Angeles Analysis – Game 4

If the Los Angeles Kings played Game 4 100 times, played that exact same game with the same effort, same mindset, same urgency, how many times would they come away with a win?



Maybe such an exercise is a mug’s game. Because on a night when the Kings played their best playoff game of this first-round series, maybe their best game in months, they still fell short, losing 1-0 to the Edmonton Oilers.

The Kings now trail the best-of-seven series 3-1 and face elimination in Edmonton in Game 5 on Wednesday.

“It’s, yeah, frustrating probably, disappointed’s a really good word,” said head coach Jim Hiller. “Guys played hard. We had to play this kind of game. This is the game we’ve got to take with us to Edmonton now. Disappointed we’re not 2-2 but we’ve got to go play this game in Edmonton now. that’s the only choice we have. We didn’t get it done even though we gave it a pretty good crack at getting it done.”

The Kings coach is not wrong.

Stand back, ignore the scoreboard for just a moment and there is much to admire about this game especially as it came on the heels of a disappointing 6-1 loss at home in Game 3.

There’s no such thing as a perfect game, especially a game in which you failed to score. But this was Kings hockey the way it’s written out in the manual.

The Kings allowed the powerful Oilers just 13 shots on net. Connor McDavid had one shot on goal. Leon Draisaitl had two shots.

The Kings delivered 33 shots on Edmonton netminder Stuart Skinner.

They out-hit the Oilers 41-27.

They broke out of their zone seamlessly.

They didn’t turn the puck over.

They protected new netminder David Rittich who was making his first start of the series and just the second playoff start of his career.

They forechecked relentlessly and picked off Edmonton passes in the neutral zone.

Even after the Oilers scored the only goal of this game – on the power play of course in the second period – the Kings kept coming.

They didn’t sag.

“We had some presence at the net, we got a couple of good tips, just got to be more hungrier I guess,” said Phil Danault.

“I think that’s been the message for a while but tonight we were able to play as five, ‘D’ had good gaps, we were tracking well, making it easy for them and we were going on the forecheck so that’s playoff style hockey,” added forward Trevor Moore.

So much good work done. That is undeniable.

Also undeniable is that because there was so much impressive about so much of the Kings’ game, this one will sting a bit.

“Didn’t get the win. Obviously frustrating,” Moore said. “Frustrated with the result not with the effort but at this time of year I guess it doesn’t mean too much.”

“We played a good game. We obviously wanted that one,” Moore added. “But what are you going to do? You got to wake up tomorrow, we’re going to get back to work we need a better effort next game.”

Maybe not even better, really.

Maybe it’s just about boxing up Game 4, loading it on the team jet Tuesday and unleashing it again in Game 5.

“That’s the challenge,” Danault said. “It’s the way we’ve got to play every night now. We’ve been working on that the whole season. That’s the ultimate goal, to play the same way every single game and now we have two days’ rest. We have no issues, we’ve got to come out the same exact way we did tonight and we’re going to win, that way it’s the only way.”

I wrote earlier in this series that there are no moral victories in the playoffs. And to not find a way to win Game 4 is deeply disappointing for the Kings. No way around that. But there is something about what was found by the Kings in Game 4 that feels like it should count for something.

Certainly the belief amongst the players and coaches is that this could, should stand as a corner turned.

“You know the feeling,” Hiller said. “As a player, the team in the room, the preparation, the effort, it’s right there. So to summon that back up again it’s not like we have to go and find it. It’s right there. We did it. So it should not be that difficult.”

Did we mention there is no perfect in hockey?

As close as the Kings got to it Sunday night, especially given some of the uneven play by the team in losses in Games 1 and 3, there were still enough imperfections to spoil the outcome.

The Kings took only one minor penalty on the night. A holding penalty assessed defenseman Andreas Englund in the second period after he’d had his stick knocked out of his hand. The Oilers made the Kings pay as they have made the Kings pay throughout this series in this case with an Evan Bouchard blast from the point.

The Oilers are now 8-for-15 with the man advantage.

The Kings were afforded one power play opportunity. It did not, obviously, produce a goal. The Kings are now 0-for-11 with the man advantage.

While there are lots of subplots and minor narratives that is the story of the series thus far.

“I don’t think we had a guy tonight that didn’t play well,” Hiller said. “We didn’t score. And we talked about it. They scored one on their power play. We lost the special teams battle. We talked about it this morning. We said we have to win the special teams battle, whatever that looked like. We didn’t win the special teams battle, we didn’t get the win.”

The one Kings power play, in the third period, seemed like a good place for redemption. Instead, it reinforced that the lack of success is weighing heavily on the players.

“What happens any time, it happens to a player, it happens to a power play,” Hiller said. “When you’re just not feeling it, when it’s not going your way, you’re probably pressing a little bit and not as relaxed, just letting plays happen.”

As has been the case throughout the series, finding a way to win that special teams battle remains a work in progress and time is running out to get that work finished.

Still, there is a mountain of experience in the Kings’ locker room and in the moments after the game there was already discussion about the mindset of tackling a 3-1 series deficit.

Multiple players have played on teams in Los Angeles and elsewhere where 3-1 deficits have been erased. Heck, there are players who will take the ice in Edmonton in Game 5 who were part of the handful of teams in National Hockey League history who have erased 3-0 series deficits.

So, there is that knowledge and there is the knowledge of just how impressive their performance was on so many levels Sunday night.

“We have to play the same exact way and that’s going to give us a big chance,” said Danault whose Montreal Canadiens erased a 3-1 series deficit against Toronto in 2021.

“So we’ve got to believe and it’s got to be there and the only thing is we’ve got to play the same exact way as today,” Danault added. “The result we don’t control but we’ll give ourselves the best chance.”

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