Kings Need to Make Adjustments Ahead of Crucial Game Six
Currently clocking in at 42.9%, the Kings’ penalty kill needs some adjusting.
On Saturday, the Los Angeles Kings' season is on the line.
After a disappointing Game Five loss to the Edmonton Oilers, the Kings find themselves in a must-win situation for Game Six.
And while you don't want to make wholesale changes this late in the season, the Kings do need to make some tweaks heading into the game.
The first change is easy because the Kings already made it in Game Five.
They swapped Alex Iafallo and Quinton Byfield in the first period and should stick with that move.
Byfield struggled in Game Five, particularly when dealing with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the ice. Something he can't avoid on the first line.
Iafallo's one of the best defensive forwards in the league and is a big boost for the top line when defending two of the world's best players.
You can't discount Iafallo's contributions on the other side of the ice though. He's having an excellent series, posting four points in five games.
Iafallo also has plenty of chemistry with Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe after spending the majority of last season on their line. And yes, most people were eager to see that line broken up, but this is a different version of that line.
Kempe's evolution this season into a more complete player who can drive his line is huge. Now that line won't rely solely on Kopitar for play driving and Iafallo gives them a reliable puck hound and defender.
It also helps Byfield. He made some positive developments this season and started the series well. But as the Oilers began to load up with McDavid and Draisaitl, he was clearly struggling to keep up.
Moving him down to the third line gets him away from those two and gives him two highly-skilled linemates to work with.
The move paid off quickly for him, scoring his first career playoff goal off a nice feed from Gabe Vilardi.
A line of Kevin Fiala-Gabe Vilardi-Quinton Byfield has the potential to dominate third-line matchups and win games for the Kings.
It's also a line that could carry over into next season and give Byfield a chance to spend time up the middle.
McLellan's mentioned in the past that Byfield's future is at center and moving him off Kopitar's line can give him a chance to move back into his more natural position.
Byfield and Vilardi can share faceoff duties and defensive responsibility, giving both players experience at center. A win-win.
The Penalty Kill:
Currently clocking in at 42.9%, the Kings' penalty kill needs some adjusting.
Yes, the Oilers' power play is the most prolific power play in NHL history, but that's not an excuse. You can't allow any power play to score on more than half of their opportunities.
The Kings need to shift their penalty kill system and move into a diamond. They've done a good job eliminating the cross-ice feed over the last few games but have allowed the Oilers a free pass to shoot from the point.
Evan Bouchard is making the Kings pay and will continue to if they don't change something.
A diamond formation on the penalty kill takes away the cross-ice one-timer and the point shot for the Oilers.
Yes, it leaves the bumper spot open, but the Oilers haven't used that option much during this series.
Maybe the Oilers' power play is good enough to adjust on the fly and start using the bumper to beat the Kings and nothing changes.
But the Kings can't keep persisting with their current system, they have to try something new. If you make an adjustment and they still beat you, okay, chalk it up to them being better.
But you can't keep repeating the same thing and expect different results.