The Oilers lead the Kings in a two-to-one game and will have a chance to clamp down on the series Sunday night in Los Angeles.
1. Edmonton’s 8-2 win in Los Angeles on Friday night extended the Kings’ home defeat streak to six games. They were swept away by the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round the last time they played in the playoffs in 2018, and prior to that, they had lost five first-round matches to the Sharks and their only win came on the road. In order to find Los Angeles’ last home win in the final, you have to go back to 2014 when Alec Martinez scored the Stanley Cup winning goal in double overtime to defeat the New York Rangers.
2. Obviously, winning Game 4 would put the Oilers in a great position to win this series. It’s hard to imagine the Kings coming back and winning three games in a row, two of which will be in Edmonton. Teams that climb 3-1 in a seven-game series have historically ended up winning that series 90.8 percent of the time. Teams that went up 3-1 while winning Game 4 on the road have won the series 91.3 percent of the time historically.
3. It was amazing to see Edmonton’s attack explode the way it has over the past two games. The eight goals they scored in Friday’s win are the number of goals they scored in their entirety of their four games at the Winnipeg Jets last spring, and the 14 goals from games 2 and 3 are just one less than they scored in four games against the team. Chicago Blackhawks in the bubble in 2020.
4. STATS came up with something very random but interesting about the Oilers on Friday night… They are the first team in NHL history to lose the first game of a playoff series and then come back and win the next two games in the series by six goals or more.
I think that’s largely because you don’t often see teams win by a large margin in back-to-back playoffs. You might see a hard hit, but you usually see the team that got hit bounce back and play better in the next game. As in 2017, the Oilers were embarrassed 7-0 by the Sharks and then came back and won the next game in overtime. When they beat the Ducks 7-1 that same spring, Anaheim won the next game.
Even looking at the 80s Oilers’ game record, you don’t see them manipulating a team by a six-goal margin multiple times in one series.
5. Key to this success was the fact that all of Edmonton’s lines entered the mix offensively. While Evander Kane leads the way with five goals in three games, the Oilers have had nine different players score a goal so far in this series with the Kings. Last spring, only seven different players scored for the Oilers, and in the 2020 bubble, Conor McDavid and Leon Drysittel combined to score more than half of Edmonton’s goals.
The difference in front rear quality from this year to previous years has been amazing. The Oilers no longer need to stack McDavid and Draisaitl in one line because they both have a pair of wingers who can set up plays and score goals. Also, the Oilers’ sixth-placed was a former black hole, but that wasn’t the case in the playoffs, as the third and fourth streaks scored three goals through three games.
6. Mike Smith also deserves praise for the way he bounced back after making a foul pass late in the third period of Game 1. Smith stopped 74 from 76 shots in games 2 and 3 for 974 saves. His career keeping percentage in the playoffs now sits at 0.932.
7. It’s obvious and not at all surprising that the Kings miss Drew Doughty’s presence in Ballroom. Without Doughty, everyone at Blueline in Los Angeles would have had to move in and take on a bigger role, which is a huge challenge given that four of those six defenders play in the first NHL Final Series this year.
Shawn Dorzy and Matt Roy are the ice-time L.A. leaders among the defenders in the series and you can see in their base numbers how they succumbed to taking minutes that Dottie would normally deal with. Durzi had 51.8 percent projected goals during the season and was 45.7 in the playoffs, while Roy’s projected goals fell from 54.9 to 40.9 percent.
8. Anzi Kopetar notes how this is a learning experience for his young teammates, as he himself, Dottie, Dustin Brown and goalkeeper Jonathan Quick, still LA teams in the Stanley Cup…
“Ten years ago — more than that — 13 years ago, we went through it,” Kopetar said. “It’s a learning curve. Some players have climbed to the plate much faster than expected even in the regular season. This is another notch on their belt. Everyone learns, and they learn quickly, which I can assure you is not easy.”
This version of the Kings made the playoffs for the first time in 2010 and lost to the Vancouver Canucks in six matches in the first round. They allowed 25 goals over the course of that streak, including 13 in a losing streak in games 4 and 5 after leading 2-1 in the series.