In sticking to the plan of not practicing today, the Kings aren’t overreacting to a Game 1 defeat

In the end the plan is the plan.

Everything else flows from that.

And so, roughly 14 hours after the Los Angeles Kings found themselves on the wrong side of a 7-4 score in Game 1 of their opening round playoff series against Edmonton, the Kings were not piling onto the ice, skating like dervishes hoping that was the path to redemption.

Total opposite, in fact.

Kings players and coaches watched video of the loss and talked about ways they can avoid some of the pitfalls of Game 1. The players stretched and played a little soccer. A handful met with the media. As Jim Hiller had previously outlined in his press conference on Sunday, skating in between games was likely never the plan.

All in all, it seemed pretty Zen. Just as the coaches had outlined days ago well before Game 1’s bumpy start to the playoffs.

“We had two good practices before we left, played last night, so we’d be looking at probably five days in a row,” Hiller said today. “So, we’re trying to save the energy. We’ll touch it up a little bit tomorrow but mostly it was just a recovery day.”

From the outside it may seem counterintuitive given how Game 1 unfolded.

The Oilers scored three power play goals on four opportunities.

Connor McDavid had five assists.

Zach Hyman had three goals.

The Oilers capitalized on multiple rush opportunities, something the Kings had been solid in defending against during the regular season.

That was one of the key talking points with the team and the coaches Tuesday.

“We allowed them too much space through the neutral zone, too many rushes where we didn’t have a chance to clog them out of the middle and push them to the outside that’s on every player,” Hiller said. “The guys know. They were on the bench they know what went on. We had a video session. We looked and saw. The one area of the game that we thought we really struggled with, that we need to improve, they agreed, they saw it. They knew it probably beforehand and so we put that away to bed and then we’ll start fresh tomorrow.”

But this isn’t about punishing a team for having an off night as much as fans might like that idea.

These aren’t teenage kids whose coach tries to get their attention by making them skate laps until they collapse.

So much of winning in the NHL playoffs is being mentally strong, in resisting the temptation to change things up to appear to be doing something, resisting the temptation to respond to adversity by turning away from your core identity.

By following the established pattern, by not deviating from the plan, the message is clear – hey, we’re not happy but we’re not panicking.

“Exactly,” said defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov. “We’re pretty confident in our group. So, as I said before, we’re not going to change everything. We just got to adjust the little details, we’ll be fine. That was one game, nothing changes.”

Veteran netminder Cam Talbot, under siege for much of Game 1 when the Oilers had 77 shot attempts, praised the veteran core of the team and the coaching staff for keeping everything in perspective in the aftermath of a disappointing loss.

“They have a pretty good feel for what we need both in terms of practice time, rest, all that kind of stuff,” Talbot said. “The coaches are very receptive to that kind of stuff. I think everyone just thought that today would be a good day, with the late start and stuff like that, to take the day off the ice. Pre-game skate tomorrow and everyone be ready to go tomorrow night.”

This isn’t to imply that there is a laissez faire attitude about the loss and the response to it.

The discussion internally Tuesday was about identifying and correcting those mistakes. Now, it’s about execution.

“Just a couple of things we can do better but we’re not pressing the panic button,” said P.L. Dubois who scored in Game 1. “We know that we’ve played better hockey this year and we can do it in the next game. It’s not a switch you turn on and off in the playoffs. It’s not a whole blueprint come playoff time, it’s something that you’ve kept all year and whether it’s little things like this, or systems, or anything like that, I think as a series goes on you have little adjustments that you make, but the base or foundation of everything kind of stays the same.”

That base or foundation is at the very heart of what transpired Tuesday on the first off-day of the series and what lies ahead for the Kings as this series unfolds.

Trust that foundation but don’t let the series find you standing still when it comes to adjustments.

Like the penalty kill. The Kings had the second-ranked penalty kill during the regular season. They were victimized on three of four Edmonton power plays. Obviously adjustments have to be made to right that equation.

Hiller also adjusted his forward line combinations frequently during Game 1.

Kevin Fiala moved from a line with Blake Lizotte and Trevor Lewis early in the first period to a line with Dubois and Quinton Byfield.

Byfield later moved into a spot with Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe and the trio produced the team’s second goal.

“Obviously every game’s important to win, but nobody wins 16-and-0,” Fiala said. “We’re just excited about the new game tomorrow. I’m sure we’re going to be better tomorrow.”

Hiller also talked about finding the right matchup for the McDavid line.

Phil Danault, Viktor Arvidsson and Trevor Moore played for the most part against the Edmonton captain. They have done so in the past but Hiller did not tip his hand as to any shuffling of the forward units and/or their assignments in Game 2.

“Over the last couple of months, a lot of different combinations have played with each other,” Hiller said “So, I think we’re comfortable when we’re adjusting the lines. Players have played with each other before.”

Like the Byfield/Kopitar/Kempe unit.

“That line has been together a lot. So it’s easy for me to flip ‘Q’ back there at any time,” Hiller said. “I’m not telling you exactly what I’m going to do but it gives us that flexibility to do that.”

Maybe three years ago, when the Kings and Oilers first began this spring ritual of first-round playoff matchups, Hiller might have changed gears after a loss and put a young, less experienced team through its paces. But not this team.

“Every game’s its own game. It really is,” Hiller said. “They feel good about that one, we don’t feel good about it. Let’s start tomorrow and let’s change that script. To me we’ll be fresh. We have a lot of veteran players. You might worry about that as a younger team. I don’t worry about that with our team.”

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