Last night, the NHL regular season came to a close. For the Los Angeles Kings, their season ended with a win over the Anaheim Ducks, 5-3. In order for the Kings to have a chance at not playing the Edmonton Oilers in the first round, they had to win that game, Edmonton had to win over the San Jose Sharks, and Vegas had to lose against the Seattle Kraken.
Unfortunately, the Golden Knights walked out of Seattle with a 3-1 win over the Kraken and secured the No. 1 seed in the Pacific Division. Thus, officially setting the first-round matchup for the Los Angeles Kings as a rematch of last season’s opening round, a seven-game series against the Edmonton Oilers.
Playing the Oilers in the first round is less ideal due to the major injuries the Kings have to Gabriel Vilardi and Kevin Fiala. Thankfully, defenseman Mikey Anderson returned to the lineup against the Canucks on Monday of this week, after returning from a brutal hit from Connor McDavid at the end of March.
In order for the Kings to keep it close with Edmonton, Los Angeles desperately needs to get healthy. Fiala missed his sixth straight game last night against Anaheim due to a lower-body injury and is still uncertain for Game 1 against the Oilers on Monday, April 17, 2023.
Gabriel Vilardi suffered an upper-body injury nearly three weeks ago and also missed last night’s game. He is still currently day-to-day heading into the playoffs. The only solace that Los Angeles Kings fans can hold onto is that Stuart Skinner, likely, cannot play every game. So, once the Oilers are forced to play Jack Campbell, then LA can take advantage of him.
However, the Kings have had one of their most impressive offensive performances this season. Typically synonymous with a defensive team, the Kings managed to continue that trend this season, while also adding more points than normal.
To cap it off, Adrian Kempe finished last night’s game with a hat-trick, which elevated him to a 40-goal season. The last time the Kings had a 40-goal season was in the 1993-1994 season when Luc Robitaille, current President of the LA Kings, scored 44 goals.
This is a feat that is not easy to attain, and one of the best young players in their prime, Adrian Kempe achieved it this season with a total of 41 goals. He also added 26 assists to bring his point total to 67. Having a hot stick like Kempe’s heading into the Oilers series is certainly a benefit for LA, but will it be enough to carry them to a first-round win?
That remains to be seen, but another benefit the Kings can hang their hat on is two shutdown centers in Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault. They can slow down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and the addition of Joonas Korpisalo might just be the X-factor in this series.
If the Kings still had Jonathan Quick, then LA would be in a very similar situation to the Oilers with one decent goaltender and one who is borderline unplayable. But, now that the Kings can rotate Korpisalo and Copley, this series could be a serious battle until the end.
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