Oilers’ Chances vs. the Kings in 1st Round of 2023 NHL Playoffs


The best time of year for hockey fans has arrived. It’s playoff time, and it’s something Edmonton Oilers fans have been waiting for since the puck dropped on the 2022-23 NHL regular season back on Oct. 12. Actually, many of them have been waiting for the playoffs since last June when the Oilers lost out to the Colorado Avalanche in the 2022 NHL Western Conference Final.

2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 Los Angeles Kings Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings Edmonton Oilers (The Hockey Writers)

The 2022-23 version of the Oilers are bigger, faster, meaner, and boast the best powerplay in NHL history. They look poised to go on a long run, especially after finishing the regular season with nine straight wins. But that was then, and this is now, and the Oilers begin the second season on Monday, April 17 at home against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Oilers vs. Kings – Tale of the Tape

The two teams split their games this season with the Kings winning the first two on Nov. 16 and Jan. 9, while the Oilers won the last two games late in the season on March 30 and April 4. The difference in the first two games was that the Oilers didn’t have defencemen Mattias Ekholm and Vincent Desharnais or forward Evander Kane (out with his wrist injury) in the lineup. Having these three players for the final two games against the Kings made a big difference for the Oilers.

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When you look at last season’s playoffs, the Kings gave the Oilers everything they could handle. Down 3-2 in the series, Connor McDavid found a new gear and led the Oilers to a Game 7 victory. This year’s playoff series between the Oilers and Kings could be an epic seven-game series once again.

Let’s take a closer look at the two teams and how they match up:

Oilers vs. Kings Goaltending

The Oilers wouldn’t be in the position of hosting a playoff game, let alone being in the playoffs had it not been for the play of rookie goaltender Stuart Skinner. He had a great regular season and broke the Oilers’ record for wins in a season by a rookie goaltender, surpassing the 28 that Grant Fuhr won back in 1981-82. You can expect the Oilers to ride Skinner’s hot hand against the Kings. Meanwhile, Jack Campbell will be backing up Skinner. He had a lot of ups and downs this season, but finished strong and looked like he had gained back some confidence in his last two starts against the Anaheim Ducks.

Related: Oilers’ Skinner Having a Calder-Type Season

The Kings boast a new goaltender in Joonas Korpisalo, who they picked up from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the NHL trade deadline. He has given the Oilers fits, especially in the games against the Blue Jackets. If he gets inside the heads of Oilers shooters early in the series, it could be tough. They also feature Pheonix Copley, who had a strong season with 24 wins and is the Kings’ Masterton Trophy nominee. Their goaltending tandem is strong and will provide the Oilers’ forwards with a big challenge.

Advantage: Even

Oilers vs. Kings Defensively

The Oilers’ newest defenceman Ekholm was the best trade deadline pickup by any team in the NHL this season. He has not only steadied the defense for the Oilers but he’s given a big boost to Evan Bouchard and has also taken some of the pressure off Darnell Nurse, who has been playing some of the best hockey of his career down the stretch. Their defensive core is big, not one of their defencemen is below 6-foot-1 and that ranges from 6-foot-6 Desharnais and 6-foot-3 Philip Broberg to 6-foot-2 Cody Ceci and 6-foot-1 Brett Kulak. The Oilers’ defence is bigger, faster and tougher than they’ve been in many years, and they’ve shown they don’t get pushed around.

Mattias Ekholm Evan Bouchard Edmonton Oilers
Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Kings are also big on the back end and boast future Hall of Famer and two-time Stanley Cup winner Drew Doughty as their anchor. He’s joined by Oilers’ nemesis Mikey Anderson, Sean Durzi, Matt Roy, Vladislav Gavrikov and Alexander Edler. Their defense is solid, and have been playing well all season but the addition of Ekholm gives the Oilers the edge.

Advantage: Oilers

Oilers vs. Kings Offensively

The Oilers’ forward unit is, of course, led by the top two forwards on the planet, McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who both had career years in points this season. They’re joined by 100-point man Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman and Evander Kane. Every single Oiler forward from Kailer Yamamoto and newcomer Nick Bjugstad to Derek Ryan and Klim Kostin had at least 10 goals this season. The forwards not only showed they have a strong offensive upside, but they were also very good in their own end. The Oilers achieved a plus-65 goal differential this season which was second in the NHL’s Western Conference to the Dallas Stars’ plus-67.

The Kings’ top three forwards are Anze Kopitar, Kevin Fiala and Adrian Kempe who finished one, two, and three in team scoring. Phillip Danault, Alex Iafallo, Quinton Byfield, Viktor Arvidsson, and Blake Lizotte are in the Kings’ top nine. They’re a tough, solid group but in a head-to-head comparison with the Oilers, they don’t quite match up.

Advantage: Oilers

Oilers vs. Kings Special Teams/Coaching

The Oilers’ power play is the best in NHL history and that gives them the edge in special teams. The Kings are no slouches either as their powerplay finished fourth in the NHL this season. When it comes to the penalty kill, the Oilers and Kings finished down the list in terms of NHL teams with the Oilers finishing with a 77 percent penalty kill percentage while the Kings were at 75.8 percent.

Alex Edler Los Angeles Kings Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers is watched by Alexander Edler of the Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

When it comes to coaches, Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft boasts the highest winning percentage in NHL history among coaches with 100 or more games coached. He’s been everything the Oilers could’ve asked for when he replaced former head coach Dave Tippett. Kings head coach Todd McLellan is one of the best coaches in the NHL, consistently leading his teams to playoff appearances in over 1,000 games coached. Both the Oilers and Kings coaching staffs are strong, so it’s hard to give one team the edge over the other.

Advantage: Oilers (because of the power play)

Prediction: Oilers in Six

I’m predicting the Oilers will beat the Kings in the first round in six games and go all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. I also believe they will bring the Stanley Cup back to Canada for the first time since 1993. (Has it really been that long?)

What are your Stanley Cup predictions? Leave them in the comments below.

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