The post-game comments matched the post-game comments after Game 5.
“We’re not happy with the game tonight.”
“We’ve got to be better.”
“More desperate and a lot more assertive.”
“Not good enough, not close to it.”
The Kings know Game 5 wasn’t good enough to get a result at this time of the year. You all clearly did too. As Todd McLellan put it, it wasn’t good enough to get a result in Game 2 of the regular season, so it certainly wasn’t enough yesterday. They also understand that a loss is a loss at this stage and whether it be by one goal or six, it counts as one in the series. In that respect, the Kings trail 3-2.
Game 5 was an example of the differences between the two teams taking control of the game. When Edmonton is imposing its will, they’re turning shift after shift over in the offensive zone, working off the cycle and getting pucks to the top of the crease, even on plays that don’t connect. They force half clearances and hop right back on the attack. It’s easier said than done to halt that momentum, but it’s what the Kings have prevented from happening when they’ve been on their game, in particular at home. We saw that for long stretches in Game 4, as Edmonton’s offensive momentum was stifled and the Kings team we’ve come to enjoy watching took over the game in their own way. It’s more meticulous than Edmonton when it happens, but you know it when you see it. Far too infrequently did we see that same team in Game 5 and they’d be the first to tell you that.
What’s interesting too is, despite all of that, the Kings were close on numerous occasions to this game being tighter, despite the disparity. Think it was the shift after Alex Iafallo’s goal that Trevor Moore hit the post. A shift or two later, it’s 3-1 after the Kulak goal the other way off blown defensive-zone coverage. Goal 5 went off a dude’s head and in. Could’ve used an Andrew Shaw ruling there. Goal 6 went off a glove, off a skate and in. Not to suggest, at all, that bounces or breaks were the difference, because the Kings would tell you they weren’t. But still, they all seemed to go the other way and it’s easy to see how the score could have been tighter, even when the play wasn’t.
There’s obviously the elephant in the room that’s not so much of an elephant anymore. The Oilers are 8-of-14 on the power play, with the Kings killing just over 40 percent of the power plays they’ve faced. When asked after the game, McLellan acknowledged it, indicating that the Kings would try to adjust for Game 6. Not much to be gained for him to offer up anything further. The Kings are obviously aware of the situation and they will obviously focus on improving it. Telling us the plan wouldn’t make it much of a plan, would it? After Game 3, a big narrative was the fact that the two teams were even on special teams, with four goals apiece. That has ballooned to 8-5 in Edmonton’s favor, with the Oilers 4-of-6 on the man advantage over the two games since. Unless the officials trade their whistles for a Wetzel’s Pretzel before Game 6, the Kings will be in that situation once again on Saturday. It’s the best power play in the league, sure, but despite it, the Kings believe they can do better – and need to do better – in those situations.
There was one of the post-game comments, though, that didn’t appear too often in the post-game comments (Insiders Version).
“We are going to play a lot better than that.”
If there’s something that makes me believe it, it’s this team’s track record. The Kings outright lost three games in a row just twice this season. Not that it matters in this particular instance, but they never lost four in a row and they never outright lost four of five, which is what a Game 6 loss would mean. Trends in a vacuum mean absolutely nothing but it’s the character of the group behind the trends that has value. The Kings track record suggests a team that won’t roll over come Saturday in Los Angeles.
After the flow of Game 5, I can understand why you wouldn’t believe it and that’s fine, but I’m going to believe it anyways. It’s just hard to see this team going out with a whimper. Being better in Game 6 isn’t a guaranteed victory, but doing certain things and executing the way the Kings are capable of gives them a damn good chance. Written off several times already before and during this series, I’d be surprised if that punch wasn’t there when the puck drops on Saturday. You can’t win two before you win one, so all of the focus will be on Game 6.
Looking ahead, we have a postseason rarity as the Kings will have three days off between last night’s defeat and Saturday’s Game 6.
Speaking with Todd McLellan this morning, he said that in a conversation between him, Rob Blake and Anze Kopitar, none had ever recalled a situation like this before and that is a WEALTH of playoff experience to draw from.
“A three-day break is rare, I was talking to Blakey and Kopi yesterday and none of us can remember that in the series. Obviously, our building is a pretty unique one where three playoff teams exist at the same time, so we take what we get. I actually think the break will be good for our group today. We flew back late last night, so today’s a complete day off, which our group needs right now, mentally and physically.”
It’s almost unheard of in the postseason. In another world, we might have been sitting here bemoaning the Lakers and Clippers, had the series flow been different heading into this game. Off consecutive losses, though, I think it’s a schedule that benefits the Kings much more than it does the Oilers. The current plan has an off day today, followed by practice days Thursday and Friday. There’s no magic elixir to be found, but the team that’s coming off a pair of defeats in which they conceded 11 goals against over the last five periods is the team that should be looking forward more from the break in the action on paper. Now it’s on the Kings to take advantage of that break.
Off day today, Insiders, practices at 11 AM on Thursday and Friday heading into Saturday’s game. Still to be determined with regards to the start time on Saturday, with just a New York / New Jersey tilt currently confirmed and a pair of Game 5’s coming up tomorrow that will determine if there are other games on that day. More to follow.