LA Kings: Hockey Royalty Staff Predicts Round 1 vs Edmonton
The rematch every LA Kings fan has wanted since last season ended is upon us. How do the contributors at Hockey Royalty see the series playing out?
The rematch that everyone has wanted for a year is upon us. Kings vs Oilers gets started Monday night in Edmonton. Each team is better than the previous year and looking to get farther in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. To me, this comes down to health. If Kevin Fiala and Gabe Vilardi are healthy this Kings team has every opportunity to win this series. Stay out of the penalty box, counter-punch off the rush, and get key goaltending.
With so much uncertainty around the health of the team, I picked Edmonton in 7 games, but for our sake, I hope Fiala and Vilardi rise like the Phoenix from the ashes. That will be the edge to put the Kings over the top in this series.
Prediction: Oilers in 7.
There is no doubt that Edmonton has been one of the best teams in the NHL since the All-Star break, and even though the status of Kevin Fiala and Gabriel Vilardi is unclear coming into this series, the Kings are in a much better position than last season when they lost in seven games. Although both teams’ rosters are deeper than in 2021-22, the Kings have an x-factor on defense that was absent last year. Drew Doughty will be huge for the Kings in this series. His presence, along with a solid crop of defensive forwards, including Anze Kopitar, Phillip Danault, Alex Iafallo, and Trevor Moore, will help to stifle the Oilers high powered offense, lifting the Kings past the Oilers and into the second round.
Prediction: Kings in 6.
It is unfortunate that this Kings team, who really hit their stride in the second half of the season, has run into some big injury trouble as well as a matchup with the Edmonton Oilers. Sure, the Kings probably provide the toughest test to the Oilers in the Western Conference, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good matchup for LA.
In the four matchups this season, the Kings were 2-2 but were second-best in those games. Combined, LA had just a 44.4% CF, 45.6% xGF, 44.6% SCF, and 49.3% HDCF at 5-on-5 (per Natural Stat Trick). They did an OK job at limiting high-danger chances and that’s going to be their key to the series. In addition to staying out of the box, they need to limit the high-danger chances and hit Edmonton off the rush.
Overall, I just think Edmonton is too good and too deep. They’re now a versatile team that can beat you in a track meet, or, beat you in a low-scoring, tight-checking affair.
Prediction: Oilers in 6.
The LA Kings are again facing the Edmonton Oilers in Round 1, and it’s pretty obvious things will get heated again. The back and forth between the two sides have clashed all year. Injuries, close games, and the total explosiveness of both sides basically confirm we’re heading toward another war.
Although the LA Kings have significantly improved, adding names like Kevin Fiala, Vladislav Gavrikov, and Joonas Korpisalo, the Oilers will be a team that won’t take any of it. Arguably the best team out of the Western Conference, the Oilers will be in full throttle as the red-hot Connor McDavid won’t look to slow down.
It’ll surely be a battle, and the Kings will make a massive push, but the Oilers have experience and a much more dynamic group. While the Kings may push for another seven-game series, they’ve been unfortunate in terms of matchups and have ended up with a juggernaut of an opponent. I don’t think they quite yet have what it takes to beat a team like Edmonton. I’m sure they’ll do it down the line, but until then, it feels like the Oilers have the upper hand.
Prediction: Oilers in 6.
I’m going to keep it short. My prediction is Kings in 6.
The divisional playoff format has done the LA Kings no favors this year. Their reward for a 104-point season that placed them fifth in the Western Conference is a second straight first-round matchup with Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers finished second in the West with 109 points. McDavid, meanwhile, finished with 153 points, the first player since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 to hit the 150-point mark. He’s an even better player than he was last year, and that’s not a comforting thought for the Kings fans who watched him put up 14 points in Edmonton’s seven-game triumph over LA last spring.
And the narrative of how the Oilers don’t have much of a team outside of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl isn’t really fair anymore, either. Ryan-Nugent Hopkins and Zach Hyman both put up more points than anyone on the Kings, and Evander Kane was on pace for a 32-goal season if he’d stayed healthy. Meanwhile, Stuart Skinner has solidified the goaltending position for an Edmonton team that allowed a total of six goals over its final seven games of the season. Two of those games were against LA, and they allowed one goal between them. They also finished the season on a nine-game winning streak and went 14-0-1 in their last 15.
The uncertain health statuses of Kevin Fiala and Gabe Vilardi really don’t help matters either, but this prediction has a lot more to do with me being terrified of the Oilers than being down on the Kings. I think Edmonton’s the best team in the West, and this is just a really tough draw.
Prediction: Oilers in 6.
Edmonton shored up their defense with the addition of Mattias Ekholm, and the Kings are trying to get healthy right now. At full strength, Los Angeles can hang with anyone, but the big question in this series remains: will they have Kevin Fiala and Gabe Vilardi before it’s too late? That said, I’m cautiously optimistic about the rematch from last year.
Prediction: Kings in 7
The trio of Randon McMahon, Russell Morgan, and Joe Patarino at the Hockey Royalty Podcast gave their predictions on the latest podcast, which can be found here.
Well, LA Kings fans, what say you?
(Main Photo Credit: For The Win/USA Today Sports)