4/24 Preview – Talbot In, Same Lineup Expected + Kings Focused on Making Strengths, Strengths & Game-To-Game Mentality

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (0-1) @ Edmonton Oilers (1-0)
WHAT: Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 1, Game 2
WHEN: Wednesday, April 24 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton, AB
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports West / TBS – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: The Kings look to get back on track after a disappointing Game 1 defeat, with a split in Edmonton still on the line, tonight in Game 2.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Edmonton took Game 1 by a 7-4 margin, led by five assists from forward Connor McDavid and a hat trick from forward Zach Hyman. On the Kings side, forward Adrian Kempe led the way with a multi-point night (1-1-2), while defenseman Mikey Anderson and forwards Pierre-Luc Dubois and Trevor Moore each scored for the visitors.

KINGS VITALS: The Kings held a full-team morning skate today, following an off-ice workout yesterday, in lieu of a practice day.

Goaltender Cam Talbot was off the ice first this morning for the Kings, which pointed towards him as tonight’s starter in net, with Jim Hiller confirming that Talbot would get the nod tonight in Edmonton. Talbot took the loss in Game 1, as he made 38 saves on 44 shots.

The Kings showed the following alignment during morning line rushes –

Laferriere – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Fiala – Dubois – Byfield
Grundstrom – Lizotte – Lewis

Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence

Talbot / Rittich / Dell

In terms of today’s lineup, not necessarily expecting any changes for the Kings in terms of personnel, but perhaps with how that personnel is aligned from the way the team practiced heading into the playoffs and what we saw during Game 1.

In Game 1, there was even a change between pre-game line rushes and what we saw in the first period, which brought us to the above configuration. Jim Hiller confirmed this morning that no changes are expected for Game 2, with the bottom six expected to look as it does above.

OILERS VITALS: Edmonton won a Game 1 for just the second time in its last 10 tries and now heads into Game 2, which it has won in each of the last two seasons over the Kings.

No decisions to be made in net on the Edmonton front, with Stuart Skinner set to be between the pipes for tonight’s Game 2. Skinner earned the victory on Monday with 33 saves on 37 shots on goal, as he improved his lifetime record in the playoffs to 6-6, with four of the six wins coming against the Kings.

Per Tony Brar of Oilers TV, here’s how Edmonton lined up during yesterday’s practice in between Games 1 and 2 –

Per the above line combinations, it doesn’t look like there are any changes to the Oilers lineup from Monday. Edmonton forward Connor McDavid currently leads all players in playoff assists and points, while forward Zach Hyman leads the league with three goals, via his hat trick in Game 1.

Notes –
Making The Strengths, The Strengths
Game 1 was an interesting game because of the way that things went wrong for the Kings.

Certain things that have been a strength of this team all season long were the areas that let the Kings down on Monday. The Kings gave up far too much off the rush, as a team that prides itself on its structure and neutral-zone play. I think I heard “F3” referenced over the last 24 hours more than I have in the first seven months of the season combined. As the league’s second-ranked PK unit during the regular season, three power-play goals against was a disappointing way to debut in the series.

For all that did not go well, though, there is a confidence in getting it right tonight. Because, over the course of 82 games, those were the areas in which this Kings team excelled, thrived and prided themselves in. Had the Kings played their game effectively, in their style, and simply got beat, I think the concern would be much higher. With how Game 1 went, there is a confidence within the group of establishing Kings hockey in Game 2.

“When things don’t go your way, you lean on your structure and I think we know what we can do with it,” forward Trevor Lewis said. “We had a good day yesterday and talked about some things and come back focused and ready to go today.”

In terms of the rush chances against, the Kings know what went wrong and they have a pretty good idea of what needs to change.

The neutral-zone systems and structure have been beaten to death with regards to how the Kings play but no matter what you think of it, it was effective this season when the Kings played it at their highest level. As Lewis noted, in moments like this you don’t get away from what you do well. You lean into it even harder. A good day of video review yesterday, when everyone was on the same page with regards to where things lacked in that area, with a focus on getting back on track tonight.

“I think there’s some easy things, obviously rushes, we’ve been really good all year at eliminating other team’s rushes,” forward Pierre-Luc Dubois said. “We can do a better job at cleaning that part up, giving the defensemen an easier read, having an F3 in a responsible position, to where the defenseman feel like they can jump.”

Dubois was one of so many players to mention the F3. Against Edmonton, the F3 is perhaps even more important in allowing the team’s defensemen the freedom to pinch when the situation calls for it. So many Kings forwards touched on the importance of F3 staying home and being on point.

