Coming into this season, the departure of veteran players like Jarret Stoll, Robyn Regehr, and Mike Richards left serious questions for the Los Angeles Kings' leadership, particularly when it came to the penalty kill. Regehr was especially a fixture while the Kings were shorthanded. Now that those players are gone, who has Sutter called on to fill their shoes, and how are those players doing with the increased responsibility? Let's take a look by comparing last year with this year.
Last year, the Kings had the 16th ranked penalty kill, finishing 80.9% of their kills without a goal against. As for shot attempts, they were eleventh, with a 94.9 Corsi allowed per 60 minutes rate. While the teams that were able to limit shot attempts generally were also very good penalty killing teams, they were some exceptions. Either way, these middle of the pack numbers show that Los Angeles 5v5 possession dominance doesn't necessarily translate to shorthanded situations.
Below is a table that shows all Kings players that saw ice time while the Kings were shorthanded. The key metrics of interest are the times on ice per game and the shot attempt allowed rates.
Los Angeles Penalty Kill, 2014-2015
|Player||Games Played||Total TOI||TOI per game||CA60|
Ignoring the players that saw few games, little ice time, or few games in a Kings uniform (in Andrej Sekera's case), we see some numbers that confirm what was pretty easily observed watching the team - Robyn Regehr got a lot of ice time. Other non-surprises include Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Matt Greene, Trevor Lewis, and Jarret Stoll. What might surprise you is how little ice time Justin Williams got, as he was known as defensively responsible in normal play. Tyler Toffoli was also rewarded for his ability to score on the PK, and he saw a lot of responsibility for his age - uncharacteristic of a Sutter coached team.
It also follows that the players who saw the most ice time while shorthanded dictated the team's overall shot attempt allowed rate of 94.9 per 60. The big names mostly fall around this number plus or minus five attempts per sixty. Given the inherent small sample sizes, we shouldn't read into these numbers too heavily. This is especially true because the players seeing more ice time are likely the ones most often facing the opponents' best players, which may naturally skew their average up.
However, there is one significant outlier in Jarret Stoll. He allowed around 20 more shot attempts per 60 minutes of SH time than his time on ice contemporaries per game (yikes!). Mike Richards is someone we've talked about before when it comes to excelling in shorthanded minutes, and although his average ice time was pretty low, his shot attempts allowed was extremely low. Given this is a trend for him, it's probably safe to call it a skill. Overall, given how many penalties Stoll took and how poorly he did at impeding the opposition on the PK, it's clear the team is probably better off without him when it comes to special teams impact.
Though the season is only five games old for the Kings, they've managed to take a lot of penalties so far this year, so thanks for helping make this comparison possible earlier, Kings. Fortunately, they're the 10th best team at killing penalties at 84.6%, which is a promising upward bump over last year. It's not clear whether more penalties equals a generally higher percentage killing team, so we'll turn that uncertainty into optimism and say the Kings are doing great on the PK, yay! As for shot attempts against rates, they're about the same at 15th, but there is a slight downtick in overall shot attempts against with 92.5 per 60. Let's be optimistic and say that number is only going to improve as the players with more responsibility become better at their roles. Onto the table!
Los Angeles Penalty Kill, 2015-2016
|Player||Games Played||Total TOI||TOI per game||CA60|
The table shows us the key names that have stepped up to fill penalty killing roles. As a percentage of overall team shorthanded time, Muzzin, McNabb, Martinez, Toffoli and Pearson have all seen increases. That's a very young emerging penalty killing core. Muzzin now finds himself third in average ice time for a defenseman, and McNabb has seen a very large increase thanks to the preservation of his even strength pairing with Doughty. Toffoli is again a standout. He's already notched one shorthanded goal, and his shot attempt rate is looking strong, similar to last year. Even if he never sees minutes against the opponents' top players, the threat he poses to the second unit of teams' power plays is a great asset. It also appears that Pearson will see more time short handed as well, and the shoes of thiry-something centers are being filled by wingers not yet even 25. Someone check Sutter's temperature.
Although the season is very young, it seems that the Los Angeles penalty kill is off to a better start than last year's trend. The average age of penalty killers is way down, and some of the better players at even strength are getting the special teams time for which we've been yearning. It's a promising start, but we need to see them a lot less often going forward if the team wants to be successful, as they've averaged just over five kills a game thus far.
Thanks to stats.hockeyanalysis.com and sportingcharts.com for included stats.