Reminiscent of last season, the LA Kings and Edmonton Oilers will play a Game 6 in Los Angeles, only this time, it’s the Oilers with a chance to close out the series.

Through five games, the Oilers have completely controlled play at 5-on-5. Here’s a snapshot of the 5-on-5 play per Natural Stat Trick:

Team CF% xGF% SCF% HDCF%
Los Angeles Kings 45.9 45.0 44.5 45.4
Edmonton Oilers 54.1 55.0 55.5 54.6

The Kings, though, have had some good stretches in this series and will have to unlock that to send the series back to Alberta for a Game 7. Here are a few ways in which they can do that.

Limit the penalties

I was going to put, simply, “stay out of the box,” but in a playoff series as emotional as this, that isn’t realistic. I also almost didn’t bother to put this in here for two reasons; first – there isn’t a more obvious statement to make than “stay out of the box,” and second – it’s not always that easy.

To the first part, we knew going in the Oilers had one of the best power plays in the history of the NHL, scoring at a 32.4% rate during the regular season. In the playoffs, they are an incredible 8-for-14 (57.1%), with even the second power play unit joining in on the fun in Game 5 when Evander Kane put Edmonton up 1-0. The Kings were a poor team on the penalty kill all season as it were (75.8%, 25th in the NHL), so this would always be a recipe for disaster. Indeed, it has been.

On the second part, it is easier said than done. Consider you have a team like the Oilers, as fast and skilled as they are, having control of the puck for much of the game. As you get physically and mentally fatigued from chasing them around all game, you’re bound to take penalties.

If completely staying out of the box is unrealistic, then the Kings must limit the times they visit the sin bin. They can’t give Edmonton more than two power plays.

Time for the Bottom Six to shine

In the last two games, the Edmonton Oilers have decided to put Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl together on the top line. Personally, I don’t think this is necessary because they were controlling play perfectly fine in the first three games of the series (Edmonton had a 59.2% CF and 60.1% xGF at 5-on-5 per Natural Stat Trick in those three games).

Games 4 and 5 were LA’s best in terms of puck possession and expected goals (LA had a 53.2% CF and 52.2% xGF at 5-on-5 per Natural Stat Trick in Games 4 and 5).

The reason for this, in my opinion, is sure the McDavid and Draisaitl line will control play against either the Anze Kopitar line or the Phillip Danault line. But the rest of the lineup favors LA. In the last two games, the Danualt line has not had to deal with either McDavid or Draisaitl. That line has out-attempted the Oilers 44-16 (73.3% CF) and held a 62.1% xGF advantage at 5-on-5—this type of dominance I expect to continue if the Oilers keep the big boys together.

That brings us to the bottom six of the LA lineup. This has to be the same type of mismatch that is seen with the Danault line above. But that has not been the case. The third line has gotten Kevin Fiala and Gabriel Vilardi back into the fold, and those results have not been bad, but it does need to be much better considering the talent on that line.

The fourth line, however, is a major problem. In looking at all of the line combinations that include the likes of Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Rasmus Kupari, Carl Grundstrom, Arthur Kaliyev, Zack MacEwen, and Quinton Byfield, the fourth line has been out-attempted 34-12 (26.1% CF) at 5-on-5 with an expected goal share of just 21.6%. Part of this is due to Edmonton’s ability to create a mismatch by running only 11 forwards and utilizing Draisaitl against the fourth line.

Perhaps the biggest wild card on that fourth line could be Blake Lizotte. His status for Game 6 is unknown, but if he is able to return to the lineup and play in the middle on the fourth line between, perhaps, Grundstrom and Kupari, it gives LA a fighting chance.

All that to say, there are matchups that can be exploited, particularly at home in Game 6. It’s time the bottom part of the lineup steps up.

Joonas Korpisalo

After three games, Joonas Korpisalo was one of the reasons the Kings held a 2-1 series lead. Despite a very heavy workload, he was among the playoff leaders in Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx). However, in the past two games, he has posted a -1.5 GSAx (per MoneyPuck) and was pulled during Tuesday’s Game 5 loss. I don’t think he’s played all that poorly, but it was a dip in performance from the first three games of the series where he more or less helped to steal two of them.

If we’re being honest, he’s going to need to steal at least one of these last two games. Game 6 would be a good start.

Play on the front foot

“I think we’ve got to play more assertive.”

This was what LA Kings’ Captain Anze Kopitar said after the Game 5 loss, and he is right. You cannot beat the Edmonton Oilers by playing passively and inviting them into your own zone. The way to give yourselves a chance to win is by playing more in their zone.

I thought the Kings did an excellent job in Game 4 of this, particularly in the first and third periods. Below is a clip of a dump-in on a line change for the Kings during the first period of Game 4. Often, we’ll see the F1 passively skate into the zone to get into their famed 1-3-1 setup. Doing so allows Edmonton to slowly regroup before building up speed. However, in this clip, we see Gabriel Vilardi attack the Edmonton defenseman behind the net and force him out sooner than he would like. It doesn’t allow Edmonton to get set up the way they want, and LA not only creates a turnover but a scoring chance off the rush.

(Video via InStat)

In the first period of Game 4, LA was the better team at 5-on-5 in shot attempts (55.1% CF), scoring chances (56.5% SCF), high-danger chances (58.3% HDCF), and expected goals (51.2% xGF). Much of that was because they were willing to play more on the front foot and in Edmonton’s zone rather than be passive.

The third period of that game was excellent, too, controlling those same metrics even more so. However, a shift in the second period gave an example of how the Kings can attack the Edmonton defense and play in their zone.

This is the shift immediately following Edmonton’s second goal. There are multiple examples in this clip of the Danualt line swarming the Oilers, leading to an extended offensive zone shift.

(Video via InStat)

Those are the types of shifts the Danault line has been putting together the last two games and if they can find the back of the net – which they did twice in Game 4 – then it could give LA some of the advantage they’re looking for in the middle part of their lineup.

We’ll see if there are any lineup changes for Game 6. There could be many options (including the freshly available Brandt Clarke). I would also add that Sean Walker coming in place of Alex Edler was positive. I am skeptical that Todd McLellan keeps that (I am preparing myself for Edler to return on Saturday), and though it was only one game, Walker and Sean Durzi held their own a heck of a lot better than Edler and Durzi had been (5-on-5 per Natural Stat Trick):

Alexander Edler Sean Durzi 42.7 29.7 24.2 32.7 33.3
Sean Durzi Sean Walker 13.8 70.0 46.3 66.7 33.3

LA’s backs may be against the wall, but there are ways that the Kings can win Game 6 and extend this series.


(Main Photo Credit: Jason Franson / Associated Press()

2 thoughts on “How the LA Kings can win Game 6

  1. You have to believe the missing piece for LA is Quinton Byfield . A No. 2 pick and Nothing , not even finishing his checks . She’s away from any contact , and it now appears Kopitar has had enough and wanted a change .

  2. Bench Durzi! He a liability and has done nothing!! Look at the stretch of games without him when he was injured and tell me I’m wrong!

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