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GDB +5.0: Oilers need killer instinct to eliminate the Kings (8pm MT, CBC)

Leon Draisaitl Zach Hyman
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
3 days ago
The Los Angeles Kings are teetering on the edge of another first-round exit as they trail the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in their best-of-seven series. Tonight, the Oilers need to deliver the final blow and send the Kings to the golf course for a third consecutive season. The Oilers must approach tonight with a killer instinct and put the Kings away.
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Los Angeles is one of three teams, along with Buffalo and Detroit, who haven’t won a playoff round since 2014. After winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, the Kings haven’t tasted any playoff success. They’ve lost in the first rounds in 2016, 2018, 2022 and 2023. Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers are on the verge of making their third consecutive appearance in the second round. With a victory, they will join Florida and Carolina as the only teams to make it to the NHL’s Elite Eight in 2022, 2023 and 2024.
Since winning the Cup, the Kings have not won a game when facing elimination or when they could eliminate a team, like Game 6 vs. Edmonton in 2022. The Kings haven’t stepped up when it matters most in the past decade, and Edmonton needs to ensure that trend continues tonight. The Oilers are the better team. They’ve proven it in their head-to-head meetings the past three seasons. Edmonton is 8-4 in the regular season and 11-6 in the playoffs.
However, the Oilers are only 5-4 on home ice v. the Kings in the playoffs. LA has won three times in overtime, and Philip Danault scored the game-winner with 5:11 remaining in the other Kings’ victory. The Oilers have struggled when they allow the Kings to hang around. In their five home victories they’ve defeated LA by scores of 7-4, 6-3, 6-0, 4-2 and 2-0. They’ve outscored them 25-9. Edmonton has scored first in all five wins, but only once in the four home losses.
Edmonton is 6-2 on the road, and 5-1 when scoring first. Overall, the Oilers are 10-1 when they score first and 1-5 when LA scores first. You don’t need a degree in mathematics to figure out what has been the key to success for the Oilers. Score first and LA presses more than they normally would.
“It is much easier to play with the lead, and that is our goal tonight,” said Knoblauch. I followed up and asked him to delve deeper into why it is easier playing with the lead. “I think the other team presses a bit more. It’s not like they say they will get out of their 1-3-1, or do something different in the defensive zone. I think it just forces the other team to make a more aggressive pass. When you are leading you can be more patient and protect the puck more. I think ultimately it impacts your puck decisions.”
The numbers back up Knoblauch’s viewpoint and it is why the Oilers need to come out firing tonight like they did in Game 1 and three when they led 2-0 and 3-0 after the first periods. The Kings are not equipped to overcome a deficit. They are 1-7 when trailing after the first period and 1-9 when trailing after two periods.
Edmonton bludgeoned the Kings in Game 1. They outshot them 15-7 in the first and led 2-0. They extended their lead to 4-0 after 28 minutes of play. Game 3 was similar as the Oilers outshot LA 16-8 and led 3-0 after the first period. The game was essentially over after 20 minutes.
The Oilers are a much more mature team this year. Gone are the days of them haphazardly giving up two- and three-goal leads. It doesn’t mean they never will, but they are more comfortable playing with a lead. They don’t feel the need to take risks or cheat for offence when leading, like we’ve seen in the past. In Game 1, the shots were 30-30 after the first period, and the Kings scored two lucky goals late to make the final result seem closer than it was. In Game 3 Edmonton outshot the Kings 24-20 over the final 40 minutes and cruised to a 6-1 victory.
They are the better team. If they play up to their capabilities tonight, they can relax and watch the remaining games in the Nashville/Vancouver series knowing they will be the more rested team.

GAME DAY ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Henrique – McDavid– Hyman
Nugent-Hopkins – Draisaitl – Kane
Holloway– McLeod – Perry
Foegele – Ryan – Janmark
Ekholm – Bouchard
Nurse – Ceci
Kulak – Desharnais
Skinner
Dylan Holloway and Warren Foegele switched lines yesterday in practice and will start that way tonight. The McLeod line has decent possession numbers, but Ryan McLeod and Corey Perry have no points five-on-five while Foegele has one assist. Knoblauch has shown he isn’t afraid to move guys around to try and give them a jolt. We’ll see how Foegele and Holloway respond to the switch.
The Kings changed their matchups in Game 4. They played Anze Kopitar’s line more against McDavid. I asked McDavid if there is any significant different facing Kopitar’s line or Danault’s line. “Not really. We’ve played so much against these guys, and I’ve played against both of that there isn’t a big difference. They are both solid two-way guys, who are similar, but Kopitar’s size is the one noticeable difference. And Kempe’s speed is something you have to respect,” said McDavid.
Knoblauch has last change, and in Game 1 and 2 he didn’t try to get McDavid away from the Danault line, but we’ll see how he approaches tonight. Each game is different and Knoblauch has shown he will react in-game to how things are going, and isn’t afraid to switch his lines, or players, if needed.

Kings

Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Fiala – Dubois – Laferriere
Grundstrom – Lizotte – Lewis
Anderson– Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence
Rittich
No lineup changes for the Kings. David Rittich will start in goal after allowing one goal in Game 4. The Oilers will get more than 13 shots tonight, so Rittich will be tested more than he was in Game 1. The Kings’ special teams will need to wake up if they have any hope of extending this series. Their power play is shooting blanks (0-for-11), while the penalty kill is an ugly 46.6%, allowing eight goals on 15 kills.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Make your plans for round two. Oilers eliminate LA with a 5-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid joins Gretzky as the only players to post 10 assists in a playoff series twice. McDavid picks up an assist on the power play and one at even strength.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scores his second 5×5 goal in his last 17 playoff games. It comes in the first period.

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