
Trevor Lewis, on the penalty kill:
I think a big part of our penalty kill is work, and trying to take time and space away. That’s what all power plays want, is all those special guys that when they get time and space, they find someone and make plays. If we’re quick on guys like that, it really helps us and takes the puck out of their hands more than they want. In preseason, we’ve just got to keep working at it. We know our routes and everything. We’ve just got to work at it.
Lewis, on implementing penalty killing systems in the preseason:
I think it’s just kind of the main thing – it’s guys working at the start and getting pressure up ice and trying to make them dump pucks and kill as much time as we can that way. I think it’s kind of the same. We’re just working at it. It’s been a little while. It’s been good so far, though.
Lewis, on evolving penalty killing personnel:
It’s good. Competition in camp – that helps everyone, I think. It kind of pushes everyone to work a little harder, and it’s good to see some of the young energy and stuff like that. It’s been fun, and everyone’s just got to keep working until we get a set thing going.