For all that went wrong in Game 1, the Kings found one formula that worked offensively – Simple Hockey

It’s a simple formula.

Mikey Anderson’s goal last night was a shot from a harmless area that found its way through a great screen by Trevor Moore. Adrian Kempe’s goal had a similar theme, thrown to the net, kicks off a skate and in. Even Trevor Lewis’ goal that was ultimately disallowed was a point shot by Jordan Spence, deflected by Lewis in front and into the net. Didn’t count, but you get the gist.

Pucks to the net, bodies to the net, good things happen.

If there was one area of the Kings’ game that Jim Hiller really felt his group executed on, it was the traffic they generated in the offensive zone. It sparked the most positive stretch of the game, in the second half of the second period. The Kings turned 4-0 into 4-2, nearly 4-3, in what was certainly their most productive stretch of play in a disappointing Game 1 overall.

“I thought if we did one thing well, we were around the goaltender,” Hiller said. “We were in front of the net, we got pucks there, we had tips, we had rebounds, we had screens. That was the one small point in that game.”

Hiller finished that quote with the over-arching theme from Game 1, which is that the Kings are a checking team first, and they need to get that part of their house in order to be successful in that series. More on that, certainly, previewing Game 2 tomorrow. It’s got to be a full effort, though, and in the playoffs, sometimes it’s the simple things that are the most important.

It’s the exact message that Drew Doughty delivered before Game 1.

Doughty is a guy who knows, as he prepares to play in the 92nd playoff game of his NHL career tomorrow evening. He’s seen what works and he’s seen what doesn’t work. His message, both in approach and meaning, was simple.

“It’s just doing whatever it takes, realizing that in playoffs,the fancy stuff, it doesn’t really work,” Doughty said. “I’ve seen it way too many times, the fancy stuff usually ends up going the other way and it ends up in the back of your net. It’s the dirty goals that go in sometimes it’s lucky, just throwing it at the net.”

For his part after Game 1, Doughty felt that the Kings did commit in that way.

The problems, generally speaking, weren’t a result of a team looking to do too much. There were misreads, certainly and mistakes throughout the evening in transition, in the neutral zone, but they weren’t mistakes made by trying to do too much.

“I didn’t really think that we didn’t play simple hockey, we just didn’t sustain enough o-zone time and we just didn’t do good enough against their rush, that was the bottom line,” Doughty said after yesterday’s loss. “I didn’t think that guys were trying to make fancy plays or anything like that, which I think is important in playoffs. I think we did that part of the game decently.”

As a scorer of one of those goals, Adrian Kempe noted that getting the “dirty” one was a part of the game plan coming in.

Now, you can’t just rely on that. The Kings had some Grade-A chances that fell flat or didn’t develop as they should have. A few passed up shots from dangerous areas, for sure, and that has to be corrected as well. But, it’s hard to argue with what worked in that second period. When that’s what the game gives you, take it, execute on it and good things will happen.

“They were dirty goals, that’s the things we were talking about before the game, that’s just how we were going to score,” Kempe said. “I think we had some great looks, both early in the game and second period, third period I think we had some high-danger chances that didn’t go in, but those kind of ugly goals went in. That’s something that we’ve got to keep doing, throw pucks at the net, have bodies around there. Hopefully, when you get a good look, we can score on some of those as well.”

Even with 15 hours to think about it, the mindset and the approach as it related to that part of the game was pretty similar.

The Kings were happy with that part of their game and felt it was an area that did not need correction. It needed perhaps a deeper lean than anything. The Kings certainly know that there are larger areas to clean up, and as noted, there’s more on that to come here heading into Game 2. But they did find one area of impact and you’ve got to lean into those as you go, finding some positives along the way.

“I don’t think there are going to be so many skill plays to be made, everybody plays faster,” forward Kevin Fiala said. “We just have to go to the net, make the simple plays and try to score some dirty goals.”

For the most part, it was the mentality driven at even strength, as opposed to on the power play.

Edmonton played a total of 4:49 on the man advantage, while the Kings had exactly four minutes on the man advantage. In terms of shot attempts, the Oilers had 18 compared to 11 for the Kings, with Edmonton doubling up the Kings in unblocked shot attempts (14-7) and more than doubling them in scoring chances (14-6). Edmonton scored three power-play goals in Game 1, with the Kings not finding the scoresheet.

“I think it’s both [even strength and power play],” Fiala added. “Everybody plays faster, blocks more shots, it’s the playoffs, so we have to get shots through, we’ve got to be netfront and play just a little more simpler.”

For his part, Fiala is a good one to talk on it.

He led the Kings with 12 power-play goals this season, up from seven in his debut season with the Kings. It was his first double-digit season on the man advantage in the NHL, as he set a new career best. With the uptick in goals came the underlying support of an uptick in shot volume, with a career high in shot attempts per/60 on the power play. Fiala also had a career best in high-danger chances per/60 on the man advantage.

“I’m shooting more [this year], last year I was more pass-type, and now I have more of a shooting mentality, but I can pass too,” Fiala said. “I think I had a good balance [in the regular season] with shooting more pucks.”

As arguably the team’s most impactful player this season on the man advantage, Fiala wants to see that unit continue to impact games in the playoffs.

In Hiller’s opinion, the Kings struggled on their entries on the first power play opportunity they had, but lacked the traffic they needed to on their second sequence, when they were able to get into the offensive zone. It’s actually an area that Hiller wasn’t particularly concerned with, with a confidence it would be back on track tomorrow night.

“We had a tough time entering on the first one and then yea, we took a couple shots, but there probably wasn’t enough net-front for a couple of those shots,” Hiller said. “We’re not going to overthink that, our power play is pretty good it’s been pretty successful. We won’t overthink that, we’ll just make sure we execute a little bit better on the entries.”

Heading into Game 2 tomorrow, the Kings will look to continue to deliver in the area of simplicity, while obviously cleaning up the most pressing areas.

Jim Hiller indicated today that the Kings all seemed to agree on the areas that went wrong. They were addressed and we move on, hopefully without sacrificing the areas of success along the way.

Recap from today to follow from Scott, who takes a look at a Kings team that stuck with the plan today, despite last night’s result. No practice from the team, off-ice workouts and video preparation only, as was the plan coming in.

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