Exposing the Los Angeles Kings’ penalty kill and their underlying issues

Edmonton Oilers Los Angeles Kings
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Sunil Agnihotri
6 days ago
In the first three games of their series against the Los Angeles Kings, the Edmonton Oilers have really had their way with their penalty kill. The Oilers have scored seven powerplay goals already by generating the highest rate of shots and scoring chances, and converting on 20.59 percent of their shots.
It shouldn’t be overly surprising to see the Oilers powerplay produce as the group has remained healthy and finished with the second-highest rate of goals per hour during the regular season (10.53 per hour). Their success could be considered sustainable as their rate of unblocked shot attempts (or Fenwick, a proxy for scoring chances) and shots on goal were consistently one of the highest in the league. And thanks to the star power up front, and the chemistry they’ve built over the last few seasons together, the powerplay posted a team shooting percentage of 16.89 percent.
The Kings penalty kill was supposed to be one of their strengths heading into the playoffs, as the team allowed the second lowest rate of goals against during the regular season (5.37 per hour), second only to the Carolina Hurricanes. What might have been overlooked is the fact that their penalty kill results relied heavily on their goaltending, which ranked first in the league with a team save percentage of 90.65 percent. Among 70 goalies who played at least 75 minutes on the penalty kill, Cam Talbot ranked second with a 91.0 percent save percentage, while David Rittich ranked ninth with a save percentage of 89.5 percent.
An underlying issue was that the Kings actually performed pretty poorly in front of their goaltending, allowing the tenth-highest rate of shots against (57.46 per hour) and the twelfth-highest rate of unblocked shot attempts per hour (83.36 per hour). So while the Kings penalty kill results were great, they weren’t exactly sustainable – and they’re falling apart at the worst time.
Here’s a quick look at the Kings’ rate of shots against per hour over the course of the regular season, broken out by rolling ten-game segments. The blue line across represents the league-average rate of shots against (55.05 per hour).
While the Kings did have some stretches where they were allowing a rate of shots that were below the league average, they were typically well above. At multiple points of the regular season, they were one of the worst teams in the league when it came to suppressing shots against, allowing over 70 shots against per hour. So it’s really not all that surprising to see their penalty kill results fall off a cliff in these first three games.
So far in the 2024 playoffs, the Kings’ penalty kill is allowing the highest rate of shots against and the second rate of unblocked shot attempts against in the league. Their goaltending, which was good during the regular season, has completely regressed – their team save percentage currently sits at 79.41 percent. Facing a lot of shots, playing a ton of minutes, and the general grind of the regular season can do that to you.
The other bad news for the Kings is that they should probably keep their expectations of their powerplay low as well.
They have yet to score with the man advantage, going 0-for-10 in these first three games. And again, they might be looking at their regular season results for motivation, as they finished with the tenth highest rate of goals-for (8.40 per hour) in the league, and fourth highest in the west. But again, these results couldn’t be considered sustainable as they ranked 20th in terms of generating unblocked shot attempts per hour and 27th when it came to generating shots on goal. The Kings definitely have some talented forwards who can convert on their chances. The problem is that they’ve been terrible at consistently generating those chances. And again – things are falling off at the worst time.
The Kings’ special teams have some major underlying issues, and it’ll be up to the Oilers’ coaching staff and players to capitalize now.
Data: Natural Stat Trick

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