Edmonton Oilers vs Los Angeles Kings: Stanley Cup Playoff preview and pick
Edmonton Oilers: 2n/a Pacific Division, 104 points
Los Angeles Kings: 3rd Pacific Division, 99 points
Monday, May 2, 10 p.m.: Los Angeles at Edmonton (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Wednesday, May 4, 10 p.m.: Los Angeles at Edmonton (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Friday, May 6, 10 p.m.: Edmonton to Los Angeles (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Sunday May 8, 10 p.m.: Edmonton to Los Angeles (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Tuesday, May 10, to be determined: Los Angeles to Edmonton (TBD)
*Thursday, May 12, to be determined: Edmonton to Los Angeles (TBD)
*Saturday May 14, to be determined: Los Angeles to Edmonton (TBD)
One team, the Edmonton Oilers, fired their coach mid-season, caught fire under rookie head coach Jay Woodcroft and will enter the playoffs trying to shake off years of underplay. performance and the feeling that they wasted generational talents Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The other team, the Los Angeles Kings, are led by former Oilers coach Todd McLellan and have refused to quit despite a wide range of injuries to key personnel throughout the season. The Kings are looking for their first playoff victory since winning the Stanley Cup in 2014 thanks to the emergence of a core of talented young players and key off-season additions Phillip Danault, Viktor Arvidsson and Alex Edler , while the Oilers are just looking for their second series win in the McDavid/Draisaitl era.
Los Angeles 1-2-1
Never mind the wins and losses, as both teams sawed off each other, scoring 12 times each in the season series. The Oilers managed not to score a power-play goal against the Kings during the regular season.
The top five scorers
Connor McDavid: 123 points
Leon Draisaitl: 110 points
Zach Hyman: 54 points
Ryan Nugent Hopkins: 50 points
Evan Bouchard: 43 points
Anze Kopitar: 67 points
Adrian Kempe: 54 points
Philippe Danault: 51 points
Victor Arvidsson: 49 points
Trevor Moore: 48 points
On paper, it’s a decided shift. The Oilers of course have two of the greatest players of this generation in four-time scoring champion McDavid and former scoring champion Draisaitl and the team has been red hot under Woodcroft, going 19-4-2 in the last quarter-over the season. The Kings are still led by captain Anze Kopitar and former captain Dustin Brown, who will retire at the end of this playoff series, although Drew Doughty is out due to a season-ending injury. The Kings have been decimated throughout the season by injuries, so learning to win with a “next man” mentality is part of their DNA. It’s a classic David and Goliath, but the pressure is always on Goliath and history has shown that this Edmonton team was ill-equipped to deal with those kinds of stakes as they only won one only playoff round since McDavid’s arrival. They were swept by Winnipeg a year ago and the year before they were shocked by lowly Chicago in the qualifying round. The Kings, ahead of their rebuilding curve, play with house money, and sometimes that’s enough to tip the scales even if it doesn’t seem possible on paper.
This is the key element of the game. Can Los Angeles slow down an Oilers offense that really clicks under Woodcroft and/or can the Kings keep pace with their own offense? Evander Kane has blossomed since Woodcroft took over and provided a commanding presence on the left side of McDavid’s line, finishing the season with 22 goals and 39 points in 43 games. The Oilers are seventh in the league in goals per game since the March 21 trade deadline, while the Kings are a pedestrian 18and. The Oiler power play is fifth in this span while the Kings are 20and. While the offense clearly runs through the two future Hall of Famers, Draisaitl and McDavid, the Oilers have been better at generating offense from the bottom of the roster this season and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has fought his way through injuries to score 50 points in 63 games while Zach Hyman more than earned his keep after signing a whopping seven-year contract with Oil in the offseason, scoring a career-high 27 goals. For the Kings to stay close, they’ll need to keep scoring up and down the lineup like they’ve done all season. We recently spoke with a scout who praised Trevor Moore, a late bloomer who played most of the last half of the season with Danault and Arvidsson, whom head coach McLellan described as « trusting »the players because they knew they could be counted on to be consistently good players night after night. (McLellan also included veteran defender Edler in that group when we spoke last month.)
Both teams have been difficult to play against over the last half of the season, and while the Kings won’t have Doughty, they’ve learned to get along without the future Hall of Famer for much of the season. so his absence isn’t really a factor. The Oilers’ defense, however, has shown dramatic signs of improvement since the coaching change – they’re sixth in goals against per game since late March – and their shorthandedness has also been blasted into the streak, third in the league. So best for the Kings, who are 10and of goals allowed since the deadline is a washout if not a slight advantage for the Oilers, who added a nice complementary D-man in Montreal’s Brett Kulak at the trade deadline.
It will be a fascinating battle of gray beards, pitting two-time Cup winner and former playoff MVP Jonathan Quick, 36, against ageless warrior Mike Smith, who turned 40 just after the trade deadline. Quick saw his game unfold – he was one of the weekly stars leading into the final week of the regular season – but there were also a few hiccups along the way. If Cal Petersen had been more consistent — he finished with an .895 save percentage compared to Quick’s .910 mark — it might have been a different story in goal for the Kings. But Smith was nothing short of amazing in the final quarter of the season and is hitting the postseason on a nine-game winning streak with two shutouts mixed in for good measure. If it’s the Smith the Oilers starting this week, then Quick will have to be vintage Quick or the Kings will be in trouble. If there’s a red flag it’s the fact that Smith has struggled with his durability and Mikko Koskinen isn’t generating much confidence as a plan B.
Kings have been like the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: hacked into pieces but still fighting. But all the parts that are going to be available to them are now back in good health. Defenseman Mikey Anderson was the last to return and played in the Kings’ final two regular season games. Doughty won’t be coming back and neither will Sean Walker, so the kids who brought them here, along with Edler, will be the kids who carry them forward. The Oilers were without Darnell Nurse’s minute machine at fullback with a lower body (i.e. leg) injury and concerns remain that he may not be ready to start the series, which would be a huge loss for the Oilers and something the Kings would be wise to try to exploit vis-à-vis the pressure on the Oiler defense corps. Jesse Puljujarvi missed some time with illness but was back in the lineup at the end of the regular season.
With all due respect to the Kings, who are one of the surprises of the season, this could be one of the most lopsided of the NHL’s opening eight series in favor of Edmonton. On paper, of course. So this is surely the year the Oilers go out of their way and start taking advantage of their treasure trove of world-class talent. Is not it ? Given the Oilers’ past playoff frailties, it behooves the Kings to piss off the Oilers early in the series in hopes of getting into their collective kitchens. We know it won’t take much to throw the Oilers nation into panic, which means openers are key if the Kings are to keep their David-style season on track and topple the Oiler. Goliath. Still, there’s something about this Oilers team and the adversity they’ve faced that seemingly makes them better prepared for the rigors of playoff life.
CONSENSUS SERIES PREDICTION
The Kings have the experience and resilience to scare the Oilers and steal a game or two. But the talent gap is quite wide here. He will win. 6 grease nipples
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