Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings
Raise your hand if you expected to see this series before the season began! To all of you who raised them, please do not turn my column into a house of lies.
The Los Angeles Kings are the only playoff team who was not projected to make the playoffs by a single pre-season standings model despite being in the division everybody assumed would be the NHL's weakest. It was assumed that if the team did take a leap this season, it would be due to the earlier-than-expected progress of their prospects like Quinton Byfield or Alex Turcotte. But that's not what happened. Instead, the kinda-win-now-but-not-like-right-now acquisitions they made at the deadline restructured their lineup significantly and a sudden systems change launched them back to respectability.
Meanwhile, the Oilers were expected to be a decent but flawed team, then played like a very flawed team and got their coach turfed. Despite playing things pretty low-key in terms of roster changes (hello Evander Kane and Brett Kulak, goodbye... William Lagesson?), a well-timed coaching change gave this group a shot in the arm that bumped their performance up a notch.
So who's got the advantage here? It's a tricky story.
My playoff previews are stats-based, going off of both macro- and micro-level statistics gathered by TopDownHockey and AllThreeZones respectively. This allows us to look not only at high-level results (like goals, shots, and expected goals) but also the stylistic process that creates them (like passes, shot types, and transition play) to get a better sense of how the teams match up. Instead of comparing offence to offence and defence to defence, I'll be breaking down the offence vs. defence matchups.
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