Korpisalo, undisciplined Oilers have LA Kings halfway to Round 2
After a split in Edmonton, the LA Kings won Game 3 in Los Angeles in overtime on Friday. With the help of Joonas Korpisalo and an Edmonton Oilers team that can’t get out of their own way, the Kings find themselves in control of Round 1 and just two wins away from advancing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The first period of Game 3 was probably the best period of the series for the Kings; they held a 1-0 lead on a goal by Alex Iafallo and controlled much of the play at 5-on-5 for the first time this series. What happened the rest of the game was really a microcosm of the series to date: great goaltending from Joonas Korpisalo and an incredible lack of discipline from Edmonton.
Let’s start with Korpisalo. The tricky part when heaping as much praise as is deserved for Korpisalo is that it actually means the team in front of him really isn’t playing that well. And if Kings fans are being honest, they’re not.
Here’s how the two teams have matched up at 5-on-5 this series so far (per Natural Stat Trick):
|Los Angeles Kings||40.8||39.4||39.3||41.9|
Let’s not kid ourselves, Edmonton has completely controlled this series, and despite also outshooting the Kings 98-63, the teams have scored the same amount of goals (4) at 5-on-5 this series.
The 43 high-danger chances the Kings have given up at 5-on-5 these playoffs are more than any other team in the NHL. Korpisalo has faced a playoff-high 30 high-danger shots on goal. According to MoneyPuck, Korpisalo’s 3.4 goals saved above expected are second only to Igor Shesterkin in the playoffs.
Almost no matter how you slice it, the Kings are having a hard time keeping Edmonton out of their zone, and while there’s a case to be made that LA has limited some of the Oilers’ chances, they’re still getting plenty of good looks.
And that was just at 5-on-5. In all situations, no one has allowed more shots on goal, scoring chances, high-danger chances, and expected goals than the LA Kings. And only one team (Minnesota) has allowed more shot attempts. It isn’t just the saves the goaltender has to make, but when the play is constantly in his zone, there is physical movement, tracking the play visually and reacting to every shot – even if it doesn’t hit the net. So Korpisalo’s workload has been heavy.
An unrestricted free agent this summer, Korpisalo’s stock is indeed rising with his play this series.
Is any of this sustainable? Of course not. Not over the course of a regular season and not throughout an extended playoff run. The Kings will not win a Stanley Cup playing like this. However, it can “work” in a short series. The “better” team doesn’t always win in a best-of-seven series. This wouldn’t be the first time that a goalie steals a series.
The good news for LA is that if they are able to find their way past Edmonton, they aren’t likely to be in a series where they are hemmed into their own zone like this. The Kings are one of the better possession and shot-suppression teams in the NHL, Edmonton just happens to be the worst matchup in the Western Confrerence, and they’re getting them in the first round.
What are the Oilers doing?
Also working for the Kings during this series is the sheer stupidity of the Edmonton Oilers. When you consider the statistics above, there is no reason for the Oilers not to be winning this series, and perhaps even winning the series 3-0. And while Korpisalo has stood on his head, the Oilers have shot themselves in the foot.
When we look back at Game 1, Edmonton had a 2-0 lead after the first period and was in complete control. They proceeded to take four straight penalties from the end of the first through the final minute of the second period. While LA did not score on any of those chances, that was eight minutes that they couldn’t play 5-on-5 and allowed the Kings to at least play with the puck more so than they had been.
Late in the third period of that game, after the Kings had trimmed their deficit to one, Evan Bouchard took a high-sticking penalty after cross-checking Trevor Moore in the face, giving the Kings a power play. LA would convert on the 6-on-4.
kings get a late powerplay after evan bouchard gets his stick up. pic.twitter.com/2hnQ3GKL6C
— zach (@zjlaing) April 18, 2023
In overtime, Vincent Desharnais carelessly swung his stick after going down in a puck battle with Blake Lizotte, tripping the 5’9″ Kings’ centerman. LA would win the game on the ensuing power play.
vincent desharnais is off to the box in overtime for tripping. pic.twitter.com/weEs8LPrDP
— zach (@zjlaing) April 18, 2023
In a game that Edmonton led less than seven minutes in and twice by two goals, they let it slip away, thanks to two unnecessary penalties.
After Game 1, Leon Draisaitl talked about how the team needs to be “more mature” in closing out games.
"We’ve got to be more mature than that.”
Leon Draisaitl shares his thoughts after scoring twice in the 4-3 overtime defeat.@Enterprise | #LetsGoOilers pic.twitter.com/OqW8tHNrJU
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 18, 2023
He was right. However, the Oilers’ star hasn’t exactly practiced what he preaches. In the two games since Draisaitl has taken three penalties. Two stick infractions and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in Game 3 immediately after Connor McDavid gave his team the lead.
with leon draisaitl in the box for this unsportsmanlike call, adrian kempe quickly scores to tie this game at 2. pic.twitter.com/kDFbpm3v83
— zach (@zjlaing) April 22, 2023
Was the call soft? Sure, I’d agree with that. But your team just took the lead. Why bother? Leon has to be more mature there, surely.
Naturally, Adrian Kempe immediately made Draisaitl and the Oilers pay.
Back to Game 2 for a second. Edmonton dominated the first period and a half and held a seemingly comfortable two-goal lead. They then promptly took three straight penalties in the second period. Again, LA did not convert on those opportunities, but it took some wind out of the dominant Oilers’ sails while allowing the Kings to creep back into the game. The second period would end tied at two.
Game 3 was a bit more chippy from the get-go as the teams combined for five penalties in the first period. After Kempe’s goal tied the game at two, the teams would play a goalless third period. The game would go to overtime for the second time in the series, and the Oilers would take an overtime penalty for the second time in the series with yet another careless stick infraction. This time it was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with a two-hand swing, breaking Alex Iafallo’s stick:
Did the Kings get a break in overtime on a potential high stick? Probably, I think the puck hit Gabe Vilardi’s stick, but it was inconclusive from the views that we were given. But you know what, it should have never come to that. The Oilers dominated that game’s second and third periods and, had it not been for some untimely boneheaded penalties, would have grabbed a win in LA.
This series is still far from over. Edmonton has clearly been the better team and can still win this series (see: 2021-22 playoffs), but not with their current mental makeup. Bizarrely enough, it isn’t even the LA Kings that are in the heads of the Oilers; it’s the officials. Of all people, Draisaitl has the audacity to complain about the officiating:
"You don’t call a clear knee on knee right in front of you, and then you call a slashing penalty… just don't really know what the standard is right now."
Leon Draisaitl when asked about his frustrations with the refs following the Oilers' Game 3 loss to the Kings. pic.twitter.com/8EoYHxb5G1
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 22, 2023
Truthfully, as a hockey fan, it is very disappointing to see a team as talented as Edmonton be their own worst enemy. As a fan of the LA Kings? I’ll enjoy this all the way to the second round.
(Main Photo Credit: Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)