By Darren Pang - Special to NHL.com
Hockey commentator Darren Pang is assisting the NHL Network in its coverage of the Stanley Cup Final as an analyst. Pang, a former goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks and the current color voice of the St. Louis Blues, is also writing a blog for NHL.com every other day during the Final
In his latest entry, Pang examines what has made the Kings' penalty kill click throughout their dominant playoff run.
The Los Angeles Kings have killed off 92.8 percent of power plays in the postseason. There are several reasons why their penalty kill has been so dominant.
No. 1, they really shrink the scoring area extremely well. They start in the middle and make sure that the shots are going to be taken from the outside. A large part of that has to do with team discipline. Jarret Stoll is a very good example of that. He's not the fastest skater in the world, but he has a really high hockey IQ for the penalty kill. He never ventures outside the faceoff dot. He's always on the inside of that dot and pushing the pass where he wants it to go.
Discipline, sticks in the lanes and stops and starts, I think, are the main ingredient to the penalty kill.
They also make adjustments on the fly and during games that are very good. John Stevens and Jamie Kompon, their assistant coaches, they are always tweaking, always looking at video. As an example against Jersey, you're focused on the one-timer from Ilya Kovalchuk. If you can make that pass as long as possible to Kovalchuk that has to go through a stick, then you'll take your chances on that one-timer. If they have a player the puck went through, meaning they're a patient, half-wall playmaker, then that would change the penalty killer, but really, the Devils don’t have that kind of player.
I think Los Angeles has done an excellent job of putting pressure on the half-boards with the puck carrier. No offense to what they have over there, but there's no Adam Oates laying saucer passes through people. You look at all their center iceman, [Adam] Henrique is probably the best one they have in terms of getting to the half-boards, seeing the ice and making a play. But to me, they isolate the same play with [Travis] Zajac in the slot as an outlet to kick it back to another area, and you can't do that against Los Angeles. It's too tight of an area and their two key defensemen are too mean and long. Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene have long sticks and big bodies. They win those one-on-one battles. They don't let you get to the area you want to for playing an in-tight game.
Trevor Lewis and Jarret Stoll are out there together, but I've noticed Jeff Carter out there at times, too. He's a long-sticked, disciplined player. Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar -- the fact is, more and more teams are using their top players on the penalty kill. They pay them the most amount of money. They want them on the ice. But they also want to put a little fear into the team with the power play. If I know I'm on the power play and Wayne Gretzky is on the penalty kill, I'm a little more careful. The players that have good hockey IQ on the offensive side of it, they generally can do the same thing on the defensive side of it if they want to do the work.
Right now, the roll that Jonathan Quick is on, every goalie would love to emulate. When I'm scouting him, I'm still saying, "You're not beating him down along the ice." I think his ability to go post to post down low doing the splits, leaves little room for the puck to squeak through. He seems to really be feeding off what's going on in front of him, and in turn, the D and the forwards are so confident knowing nothing is getting by him. I've been marveling at his consistency. He doesn’t get too high or too low. Emotionally, he's so even-keeled. That's something young goalies and other goalies around the NHL can take from him besides his great athleticism.