3 Reasons the Oilers Defeated the Kings in Round 1 of the Playoffs

The Edmonton Oilers won Game 7 over the Los Angeles Kings at home when they posted their second shutout of the series and their MVP Connor McDavid took over. It was another full team effort after coming back from down 3-2 in the series and not letting off the pressure. It was a quick and intense start for the Oilers who deserved the result they got after their performance in the final two games of the series.

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Edmonton moves on to the second round where they await the result of Game 7 between the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars. But before that, let’s look at the three big reasons why the Oilers defeated the Kings and advanced.

Oilers Have an MVP & the Kings Don’t

The NHL released the finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy for the league’s MVP a few days ago, and McDavid found himself in the top three once again. There was no denying the regular season he had, leading all players in points (123) by eight and somehow elevating his game in the second half of the season as he always does.

Leon Draisaitl Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

But the playoffs are a different game. Typically, games are much tighter and only the best teams are in. The Oilers were tasked with playing the Kings who they defeated three times in the regular season while only losing once. McDavid posted three goals and six points in those four games but picked up his game more for the first-round matchup.

McDavid finished the seven games against the Kings with four goals, 14 points, a plus-10, and four power-play points but did a ton of damage during five-on-five play, a time which the Oilers have been criticized for. He also put up ridiculous numbers in Game 7 and took over the final two must-win games for the Oilers contributing to five of the six goals.

McDavid was also just the second player in NHL history to record six multi-point games in a playoff series and the first Oiler to record 10 assists in a playoff series since Mark Messier in 1989. He had 27 shots, 21 hits, nine takeaways, and was on the ice for 20 of the 26 Oilers’ goals.

The closest thing the Kings had to an MVP-caliber player on their roster was Anze Kopitar who is past his prime and didn’t show up offensively in this series. Jonathan Quick also had two very bad games in which the Oilers’ chased him out of the net. Nobody on the Kings comes close to the skill level of McDavid or even Leon Draisaitl or Evander Kane from what they showed.

Oilers’ Special Teams Were Great

After the Oilers’ Game 7 win over the Kings, they have the second-best power-play percentage (PP%) and fourth-best penalty-kill percentage (PK%) of the 16 playoff teams. That means they also dominated the Kings on the special teams as a whole. The Oilers wrapped up the first round with a 36.8 PP% and an 87.5% on the PK. This means the Kings finished with a very low 12.5 PP% and 63.2 PK%. Both would rank last in the league during the regular season, and it is not a recipe for success.

The Oilers’ power play is regarded by many as the best in the NHL despite finishing third in PP% during the regular season. Not many of the players on the top unit have changed over the past three seasons in which they finished first in the league in 2019-20 and 2020-21, and first in total. McDavid and Leon Draisaitl constantly lead the NHL in power-play points, and Draisaitl finished the 2021-22 regular season with the second-most power-play goals with 24 and most in Oilers’ history as well.

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They also now have a productive second unit for the amount of time they typically get to work. They scored a goal in each of the first two games of the series, and that allows for the top unit to get more rest if nothing is working.

Many times the Oilers’ penalty kill kept them in the game with the number of calls made against them. Like the Kings, they play a more aggressive penalty kill, but the difference maker was that the Kings don’t have finishers like McDavid and Draisaitl running their power play. The Oilers also scored two shorthanded goals in the series at big moments.

Oilers Won the Goaltending Duel

Coming into this series, analysts such as Kevin Weekes gave the Kings the goaltending advantage heading into the series due to past performances from 2014 and prior rather than looking at the most recent information presented. Mike Smith came into the playoff series having won 10 starts in a row. He also played so well once Jay Woodcroft took over as head coach that he fully corrected his early stat line from when he was battling injuries for the first half of the season.

Mike Smith Edmonton Oilers
Mike Smith, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Despite having lost 10 consecutive playoff games including four in a row while with the Oilers, and an early blunder in Game 1 which cost the team, that stretch was followed by an impressive six games (from “Oilers’ Mike Smith says decisive Game 7 in Edmonton is ‘what dreams are made of’”, Global News, May 13, 2022). Smith ended the series with two shutouts, a .938 save percentage, and 6.7 goals saved above expected.

Quick was good in five of the seven games, but the Kings almost went with Cal Petersen for Game 4 after Quick was pulled in consecutive games and allowed 10 goals in under 90 minutes of play. The Kings were right to stick with Quick since he bounced back with a shutout. Yes, he was peppered with shots at times it seemed, but the Kings ended the series with almost two more shots per game than the Oilers.

It was a great overall team effort to win the last two games of the series, but the Oilers can ask for more from their depth offensively. Despite the otherworldly performance by McDavid and the elite play in net by Smith, the team can’t continue to rely heavily on two members of a 22-man team to take them all the way.

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