The Edmonton Oilers were a confident bunch heading into Game Two of their first round series with the Los Angeles Kings and though most didn’t want to admit it, the pressure of the moment was a real thing. While not quite a must-win scenario for Jay Woodcroft’s side, the importance of the situation was obvious and a six-goal outburst was an impressive response.
The scoreboard told the story. It was a dominant performance, made even better thanks to a little luck being on their side. The Kings deflected/swatted two pucks into their own net and Edmonton subsequently had every single bounce go in their favour in the defensive zone. On most nights, good teams make their own breaks and the Oilers were deserving of each and every one.
Mike Smith had a couple of those fortunate moments go his way in the early stages but went on to deliver the type of performance both he and his teammates desperately needed. From start to finish, the veteran guardian was zoned in and despite what the score line might suggest, he made a number of timely stops that played a large role in allowing for things to unfold in the fashion they did.
Though team physicality wasn’t much of an issue in the series opener, the Oilers wanted to turn it up a notch or two and it was apparent early on. As a collective, targeting Los Angeles’ inexperienced defence was part of the game plan and it was carried out to perfection. Did it play a huge role in a blowout victory? No but it’s about wearing guys down so their less effective later in the series.
No matter what teams are playing, when the final score is as lopsided as it was last night, a player or two tends to light-up the box-car numbers but that didn’t really happen last night. Evander Kane did have himself a three point effort but the Oilers spread the wealth across the board. Be you a fan of the 11 and 7 or more traditional 12 and 6 lineup configuration, the latter seemed to be a much better fit.
All three defensive pairings appeared to be in a better rhythm than in the opener, though the tandem of Evan Bouchard and Duncan Keith had a second consecutive strong showing. Same can be said for the forwards, as all four lines looked in sync and knew exactly what was expected of them. Be it guys upfront creating scoring chances or others generating energy, roles were filled to perfection.
The other added bonus of having 12 bodies upfront, allowing for both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to play less than 17 minutes, something which almost never happens in these parts. In the here and now it means little but taking advantage of the opportunity to give your two horses a break, can be a godsend over the long haul. Not to mention giving the so-called “others” time in the spotlight.
From the Kings perspective, as ugly as the thumping was, they accomplished what they wanted in earning a split on the road. However, in order for Todd McLellan’s side to have a realistic shot at pushing this series to the limit or pulling off the upset, the referees are going to have to swallow their whistles. If the trend of side getting four power play chances a game continues, Los Angeles is in a world of trouble.
In that scenario, the likelihood of the Oilers not finding the back of the net, at least once, isn’t very good. On the other hand, the Kings power play is downright dreadful. Asking them to try and beat a team with two of the best offensive players on the plant is already a big ask. Expecting them to do while losing the special teams battle to the degree they have through the first two games, is a near impossibility.
With the series shifting to Los Angeles, the Kings will get the same jolt of energy the Oilers received from opening on home-ice. They’ll also have last change and as is often the case during playoff hockey, a more favourable/timely whistle from the referees in their own barn. Yes, taking these next two games on the road would be great but Edmonton would be just fine heading home with the series tied at two.