How they match up in 1st round of Stanley Cup playoffs – Orange County Register

Playoff hockey is again in Southern California for the primary time in 4 years, with the Kings qualifying for the postseason and a possibility to tangle with the high-octane Oilers, starting Monday evening in Edmonton.

It’ll be the NHL’s main scorer and reigning most beneficial participant Connor McDavid main Edmonton into battle, together with Leon Draisaitl, who garnered each these honors in 2020. The Oilers completed with a +38 purpose differential and tied defending champion Tampa Bay for the seventh most objectives per recreation this season.

The Kings have been tied for the ninth finest goals-against common this yr, however had a considerably decrease purpose differential (+3) than all however one different playoff workforce. Naturally, the Kings have mentioned limiting errors and neutralizing the game-breaking offense of Edmonton.

Here’s a glimpse on the video games throughout the video games, in addition to the matchups and potential difference-makers in the collection.

Down the center, on particular groups

McDavid and Draisaitl will be the stuff of nightmares, although the Kings held them off the board totally as soon as and stored Draisaitl at bay twice this season. When requested what the first focus was for the Kings, workforce captain Anze Kopitar was blunt.

“I think those are pretty obvious, the two players in McDavid and Draisaitl, we want to shut them down or limit them as much as we can,” Kopitar stated. “Usually against those guys, special teams are very important.”

Edmonton had the NHL’s third-best energy play conversion price this season however a solely middling penalty kill. The Kings had the league’s sixth worst energy play and, regardless of late-season enchancment, completed twenty second of 32 groups on the PK. They’d like to maintain this collection at even power as a lot as doable, as they surrendered the sixth fewest objectives in the league this yr between five-on-five and four-on-four conditions.

Kopitar and second-line pivot Phillip Danault, acquired final summer season from Montreal by way of free company, is perhaps the tandem finest suited to face the league’s most deadly mixture. Danault went up in opposition to McDavid 10 occasions final season and confronted Toronto’s Auston Matthews 17 occasions. Danault restricted Matthews’ line to zero objectives in seven playoff video games. Danault would replicate the feat of a collection shutout twice in subsequent rounds, in opposition to Kyle Connor’s line in Winnipeg and Vegas’s prime line that featured Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty.

New faces, higher fortunes

Although Kopitar remained the marquee participant, top-line middle and main scorer for the Kings, Danault made a robust influence. A profession season offensively and Selke Trophy-level protection accompanied a presence that elevated the video games of others.

Final yr, the Kings completed the season mild years from competitiveness whereas Danault’s Montreal Canadiens made a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Closing. This yr, the Kings returned to the postseason, whereas Montreal had an abysmal marketing campaign that gave it stable odds at prime prospect Shane Wright. Oh, and Danault’s linemates? In Montreal, winger Brendan Gallagher fell off a cliff in phrases of manufacturing. His 36 objectives in 84 video games over the previous two seasons shriveled to simply seven in 56 outings this yr. In the meantime, Danault’s Kings linemates thrived. Viktor Arvidsson notched 20 objectives in a season for the primary time in three years, and Trevor Moore scored as many factors since Jan. 1 as he had in all 123 NHL video games he’d performed previous to this season.

For Edmonton, coach Jay Woodcroft, who labored twice on Kings coach Todd McLellan’s staffs with the San Jose Sharks and Oilers, has been a guiding mild. In 38 video games, he stewarded them to a .724 factors proportion. Over the course of 82 video games, solely two groups in the NHL posted a greater mark.

“I know how bright, how smart, how good he is. He’s his own guy, he has his own ideas and his own ways of doing things,” McLellan stated. “It’s not just, ‘Hey, you know what he’s doing so it’ll be easy.’”

Emergent wingers

Longshots and reclamations have aided the Kings to make sure, however the group’s pet mission had been ahead Adrian Kempe. A primary-round decide and former top-ranked prospect, Kempe was a participant who McLellan and his employees tried to prod, coddle, jostle and therapeutic massage to assist notice his potential. This season, he led the workforce in objectives. He now has the chance to be a difference-maker in the playoffs for the Kings as he was for his or her former prime minor-league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, on their run to a 2015 championship.

“I just went out there and played and had fun,” Kempe stated. “That kind of helped me, and that’s kind of the mentality I’m going to try to have going into these playoffs, too.”

Edmonton signed winger Zach Hyman earlier than the season, and he has offered a gritty complement to the velocity-blurred art work of McDavid and Draisaitl. A favourite of McLellan’s mentor Mike Babcock in Toronto, Hyman has since earned the belief of three extra coaches in his profession. He additionally jelled fabulously with Matthews in Toronto and once more alongside McDavid. Moore stated that he watched Hyman’s habits carefully when they have been in the Toronto system and was “a huge fan.”

“Hyms is a great net-front guy, he does all the small things so that everyone who plays with him likes him, coaches like him, so it’ll be fun to play against him,” Moore stated.

In purpose, traces will probably be blurred between the playoffs and an alumni recreation as Fast, 36, tussles with Mike Smith, 40. The 2 met in the playoffs beforehand, when the Kings ran roughshod over the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2012 Western Convention Finals.

Fast was all enterprise, steadily shortening his solutions and skirting particulars because the postseason drew close to. He was significantly terse when requested about Smith. However the two veterans don’t have any scarcity of parallels, significantly this season.

Each entered the yr with shaky footing however completed with a flourish. Smith ended up battling accidents, combined type and Mikko Koskinen for many of the season. However his late-season about-face reinvigorated the Oilers as he posted a 9-0-0 report with a 1.66 goals-against common, .951 save proportion and two shutouts in April.

After a dozen seasons because the opening-night starter, Fast gave strategy to Cal Petersen, whose ink had not but dried on a brand new contract extension. Fast, nonetheless, reclaimed his place and concluded the yr on a five-game successful streak throughout which he allowed simply eight objectives.

“The game in Anaheim really pops into my mind, that was probably as vintage as we’ve seen him in the last couple of years and I am very happy about that,” Kopitar stated with a large grin.

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