Kings vs. Oilers: 3 Things to Know about First Round series

The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Monday, May 2. Today, we preview the series between the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers

EDMONTON OILERS vs. LOS ANGELES KINGS schedule

Game 1: May 2, 10 p.m. ET – Kings at Oilers (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 2: May 4, 10 p.m. ET – Kings at Oilers (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 3: May 6, 10 p.m. ET – Oilers at Kings (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 8, 10 p.m. ET – Oilers at Kings (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 10, TBD – Kings at Oilers (TBD)
*Game 6: May 12, TBD – Oilers at Kings (TBD)
*Game 7: May 14, TBD – Kings at Oilers (TBD)

1. The Oilers look like a different beast under Jay Woodcroft

Personally, it’s tempting to pitch Oilers vs. Kings as “star power vs. structure.” Such narratives are pretty juicy. Offense vs. defense. The scrappy Kings trying to slow down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

However, the Oilers’ underlying numbers aren’t that far behind that of the 5-on-5 majesty of the Kings, especially since Jay Woodcroft took over as Edmonton’s head coach.

Since Woodcroft replaced Dave Tippett around Feb. 10, the Oilers are 26-9-3. That’s good for a .724 points percentage, the NHL’s third-best mark behind the Panthers (.757) and Flames (.731). No other team reached a points-percentage above .684 (Bruins and Blues) during that span.

NHL: APR 07 Oilers at Kings
Sean Durzi defending Connor McDavid. (Photo by Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

2. Kings have been leaning a lot on young defensemen without Drew Doughty

All things considered, the Los Angeles Kings have handled life without Drew Doughty extremely well. That said, matchups are key in the NHL playoff pressure cooker, and some young Kings defensemen could be thrown into the fire against McDavid, Draisaitl, and the rest of the Oilers’ top scorers.

Since Doughty’s latest injury absence, the Kings have leaned on a group of defensemen, including two relatively unknown rookies in Sean Durzi and Jordan Spence.

When you consider just how unforgiving the NHL can be to defensemen learning the ropes, it’s pretty awe-inspiring to see Durzi and Spence thrive to such a degree. Especially in their own ends.

With such scant NHL resumes, it’s dangerous to jump to too many conclusions. But it sure feels like Durzi and Spence could give the Kings some nice steals beyond their most-hyped prospects. The best rebuilds tend to unearth premium prospects after higher-profile first-rounders (Durzi: 52nd overall [round 2] in 2018; Spence: 95th overall [round 4] in 2019).

Even if the Kings lean on more experienced defensemen like Matt Roy, Olli Maatta, and Troy Stecher against tippy-top Oilers scorers, it should be fascinating to watch Durzi and Spence in such a high-intensity environment.

All of that said, the Oilers might have the most intriguing young defenseman of the bunch in Evan Bouchard.

3. The Oilers hold big special-teams advantages over the Kings

Ultimately, the Kings really must hope that their structure will allow them to smother the Oilers at even-strength. If this series is decided by special teams, Edmonton figures to have a huge advantage.

Considering how the Kings appear a little ahead of schedule in their rebuild, they shouldn’t be too ashamed of that Oilers advantage. But it’s undeniable.

With a 26-percent success rate, the Oilers power play ranked third-best in the NHL this season. The Kings, meanwhile, sat sixth-worst (16.1%). Interestingly, the Oilers penalty kill (79.4%) was also more effective than that of the Kings (76.7%).

Los Angeles must really hope that officials put their whistles away, just like they did when they ignored the Jets’ infractions on Connor McDavid during that sweep last year.

Prediction: Oilers eliminate Kings in six games.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For: