Back-to-back Vegas Golden Knights losses gave the Los Angeles Kings the three-seed in the Pacific Division, setting up a first round series against the Edmonton Oilers.
By Edward Segal, Valley Life Editor
Winning five out of the last six games to finish with 99 points, the Los Angeles Kings have clinched the three-seed in the Pacific division and will look to make another historic run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Finishing the season with a 44-27-11 record and seven out of eight victories against non-playoff teams, the Kings have surprised many with their success. Hanging on to a playoff spot since the all star break, the Kings got some help when the Vegas Golden Knights faltered, losing in two shootouts in a row to send the Kings to the postseason — where the Los Angeles club will travel to Edmonton on Monday for the first round.
The 56-year-old franchise will look to give former club captain Dustin Brown — who will retire after this season — one more postseason to remember.
This will be the eighth time the Kings will face off against the Oilers in the postseason, and the first time since 1992. The teams played each other seven times in the 80s and 90s, with the Kings winning twice. Five of their meetings were in the first round, with two in the second round, both of which the Oilers took.
All season long, the Kings have come from behind in the third period, stealing points by forcing games that looked like losses into overtime. Twenty of the Kings’ 44 victories came after trailing at some point, including the latest win against the Seattle Kraken, in which the Kings won 5-3 after trailing 2-0 in the second period.
Forwards Phillip Danault, Trevor Moore and Viktor Arvidsson have thrived in this environment, coming through to propel the Kings to many comeback wins throughout the season. In fact, each had a point during Wednesday’s victory against Seattle.
The relentlessness the Kings have shown when falling behind is something they must be prepared to channel against the offensive powerhouses waiting for them in the playoffs.
But the Kings have not had as much success against teams that are contending for a title. Against Western Conference playoff teams, the Kings have a 6-14-2 record, especially struggling with the difficult Central division.
One of the main issues the Kings have had is with their goaltending. Allowing an average of 3.32 goals against Western Conference playoff teams, the poor shot saving was capped off with goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Cal Peterson allowing 15 goals in their final two games against postseason contenders, the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche.
In four games against the Oilers, the Kings goalies allowed 13 pucks in the back of the net. With defenseman Drew Doughty out for the season, the Kings’ defense is missing its Stanley Cup veteran and will need the goaltenders to step up their game.
The Oilers took three of four matches against the Kings this season, proving themselves a tough offense to slow down. Their dynamic duo of forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are first and fourth in the league in points on the season, respectively. Racking up a combined 233 points, the high-volume scorers are two of only eight players to have at least 100 points and two of only four to have at least 110 points.
Edmonton struggled early in the season, but their form shifted when they fired coach Dave Tippett and replaced him with Jay Woodcroft in February. Having a 23-18-3 record with Tippett at the helm, injuries and struggles on the ice had caused them to fall to sixth in the Pacific division.
After the coaching change, the Oilers caught fire, winning 26 of their last 38 games, jumping ahead of the Kings to finish second in the division. To win the series, the Kings will need to keep the dynamic duo in check and be productive with their shots on goal.
The two will face off in a best-of-seven series starting Monday and Wednesday in Edmonton, before shifting to Los Angeles Friday and Sunday for games three and four.