Top 10 questions about Kings-Oilers: Can the Kings contain Connor McDavid?
The good news for the Kings: They have ended their playoff drought. The bad news? Connor McDavid awaits.
Making their first postseason appearance since 2018, the Kings will play against the Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-seven series beginning Monday in Canada. For the Kings to advance, they probably will have to keep the Oilers’ superstar center from dominating the series.
McDavid has matched the hype that preceded him when he was selected No. 1 overall in 2015. A two-time winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player, McDavid won his fourth Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer this season with 123 points.
The L.A. Kings and other hockey teams see a chance to develop a fan base south of the border, with the hope of playing an NHL game in Mexico before long.
The Oilers score a lot (they finished tied for seventh in goals per game at 3.48), but also give up a lot (they were 18th in goals against at 3.06. The Kings were 20th in goals scored (2.87) and tied for ninth in goals against (2.83).
Here’s 10 questions heading into the first-round matchup:
How has McDavid done against the Kings in his career?
In 32 games against Los Angeles, McDavid has 12 goals and 20 assists. In four games this season, McDavid compiled three goals and three assists. When the teams played in Edmonton on Dec. 5, 2021, McDavid had the most penalty minutes (15) in a game in his career. He received a boarding major and a game misconduct in the third period of the Kings’ 5-1 victory.
So who gets the assignment to try to keep McDavid in check? It could be Phillip Danault, who is his first season with the Kings, played like one of the game’s best shutdown centers.
If Danault focuses solely on his defensive duties, he might have to give up something on offense. Before this season, that might not have meant as much, but Danault scored 27 goals, more than double his previous career high and second on the team to Adrian Kempe’s 35.
Center Anze Kopitar is a two-time winner of the Selke Trophy given to the best defensive forward in the league. At 34, can Kopitar keep up with the speedy McDavid?
Besides McDavid, who else do the Kings most need to be most concerned about?
Leon Draisaitl was second in the league with 55 goals and fourth in points with 110. Draisaitl, the league MVP in the 2019-2020 season, had a goal and an assist in the four games against the Kings. Draisaitl and McDavid accounted for 99 of the Oilers’ 285 goals.
Evander Kane, a free agent who signed with the Oilers on Jan. 27, had 39 points in 43 games.
How did the season series between the teams turn out?
The Kings’ victory on Dec. 5 was their only win against the Oilers in four games. Edmonton won 5-2 in Los Angeles on Feb. 15, 4-3 in a shootout in Edmonton on March 30 and 3-2 in L.A. on April 7. In the shootout win, Draisaitl and McDavid were the only skaters to convert.
Where are the Oilers most vulnerable?
Certainly on defense. Goalies Mike Smith (2.81 goals against per game, .915 save percentage) and Mikko Koskinen (3.10, .903) had some of the worst numbers in the league, though Smith, who only played in 28 games, was much better at the end the season. The Oilers also have two of the better shot-blocking defensemen in the NHL — Kris Russell and Duncan Keith.
What is the playoff history between the Kings and Oilers?
While Edmonton has won five of the seven series (1985, 1987, 1990, 1991 and 1992), the Kings’ two victories have probably been the most memorable.
In 1982, the Oilers, led by Wayne Gretzky, finished with the second-most points in the league (111). No playoff team had fewer points than the Kings’ 63. Somehow, the Kings won the best-of-five series in five games, taking the opener in Edmonton 10-8 and then pulling off the “Miracle on Manchester” in Game 3, overcoming a 5-0 third-period deficit to win 6-5 in overtime at the Forum. The Kings won Game 5 in Edmonton 7-4.
After Gretzky helped the Oilers win the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in five seasons, he was traded to the Kings ahead of the 1988-89 season. The teams met in the first round and the Kings overcame a 3-1 series deficit to win in seven games.
Who has the most Stanley Cup championships between the teams?
The Oilers have five (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1990), the Kings two (2012 and 2014). Edmonton lost in the Final in 1983 and 2006. The Kings lost in the 1993 Final to the Montreal Canadiens.
Dustin Brown sees similarities between what he endured as a young player during the Kings’ lean years before winning two Stanley Cups and now.
For all his accomplishments, McDavid has been past the first round only once. In 2017, the Oilers beat San Jose, but lost in seven games to the Ducks in the second round. The Kings have not won a playoff series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2014. They lost to the Sharks in five games in 2016 and were swept by Vegas in 2018.
Which Kings have Stanley Cup playoff experience?
Kopitar, Dustin Brown (who will retire after the season), Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty (out with a season-ending injury) are the only Kings remaining from the Cup teams. Alexander Edler (2011 Vancouver Canucks), Olli Maata (2016 and 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins), Viktor Arvidsson (2017 Nashville Predators) and Danault (2021 Canadiens) have played in a Final.
Other Kings with postseason appearances: Andreas Athanasiou, Alex Iafallo, Kempe, Brendan Lemieux, Trevor Moore and Troy Stecher.
Can Quick still carry a team in the nets in the playoffs at 36?
That remains to be seen, but Quick has a history of coming up big in the postseason. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in 2012 when he went 16-4 with a 1.41 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage. Two years later he was 16-10 with a 2.58 GAA and .911 save percentage. While his numbers from 2014 didn’t match 2012, he did win three Game 7s on the road and in the Final against the Rangers did not give up a goal after the second period in any of the five games.
Even as the Kings were swept by the Golden Knights in 2018, Quick gave up just seven goals and had a .947 save percentage.
Here’s how to watch, stream the Los Angeles Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers playoff series and every other first-round NHL Stanley Cup series.
Next season will be Quick’s last on a 10-year contract extension he signed after the Kings won the Cup in 2012. He will enter the 2022-23 season with 359 victories, 32 — matching his number — shy of equaling Ryan Miller’s record for wins by an American-born goalie.
What’s next for the winner of the series?
A second-round matchup between the winner of the Calgary Flames-Dallas Stars matchup.
What is the connection between the head coaches in series?
Kings coach Todd McLellan coached the Sharks for seven seasons and the Oilers for parts of four seasons — he was McDavid’s first coach in the NHL. Jay Woodcroft was an assistant for McLellan in San Jose and Edmonton.
With the Oilers in a long slump, Woodcroft took over for Dave Tippett as head coach on Feb. 10, 2022. He was promoted from his job as the coach of the Oilers’ AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. The Oilers went 26-9-3 with Woodcroft in charge.
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