Game Notes Kings @ Oilers: Two Hottest Teams in the NHL Go Head-to-Head

Photo credit:Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
10 months ago
Regular season games rarely have as much playoff implication as tonight’s clash between the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings. It is as close to a playoff game as you can get in the regular season. This is awesome.
— Meeting in the playoffs instantly builds a rivalry and the Oilers and Kings, along with both fanbases, suddenly have a rivalry that hasn’t existed since Wayne Gretzky was traded from Edmonton to LA in 1988. They met in 1989, and the Kings won in seven games, and the next season they had a fight-filled game with over 400 penalty minutes. The game is different today, but when these teams met in January there was some fire.
—  There were three fights, numerous scrums, multiple big hits, and nine goals. It was a fiery game, although Edmonton didn’t like the 6-3 loss. And that was in January, long before anyone knew the playoff picture. Tonight, it is much clearer. If the Oilers want home-ice advantage, they need a win. The Kings know a victory all but guarantees they will start the playoffs on home ice. Emotions should be running high.
— What makes tonight’s matchup more exciting is these are the two hottest teams in the NHL. LA is 9-1-2 in March with a league-best .833P%. The Oilers are 11-2-1, have the most points in the league (23) and second highest P% at .821. Edmonton leads the NHL with 4.71 goals/game in March and the Kings are fourth at 4.00. LA also has the lowest GA/game at 2.08. Can they slow down the Oilers? Can Edmonton hold LA to under four goals?
— Edmonton has scored 4+ goals in 11 of its 14 games this month, and has scored three goals in each of the other three games. Connor McDavid has 28 points, Leon Draisaitl has 27 and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 24. Zach Hyman, Kailer Yamamoto, and Evander Kane have five goals. Evan Bouchard (13 points), Darnell Nurse (10), Warren Foegele and Mattias Ekholm (9) are all averaging over 0.60 points/game. They are rolling offensively.
— The Kings don’t have the high-end offensive guns like Edmonton, but they have 11 players averaging 0.60 pts/game in March in Viktor Arvidson, Adrian Kempe, Kevin Fiala, Phillip Danault, Sean Durzi, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Gabriel Vilardi, Quinton Byfield, Trevor Moore and Carl Grundstom.
— It will be interesting to see which matchups Jay Woodcroft and Todd McLellan will try to get tonight. I could see Edmonton going with 11-7. In their previous two meetings, the Oilers lost 3-1 and 6-3 and dressed 12 forwards and six D-men. When the Oilers lost 3-1 at home in November, they had five skaters who won’t play tonight: Jesse Puljujarvi, Dylan Holloway, Ryan McLeod, Ryan Murray and Tyson Barrie. They are replaced by Kailer Yamamoto, Evander Kane, Nick Bjugstad, Mattias Ekholm and Vincent Desharnais. If they go 11-7, then Philip Broberg will replace Devin Shore who played in that November loss. That would be six different skaters.
The Kings will have four different players in the lineup with Alex Iafallo, Quentin Byfield, Vladislav Gavrikov and either Joonas Korpisalo or Pheonix Copley in goal in place of Cal Petersen, Sean Walker, Jaret Dolan-Anderson and Gabe Vilardi (or another forward who will come out for Vilardi). Edmonton has four different players from their January meeting while the Kings also have four.
Both teams are different, and both are playing better than they were during their previous two meetings.
— The January game was intense, but it also saw the Kings’ power play dominate the Oilers. They scored on four of their first six PP chances, and finished 4-for-7, while the Oilers PP went 0-6. Edmonton is 0-for-7 on the season v. LA. Edmonton also didn’t score a PP goal in two games v. Boston (combined 0-for-2), Washington (0-for-2) and Buffalo (0-for-4). The Oiler have scored at least two PP goals v. every other Western conference team this year, excluding the Kings. They will try to avoid being blanked tonight.
— The Masterston trophy goes to the player “who best exemplifies qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.” It has been mentioned many times that this is NOT a comeback player of the year award. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has a strong case to the be the Oilers’ representative and a possible finalist. Although punching out Justin Holl might lose him some votes league wide in the sportsmanship category (I keed, I keed).
— Leon Draisaitl needs one power play goal to become the fifth player in NHL history with 30 PP goals in a season. He and Connor McDavid are the sixth set of teammates to combine for at least 50 PP goals in a season.
They need to combine for five PP goals in the next seven games. They are on pace for 54.6, so they have a realistic chance to tie Mario Lemieux and Rob Brown. Draisaitl would need to get really hot to tie Tim Kerr’s single-season record of 34 goals on the man advantage. The Flyers had 385 PP opportunities in 1986. Edmonton’s had 257. Draisaitl’s PP goals per opportunity is the best in NHL history.
— Korpisalo and Copley have been rotating starts all month. Each has six starts, and if the rotation continues Copley starts tonight. Korpisalo has allowed 2, 2, 2, 2, 1 and 2 goals in his six starts. Copley has allowed 2, 2, 1, 1, 2 and 6. The six vs. the Blues was the outlier for the Kings in March. They’ve been incredibly stingy defensively allowing 25 goals in 12 starts, with six coming in one game.
They’ve killed it at 5×5 allowing only 15 goals in 12 games and three came v. the Blues. The one area they have struggled is on the penalty kill. They’ve allowed a power play goal in nine of the 12 games and are only 73% on the PK (10 goals allowed on 37 kills).
— Meanwhile, the Oilers’ PP is rolling, especially lately. Edmonton is 36.2% (17 goals on 47 opportunities) in March, but they are 8-for-13 (61.5%) in their last four games. Edmonton has also scored the second-most goals at 5×5 in March averaging 2.92 goals/game. They have allowed 2.5, which is a concern. If it is a tight-checking game it favours LA, but the Oilers have the advantage if the teams start exchanging chances. The difference tonight could be special teams, and the Oilers’ PP has to solve the Kings’ PK.

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