Daily News Kings vs. Oilers: First round scouting report, prediction

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SERIES SCHEDULE​


(Best-of-seven, all times PT)

Game 1: Monday at Edmonton, 7 p.m. (Bally Sports Socal)

Game 2: Wednesday at Edmonton, 7 p.m. (Bally Sports West)

Game 3: Friday at L.A., 7:30 p.m. (Bally Sports West)

Game 4: Sunday at L.A., 7:30 p.m. (Bally Sports West)

*Game 5: May 1 at Edmonton, time TBD (TV TBD)

*Game 6: May 3 at L.A., time TBD (TV TBD)

*Game 7: May 5 at Edmonton, time TBD (TV TBD)

*If necessary

HEAD-TO-HEAD​


The Oilers won the regular-season series, 3-1-0 (Kings 1-2-1)

Dec. 30: Oilers 3, Kings 2 (shootout), at Crypto.com Arena

Feb. 10: Kings 4, Oilers 0, at Crypto.com Arena

Feb. 26: Oilers 4, Kings 2, at Edmonton

March 28: Oilers 4, Edmonton 1, at Edmonton

TALE OF THE TAPE​


Oilers (regular-season rank) category … Kings (regular-season rank)

49-27-6, 104 points … Season record … 44-27-11, 99 points

3.56 (4th) … Goals per game… 3.10 (17th)

2.88 (10th) … Goals-against per game … 2.56 (3rd)

26.3% (4th) … Power-play Pct. … 22.6% (12th)

79.5% (15th) … Penalty-kill Pct. … 84.6% (2nd)

+57 (5th) … Goal Differential … +41 (10th)

55.2% (3rd) … Corsi Pct. … 54.9% (4th)

54.9% (3rd) … Fenwick Pct. … 54.9% (2nd)

58.2% (1st) … Expected-Goals Pct. … 54.5% (3rd)

90.4% (13th) … Save Pct. … 91.2%( 5th)

53.2% (5th) … Faceoff Pct. … 50.6% (14th)

FORWARDS​


As has been the case in each of the three matchups, the Oilers’ stampeding attack will send its bulls running into the minefield that is the Kings’ 1-3-1 neutral-zone trap. The Oilers lean heavily on Connor McDavid, not due to any lack of support but because any offense would rely on his class-of-its-own production. Though he missed out on what would have been his sixth scoring title in eight seasons by finishing third in points (in part due to a minor late-season injury), McDavid still had plenty to tout. He enjoyed his third straight 120-plus-point campaign, while he and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov became the fourth and fifth players in NHL history to record 100 assists in a single season. McDavid, 27, also crossed the 600-assist and 900-point thresholds, joining the very fastest to do so. Kings center Phillip Danault described Edmonton as “a wagon,” and it’s one that also carries former scoring champion and MVP Leon Draisaitl; 54-goal scorer Zach Hyman; former 100-point producer and No. 1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins; and a pair of one-time intrastate foes in Evander Kane and Corey Perry. Danault, captain Anze Kopitar and savvy defensive winger Adrian Kempe will be among the formidable two-way forwards seeking to offset their contributions. Kempe topped the roster in scoring becoming just the third player to do so during Kopitar’s seemingly eternal reign as the team leader. Kevin Fiala was a dynamic addition to the attack but missed half of last year’s series, while Quinton Byfield emerged as a more potent weapon over much of this season. Trevor Moore broke out with a rare 30-plus-goal campaign for a King and Viktor Arvidsson invigorated the group when healthy. Enormous-ticket trade acquisition Pierre-Luc Dubois has 26 points in 38 career playoff games, and should relish a reset after a regular-season run that ranged from abysmal to underwhelming. EDGE: OILERS

DEFENSEMEN​


Drew Doughty leads the Kings and at 34 he had one of the better campaigns of his career, dominating defensive metrics and rediscovering his goal-scoring touch while leading all NHL players in time on ice. While there was a significant dropoff in production, quality of zone exits and other key barometers among the rest of the defense corps, Doughty’s partner Mikey Anderson, the ever-judicious Matt Roy and the resilient Vladislav Gavrikov rounded out a respectable top four. Jordan Spence ran the second power-play unit and created tempo, while his partner Andreas Englund provided protection for the group, but nothing in the way of offense or pace. They were often joined by a seventh defenseman, a look the Kings might sport again in the playoffs. Defensive-minded Jacob Moverare is up with the club, while potential difference-maker Brandt Clarke remained in the minors. The Oilers got prolific output from Evan Bouchard, who finished in the top five among defensemen in points, assists, goals, power-play points and plus-minus rating in 2023-24. What he lacked in defensive oomph, former Nashville Predators blue-liner Mattias Ekholm provided. Overall, the Oilers are long on size but perhaps shorter on quality in the lower rungs of their rearguard ranks. EDGE: KINGS

GOALIES​


Cam Talbot had his best years in Edmonton, making 140 starts and winning 73 of them over a two-year span from 2017-18 to 2018-19. After joining the Kings in July, the 36-year-old quaffed intermittently from the fountain of youth, bookending his campaign with one stretch that earned him an all-star nod and another that likely gave him the starter’s net in Game 1 after a midseason nosedive. He’s prospered behind a possession-heavy offense and stingy defense, as has David Rittich, who may have re-established himself as a full-time NHL netminder this season. For the Oilers, there was no sophomore jinx for one of last year’s top rookies, Stuart Skinner, who tied for the third-most wins in the NHL with 36. Skinner may not steal a series for the Oilers, but with their V-12 offensive engine, he won’t be asked to do so. EDGE: EVEN

SPECIAL TEAMS​


Adding a layer of contrast to the series, the Kings turned their penalty kill from an Achilles heel last season to a pair of broad shoulders that earned it points from low-scoring games and shifted momentum in some tight matchups. It leapt from 75.8 to 84.6% and finished second in the NHL. That was perhaps the most essential adjustment for an Oilers team that set a single-season record of efficiency last season before annihilating the Kings with the extra man in Round 1. The Oilers were a top-five power play again this season and maintained continuity in terms of personnel. McDavid’s 71 power-play points last season were the most ever by a player not named Mario Lemieux. Draisaitl, Bouchard or Hyman would each anchor many teams’ first units. Even so, the Oilers narrowly out-scored the Kings with the man advantage, 3-2, head-to-head this season. EDGE: OILERS

Related Articles​

COACHES​
Jim Hiller and Kris Knoblauch are both first-year and first-time NHL head coaches who assumed the positions of coaches who were sitting pretty at this time last year, Todd McLellan and his close friend Jay Woodcroft. Hiller coached in the junior ranks before making the leap to NHL assistant. He ran the Kings’ power play and still does, with recently hired assistant D.J. Smith handling some of McLellan’s old duties. Knoblauch had been coaching in the New York Rangers’ system when he got the call to Edmonton, where his former junior star with the Erie Otters, McDavid, was the captain. Knoblauch presided over the 180-degree turn of the Oilers’ aspirations, guiding them to a .703 points percentage after taking the helm. EDGE: OILERS

SERIES PREDICTION​


The Kings appear to have mistaken activity for achievement this offseason as their torrent of moves put them in the exact same position for three consecutive years, starting the playoffs on the road as underdogs against Edmonton. The Oilers have their flaws but their McDavid, his ideal running mate Hyman, his fellow Hart Trophy winner Draisaitl and the emergent Bouchard give them a high performance baseline that’s rivaled by very few teams. OILERS IN SIX.

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