The 2022-23 season for the Los Angeles Kings came to an end against a familiar foe in the Edmonton Oilers. Without saying what could have been done differently, one thing is for certain and that is changes needed to be made. Those changes would be made during the off-season, most of them on par to the on-ice product. The biggest problem last season was the penalty kill and that needed some adjustments.
Kings Adapt and Change For Better Results
Going into the off-season, personnel would see some tweaks, both on the ice and off. Changes that would make the on-ice product better, grabbing every advantage to make them a better team. The penalty kill was worked on in training camp and players realized what needed to be changed in terms of systems to make this work out.
Last season, the Kings penalty kill was operating at an embarrassing 75.84%, which ranked 24th in the league. They were 19th in short-handed goals scored and that would be the only bright spot.
Often times, Los Angeles overcommitted in the defensive zone and it cost them goals against. The chances the opposition had on the power play was laughable as if Los Angeles was not trying. Players were put in this penalty killing role that had not played in this way before and they struggled. The defense struggled to play a defensive system and the goaltending was average.
The 2023-24 penalty kill has a completely different look and has much better results. They are third in the NHL with a kill rate of 88.4% and their net penalty kill is second at 94.2%. A net penalty kill is the total number of power plays divided by the total number of power play opportunities. The Kings already have four short-handed goals this season, thanks to Blake Lizotte, Carl Grundstrom, Trevor Moore, and Adrian Kempe.
The personnel is close to what was here last season on the penalty kill, except for the returning Trevor Lewis. Lewis is back to play this season with the Kings and he has been noticeable on the penalty kill, using his experience and timing to maneuver to the right spots on the ice.
The penalty kill as a whole has not been overly aggressive, instead playing the patient game that allows the opposition to overplay the puck. When the Kings get the puck on the kill, and take it down the ice, they trap it and kill precious time by cycling the puck and pinning it against the boards.
As mentioned above, Lewis is back and the forward group has played a more defensive system on the penalty kill. Grundstrom and Jaret Anderson-Dolan have contributed simply by using their speed to get on the puck, playing the waiting game, and using the whole ice to clear the puck.
Another reason the penalty kill has been so successful in the early going has been the penalty kill unit and goaltenders not giving up second chances. The Kings obtain possession and the puck is gone. The goaltender makes the save and the puck is cleared. It sounds simple but the Kings had an issue last season applying the same system. They have clamped down in their zone to be a more effective group and give no second chances.
The Kings are playing as a team and it shows. Regular shift or special teams, the team is getting the job done in the tough Pacific Division. Penalty kill opportunities will be crucial come playoff time but if Los Angeles can play this way then the scoring chances and goals scored against will be limited. This group is glue when the puck is in their zone on the kill as they are not giving the opposition time to set up and organize. Sometimes the little changes bring the biggest success.
(photo: latimes; Jack Harris) (photo: lakingsinsider.com; Zach Dooley)