Manor Kings and Oilers: Reasons for Optimism in LA and the Other 1-3-1


They see me rollin'. They hatin'.
Staff member

For the third consecutive year, the Los Angeles Kings are set to go head-to-head with the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of postseason play. With Game One scheduled for Monday night, both teams had a couple of days rest before another grueling series begins.

In speaking with media at Arena following the Kings final regular season contest on Thursday, coach Jim Hiller emphasized it’s a myriad of things that lead to where teams wind up in the standings. For example, if LA hadn’t scored a game-tying goal late against Chicago in Game 82, they most likely would have been flying to Dallas over the weekend instead of Edmonton. Taking it a step further, if the Kings hadn’t had that dreadful stretch of games before the All-Star break, they would likely be sleeping in their own beds and hosting a lower seed instead of heading off to Alberta. The bottom line is that while countless factors changed throughout the regular season, it seemed like destiny for LA to face their rival Edmonton for a third consecutive year.

Along with playoff hockey comes enhanced media coverage from all angles. There are TV shows, podcasts, and articles written just like this one that lay out series predictions and other nuggets before teams hit the ice. Over the last 48 hours, that media coverage has been ramping up once again. A quick review of chatter around the league reveals not many are giving the Kings a chance to get past the first round this year.

The general consensus is Connor McDavid will be too much for LA to handle, the Kings don’t score enough goals, and a goalie tandem of Cam Talbot-David Rittich cannot get the job done. Additionally, there are notes out there about Edmonton not being scared of LA and their 1-3-1 structure. It’s pretty much all been said 1000 times in 1000 different ways. Are these valid points regarding Hiller and the Kings? Sure, absolutely they are. Nobody discredits Edmonton for knocking the Kings out of the playoffs in back-to-back years.

If the Kings are bounced from the postseason in Round 1 again, there will be organizational questions to answer, including those centered around moves and decisions made last summer. On paper, this was a roster GM Rob Blake put together for postseason success. Now is that time. And with that said, there are several reasons for optimism as the Kings embark on Game 83.

Foundational Factors​

In both series against Edmonton the last two seasons, Los Angeles has been missing a key piece to their offense. Whether it be Viktor Arvidsson or Kevin Fiala, there seems to have been a player missing, leaving some to ask, ‘What if?’ With Carl Grundstrom set to return to action, LA is fully healthy when it matters most. They have not had that luxury in the past two go-arounds. If nothing else, Hiller’s team is healthy at the right time.

Depth at the center position should also come into play. Anze Kopitar and Phil Danault are elite two-way defensemen. Pierre-Luc Dubois was acquired to bolster the Kings up the middle, and this is his opportunity to prove it. While Dubois’ first campaign in LA has not gone the way Blake and staff likely hoped, nobody will care about what’s gone on so far if he helps his team get out of the first round for the first time in a decade.

It’s no secret that the Oilers powerplay has had its way with the Kings during the first matchup in 2022. That point could even be argued as the genises for Hiller being hired by the Kings in the first place.

Year 2 of Kings-Oilers, one of the major storylines was the downfall of LA’s penalty kill. In fact, former coach Todd McLellan dubbed that his ‘summer project’ for 2023. There’s no denying that Hiller heads into postseason action this time around armed with a much-improved penalty kill. LA has held the top PK for much of 2023-24, a big turnaround from last year when they were near the bottom of the NHL. If the Kings can step up to the plate and stop Edmonton from consistently cashing in with the man-advantage, this should become a much tighter series.

Speaking of Hiller, adaptability behind the bench could be a strength LA didn’t hold the two prior years. Hiller has no problem making changes if he doesn’t like what he sees. He’s fluid in his thinking, whether that be with his line combinations or deployment of his goalies. After making little adjustments during and in-between games the past two years, leaving things stagnant at certain times, that’s never an issue for Hiller. If the Kings start to struggle, he will not hesitate to change things up while looking for a spark.

The Other 1-3-1​

One – the Oilers are 1-8 in Game 1s during the McDavid era in Edmonton. This includes 0-5 on home ice, with the Kings winning Game 1 each of the past two years. To win the series, LA will need to gain at least one victory on the road. Doing it in Game 1 could go a long way to securing the four wins they so desperately crave.

Three – there are a trio of new players for LA in this year’s series; each of whom could make an impact in one way or another. Forward Alex Laferriere is set to open up play against Edmonton skating on the first line, alongside Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe. The first-year pro came right of college and joined the NHL, scoring 11 goals and playing in 81 regular season games. He’s shown the ability to be a puck hound and has an edge to his game. Playing him alongside Kopitar stirs up memories of a young Alex Iafallo, as well as brings balance to the Hiller’s four lines. Rounding out the list of newbies are Dubois (covered earlier) and Andreas Englund. The Oilers are known to play a more physical game, Englund could be just the equalizer needed to neutralize some of their post-whistle antics.

One – that’s how many total goals Quinton Byfield has scored against Edmonton in the playoffs over the past two seasons. For LA to find success this year, he’ll likely need to chip in more. With the good news being, he’s had a truly breakout season, and looks poised to have his postseason coming out party. Although he was slowed over the last 20 games of the regular season — compared to his 60-game start — things ended on a high-note for Byfield, with a goal and assist on Thursday. Now, with that pressure out of the way, the 21-year-old forward should come in with a renewed sense of confidence and ready to show why LA selected him second overall.

Kings in six games.

More #StanleyCupPlayoffs talk

— The Mayor | Team MM (@mayorNHL) April 20, 2024

Is any of this to guarantee the Kings will win the series? No, they still need to play things out on the ice. Instead, the above points are merely designed to illustrate that 2024 is a whole new series. It’s not predicated on the past, nor chapter three of the same book. It’s a new book. The ending will reveal itself over the next two weeks.

Through the many peaks and valleys of this year’s 82-game season, when at their best, LA has proved they can beat anyone. At home or on the road, it does not matter. Maybe it’s time to ignore much of the rhetoric out there. Don’t believe it all. The Kings just might surprise you.



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