The Stanley Cup Playoffs start this Monday, and it is that time of year again. With predictions rolling in, many eyes are on the Los Angeles Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers first-round series. Will the Connor McDavid – led Edmonton Oilers be able to continue their hot streak heading into the playoffs and advance to the second round? Or will their mid-season doldrum come back to haunt them against Anze Kopitar and a solid Kings squad, potentially sending McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and the rest of the team back home early? While Edmonton took the season series (3-1), hockey fans know that anything can happen in the playoffs.
Let’s take a closer look at how these teams match up.
Los Angeles Kings vs Edmonton Oilers Series Preview
While both teams boast a good offensive lineup, the Oilers have a decisive edge over the Kings on offensive output. Edmonton has McDavid (44 goals), Draisaitl (55 goals), and two other 20-plus goal scorers on their roster (Zach Hyman and Kailer Yamamoto). Los Angeles has quality playmakers including captain and veteran forward Kopitar (49 assists). But Edmonton’s arsenal includes assist machine McDavid, who came second in the league in that category with 79. He also won the Ted Lindsey Award, coming first overall in points with 123.
Looking deeper into Edmonton’s roster you’ll see that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins garnered 39 assists in 63 games with the Oilers this season, and now with the addition of Evander Kane late in the season the story only gets worse for Los Angeles. However, the Kings are no slouch when it comes to goal production with Adrian Kempe, Phillip Danault, and Viktor Arvidsson scoring 35, 27, and 20 goals respectively. But L.A.’s scoring numbers drop drastically after them. Edmonton’s 290 team goals this season (eighth highest in the league) against L.A.’s 239 (20th league-wide) tells the story.
Here is where the Kings may have the advantage. With a young, hard-working defensive squad led by long-time veteran Alex Edler and Troy Stecher, Los Angeles’s defence may be able to stand up and save their team from allowing some goals against those big-time McDavid and Draisaitl plays. LA’s best defensive weapon, however, Drew Doughty (out for the season with knee surgery), will not be there for them for the playoffs and will be sorely missed. Furthermore, with veterans Duncan Keith and Tyson Barrie backing Edmonton’s blueline, the disparity between the two team’s D seems thinner.
Solid and consistent goaltending has been the Oilers’ biggest problem all season. Mikko Koskinen has been streaky (at best) and is prone to letting in soft goals and easily handleable shots. And while Mike Smith can make some big saves and does show flashes of brilliance, the Kings have two better and more consistent goaltenders in Cal Petersen and two-time Stanley Cup winner and veteran netminder Jonathan Quick. It will be interesting to see which goalie gets the bulk of the work for each team. Regardless, edge: Los Angeles.
Extras and Intangibles
Edmonton’s 26% power play conversion rate (third league-wide) versus LA’s 16.1% leaves the Kings badly lacking in that department. Moreover, Edmonton’s penalty kill is slightly more effective (79.4%) than the Kings (76.7%). Edmonton has the overall advantage on special teams. Finally, with hard workers (and PIM putter-uppers) Darnell Nurse and Zack Kassian in the mix (not to mention big toughness in Evander Kane), character grinders like L.A.’s Brendan Lemieux will have to work harder to agitate in order to overcome the Oilers edge on intensity and grit over the Kings.
All told, despite a major slump mid-season and the firing of their head coach, the Edmonton Oilers bounced back nicely in the latter half of the season. Under the leadership of new head coach Jay Woodcroft and captain Connor McDavid, they should be able to get past Los Angeles without too much trouble.
Prediction: Oilers in 6.