Slow, steady PK improvement

The folly of getting too worked up about any one player or aspect of the game is that, almost inevitably, it turns around at some point. Take the Kings’ penalty-kill unit, which had an awful start, giving up seven goals on its first 11 chances in the first three games.

That poor start buried the Kings at the bottom of the PK efficiency standings, although there has been significant improvement. The Kings allowed seven power-play goals in their first three games, then eight combined in their next 13 games. In their last eight games, the Kings are 24 for 27 on the power play. They’re still ranked 27th in the league, but the percentage is steadily improving. Here’s what Sean O’Donnell said today about the penalty-kill unit…

O’DONNELL: “At the start of the year, we had some tough breaks. We played a San Jose team that was on fire. Any time a team goes 4 for 4, that’s going to crush your penalty killing. We’ve been behind the 8-ball ever since then. I would say, since that game, we’re probably in the low 80s somewhere (percentage-wise), certainly not what we want to do but I think we kind of have to forget about those first three or four games and worry about the last eight or 10. I think we were in decent position, but we just weren’t mentally there. We were in the right position but our stick wasn’t on the ice, or our stick was here instead of being here. Just little tweaks, and I think we’ve done a good job with attention to detail, and Quick has made some great saves for us too.”

Terry Murray also was asked about the improved efficiency…

MURRAY: “That’s the group taking a lot of pride in what they’re doing. Penalty killing is about pride. It’s about hard work. It’s about desperation. You’ve got to sacrifice yourself to block shots and work as a group to keep it nice and compact through the middle of the ice and into your D zone. Also, on the other side of it, as we saw last night, you have to have some big stops, and Quick made a tremendous stop on the Guerin power-play opportunity. That builds the confidence and you just keep it going from there.”

To follow up, I asked Murray about limiting chances. In the last four games, Kings’ opponents have had 2, 2, 4 and 3 power plays, respectively. That helps, although Murray had an interesting take on how that can be a double-edged sword…

MURRAY: “If you don’t give up a lot of opportunities, and you’re on a pretty confident role, you should be able to go out and do the job most of the time. On the other side of it, when you’re not doing it, it’s a very difficult thing to practice, the penalty killing, because of the intensity required and the fear that the guys on the power play are going to blast one, a one-timer from the blue line, and it’s going to be a high, hard one with bad ice in practice and it goes off the noggin and someone gets hurt. So there’s a little bit of Catch-22 in not having a lot of PK opportunities.”

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