Moving on to the penalty kill, the Kings ranked second in the NHL this season over 82 games. Nearly 85 percent over the course of more than 250 shorthanded chances is nothing to sneeze at. This is the playoffs though and the Kings are at 25 percent on the PK, allowing three power-play goals in Game 1 on four shorthanded chances.

You can’t simply prevent taking penalties, but captain Anze Kopitar made it clear this morning that Game 1 had too many, especially if there are avoidable ones. As Jim Hiller noted post game, a couple of “borderline” calls, when the Kings perhaps put the officials in a position to make the call. Even if it’s say 50/50, don’t even give them the chance to make the decision.

“They’re great players over there, some of the best players in the world, so they’re going to draw penalties and you’re going to take penalties against them,” forward Blake Lizotte said. “You just have to avoid the freebies that are maybe not solicited.”

From a wider lens, even though things like neutral zone, suppressing rush chances, defensive hockey and the penalty kill have been strengths, it’s not as if all 82 games were perfect. Game 83 certainly wasn’t, but Game 83 is in the past. Time for Game 84, time to execute.

“There have been games during the regular season too where our game wasn’t as sharp as we wanted it to be,” Kopitar added. “For the most part, we bounce back pretty well, so we’re looking to do the same tonight.”

It’s that last part that feels like the final piece towards instilling confidence.

Jim Hiller has said it time and time again. The Kings play bad games but they rarely play two in a row. Heading into Game 2 in search of a split, that’s the focal point for the group here tonight.

“There’s no panic at all, it’s only one game,” forward Kevin Fiala added. It’s important to win it, but nobody wins it [by going] 16-0. We’re excited about [Game 2.].”

Quick Hitters –
– Jim Hiller made it clear this morning that Cam Talbot is his guy here in Game 2 and that he’s not putting Game 1 on the goaltender.

“We were loose in front of him and we gave up way too much.”

Look, Talbot is a veteran. He’s been in situations before where he’s needed to step up with a big night, off a lopsided defeat. He’s shown the ability to do that in the past and despite the Kings allowing seven goals, I don’t think there was a ton of blame shifted to the goaltender by anyone who was a part of it.

“We [usually] do a good job of making it easier for the goalie in this organization and [in Game 1], we did not,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “We gave them back-door tap ins, we gave them tons of chances. Talbs made a ton of great saves, you can’t be putting any blame on him, it’s all the guys in front of him.”

Tonight in Game 2, the Kings have talked over the last two days about a strong effort in front of their goaltender. With better execution on the areas listed above, it’ll set Talbot – and the team’s defensive effort as a collective – up for success.

– Hiller also spoke on the differences in preparation between regular season and the playoffs.

All year long, there’s one eye on today, one eye on tomorrow. Come the postseason, though, when the opponent doesn’t change, the focus becomes much more singular.

“The playoffs is the best time for that reason, because there’s so many games, so many different teams that come at you in the regular season that you’ve got somebody pre-scouting the next game while you’re playing that game and there’s just lots going on because it happens fast,” Hiller said. “We all love the playoffs because we play the game and review the game with the same opponent again. Adjustments are made and it just keeps moving along.”

From the perspective of the coaches, that preparation builds upon itself from game to game.

For the players, while the preparation builds, the games are played more as one game at a time. In the playoffs, it doesn’t feel as if momentum really carries over from game to game. That’s where the LA focus is at heading into Game 2.

“Every game is its own game, it really is. They feel good about that one, we don’t feel good about it. Let’s start and let’s change that script.”

Hiller added that the Kings are a veteran team and most players here have been here before. With a younger group, perhaps the one the Kings brought to Edmonton in 2022, that would likely be more of a concern. Now, the team is older, wiser and more experienced. Not a ton of concern on that front heading into tonight’s game.

Time to look for the split. 7 PM Pacific puck drop, back on Bally Sports West locally and TBS tonight for the national feed. Looking for a stronger performance here on take number two, we’ll see how it shakes out.

Rules for Blog Commenting

  • No profanity, slurs or other offensive language. Replacing letters with symbols does not turn expletives into non-expletives.
  • Personal attacks against other blog commenters, and/or blatant attempts to antagonize other comments, are not tolerated. Respectful disagreement is encouraged. Posts that continually express the same singular opinion will be deleted.
  • Comments that incite political, religious or similar debates will be deleted.
  • Please do not discuss, or post links to websites that illegally stream NHL games.
  • Posting under multiple user names is not allowed. Do not type in all caps. All violations are subject to comment deletion and/or banning of commenters, per the discretion of the blog administrator.

Repeated violations of the blog rules will result in site bans, commensurate with the nature and number of offenses.

Please flag any comments that violate the site rules for moderation. For immediate problems regarding problematic posts, please email zdooley@lakings.com.