2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings
When the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings met last spring, it turned out to be one of the most hard-fought and down-to-the-wire series of the entire postseason.
There were goalie battles, scoring bonanzas, blow-outs, overtime thrillers, and some absolutely incredible displays of star power. Now we're back where we started and both squads have been playing their best hockey of late. Since March 1, Edmonton has been the best team in the league and the Kings rank fifth, a good meter for the amount of momentum they both have entering the first round.
These playoffs present a huge opportunity for the Oilers. After years of failing to surround Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl with honest-to-god depth and solid defence, everything has finally clicked into place in the second half of this season and they have been a common Cup pick because of it. Certainly, their acquisition of Mattias Ekholm at the deadline signalled that this is a team that is actually ready to contend.
The Kings are finally out of their building phase and while the fruits of the abbreviated rebuild haven't quite grabbed major roles on the roster this group has developed a strong structure that can compete on any given night. Adding Kevin Fiala last summer has turned out to be a decisive move, as he became the first King not named Anze Kopitar to lead the team in assists in 14 years. Awful goaltending kneecapped this group in the first half of the season but with that issue seemingly address this team is justifiably confident.
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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