G1 Game Notes: Kings at Oilers

Photo credit:Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 year ago
Sixteen teams begin their quests tonight. It will take four rounds, 16 wins, an unwavering combination of composure, discipline, skill, the ability to handle adversity and remain composed at critical times, some luck, and good health in order to be the last team standing to hoist the Stanley Cup in June.
For players and fans, it will be two months filled with jubilation, fear, joy, sadness, frustration, and euphoria. It is why teams play and why fans watch with nervous tension and excitement.
Let the games begin.
— Last playoffs in the Oilers/Kings series the team who scored first won all seven games. Edmonton scored first in games two, three, six and seven. In their four meetings this regular season the team who scored first won all four. The Oilers scored first in their final two meetings. You have to go back to March 30th, 2022 to find a game where the team who scored first lost. They’ve played 12 games since whoever scored first won. Eventually, someone will win when not scoring first, but I think the first goal will be important in this series.
— It is rare a team enters the playoffs on a nine-game winning streak. The Oilers are only the fourth team in history to do it. I’ve seen some suggest that eventually the team has to lose. But do they? In the other three instances, the teams all won the first round. The 2006 New Jersey Devils swept their first round series, before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup winner, Carolina, in the second round. The 1987 Montreal Canadiens lost to Philadelphia in the third round, while the 1955 Detroit Red Wings won the Cup.
— And very few teams enter the postseason on a 15-game point streak like the Oilers (14-0-1) did. All previous five teams won their opening round. The 1975 Flyers won the Cup, the 2017 Anaheim Ducks lost in the third round, while the other three lost in the second round. Edmonton is hoping to join the 1955 Red Wings and 1975 Flyers.
— The Oilers’ special teams have been outstanding the final month of the season. The penalty kill was third best at 88.4%, but they was first in net PK, because they scored six shorthanded goals and only allowed five power play markers. The power play was 36.6% scoring 16 goals on 44 chances in 15 games. The Kings’ PP was second best down the stretch at 32.6%, scoring 14 goals on 43 attempts. Their PK was 20th at 76.7%. The Kings did a great job of shutting down the Oilers’ PP in the first three games, before the Oilers scored twice in their final meeting. They were 15.2% (two of 13) v. the Kings.
— Don’t believe the false suggestion special teams don’t matter as much in the playoffs. Last year teams had 2.88 PP chances/game in the regular season and 3.81 in the playoffs. The Oilers averaged 2.87 PP/game last year, and they were sixth in the NHL this season at 3.35/game. The Kings were 10th at 3.28. I expect power plays and penalty kills to play a significant role in the outcome of the series.
— Connor McDavid didn’t just get lucky and score 64 goals this season. He spent much of his summer shooting more, specifically going five-hole, thinking about where to shoot from and studying other shooters’ tendencies. It paid off with the best goal scoring season of his career.
McDavidSASOGSlot shotsInner slot shotsGoals
He had 60 more slot shots and 22 more inner slot shots than last year. It wasn’t just luck that led to his increase in scoring. He put an emphasis on scoring more by shooting more in the off-season, shooting in motion more, and changing where he’d shoot from.
— He scored 10 goals on 61 shots in the playoffs last season. He averaged 3.81 shots/game last postseason after averaging 3.75/game in the regular season. This year he was up to 4.18, but with a significant increase in shots from the slot. Can LA limit his shots from the slot? If they can’t, look for his goal-scoring prowess from the regular season to carry over into the playoffs.
— Edmonton needs to focus on limiting Adrien Kempe’s shots. He led the Kings in shots and goals (41) this year. With Kevin Fiala unlikely to start the series, Kempe is the straw who stirs the Kings’ offensive drink. He plays mainly with Anze Kopitar, and in the regular season matchups, Dave Manson and Jay Woodcroft used Darnell Nurse and Ceci against them the most, by a significant margin. I’d expect more of that in the series. That is the most important matchup for the Oilers. In the regular season, Kempe didn’t score a goal v. Nurse at 5×5. And the Oilers outshot him 22-13. If that continues in the playoffs, the Oilers’ odds of winning the series increase significantly.
— From 2017-2022 Leon Draisaitl led NHL scorers (min 15 games played) with 1.59 points/game with 18 goals and 59 points in 37 games. He averaged 2.00 points/game last year despite playing the final 11 games with a high ankle sprain. McDavid scored 2.06 points/game last season and is second behind Draisaitl at 1.49 pts/game since 2017.
— Only five players in NHL playoff history averaged 2.00 points/game in a playoff year (minimum 10 GP). Wayne Gretzky did it four times, while Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, McDavid, and Draisaitl did it once. It likely isn’t realistic to expect them to produce two points/game this year, and I don’t think they have to in order for Edmonton to win. The Oilers have more depth, and they have improved their goals against. It is a luxury having the firepower of McDavid and Draisaitl, but I don’t believe they will need to average 2.00/game this year. Of course they want to, but the team is built differently than last year, and I think we will see the bottom six play a bit more minutes each game.
— Last year v. LA Jesse Puljujarvi (9:30), Warren Foegele (8:38), and Zack Kassian (8:32) didn’t play much among the 12 forwards. Edmonton dressed 11 forwards, seven D-men in three of the four games, but Woodcroft didn’t use his fourth line much. Based on how he has used his bottom six down the stretch, and how well they have outscored the opposition, I think we will see depth players play more this year. The Oilers outscored opponents 74-50 without McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice. It was 50-39 without McDavid, Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Their depth is much better and should play a larger role this postseason.


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