Pushing the series to the maximum number of games, the Kings showed life at times in the final contest but fell due to a lack of aggressiveness.
By Edward Segal, Valley Life Editor
The Los Angeles Kings pushed the first round series against the Oilers to seven games, proving to be on track for success in the future despite not being aggressive enough to advance further in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The two-time Stanley Cup Champions looked down and out after losing games two and three by six goals each. But after taking the next two and dropping game six at home, Los Angeles came into game seven hoping to prove hockey analysts wrong. However, Edmonton had a fire under them that could not be diffused.
With 11 skaters making their playoff debut this season, the Kings earned vital playoff experience after forcing a seventh game. Goals were hard to come by during the first half of the last game of the series. The Oilers almost broke through on a spinning shot with about 10:30 left in the second, but Kings’ forward Andreas Athanasiou saw the puck on the goal line and slid it under the pad of goaltender Jonathan Quick just before it trickled past the red line.
But the Oilers broke through four minutes later on a shot by defenseman Cody Ceci from the left of Quick. The Oilers kept attacking, leaving the Kings without a response.
Through two periods, the Kings were outshot by 18, had no odd-man rushes and could not draw a single penalty, showing a lack of desperation in the must-win match. When the Kings did generate scoring chances in the third period, Oilers’ goalie Mike Smith secured the puck and prevented any rebound opportunities.
Scrambling to put the puck in the net in the last five minutes, the Kings allowed one more goal and could not break through. Knowing that left wing and longtime Los Angeles mainstay Dustin Brown planned to call it quits after this campaign, the Kings fought hard but could not prevent their former captain’s career from coming to an end.
With two shutouts and two lopsided Oilers’ victories, the series was not as tense as it seemed. There were zero lead changes, with the team that scored first holding on to win in all seven contests.
Game one went back and forth, but after letting the Oilers come back to tie twice, the Kings pulled out the win. The energy they needed to build their series lead was absent in the following two games, as they lost each in heavy fashion.. The Kings recovered in game four, shutting out the Oilers to even the series.
Game five was the closest of the bunch, heading to overtime after the Oilers came back from two down, where Kings’ forward Adrian Kempe used his speed to work his way past the goaltender and put the puck into the net to secure a golden goal win. The sixth match was another close one, but this time, the Oilers came through to score late in the third and send the series to a seventh game.
Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl had an outstanding series, producing a combined 23 points, while x-factor Evander Kane topped off the series victory, scoring a hat trick in game three and providing the toughness that the Kings lacked.
The Kings struggled with special teams, conceding seven power play goals and two short-handed goals throughout the series, while scoring three on the power play and none short-handed.
The absence of Drew Doughty troubled the Kings on the defensive side of the ice, and coupled with the hole left in the second line with third-leading scorer Viktor Arvidsson out, made for a lack of offensive firepower throughout the series.
Quick kept the Kings in the final game as long as possible, but the lack of breakaway opportunities and rebounds on the part of the visitors gave him no chance to become a game seven hero.
The Kings will turn to the offseason as they look to fill the hole left by Brown’s retirement and add toughness to help them fight against the league’s best teams and make a deeper playoff run.
“A lot of people were doubting and we just came with a business-like attitude,” said Brown in the end-of-season interview. “We pushed it to seven games, fell short, but I remember my first playoff experiences, just learning how to do it. There’s a lot of guys in there that had no experience. To get a seven-game series in for those guys is good, and also realizing just how hard it is to win one game.”