The Los Angeles Kings went down fighting against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6 in a way that paralleled this exciting series overall. Los Angeles didn’t allow setbacks to leave it sagging for too long, rarely leaving Edmonton with a dull moment. Ultimately, the Oilers kept fighting back in their own right, outgunning the Kings 5-4 in Game 6 to notch a 4-2 series win.
Kailer Yamamoto ended up scoring the series-clincher with slightly more than three minutes remaining in Game 6.
YAMAMOTO WITH THREE MINUTES LEFT! 🍠🍠🍠 pic.twitter.com/EwPGtBygo2
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 30, 2023
With this result, the Oilers will face the Vegas Golden Knights in the two teams’ first-ever playoff meeting. The Golden Knights begin with home-ice advantage, yet with the way the Oilers have performed against the Kings (and down the stretch), plenty of people will pick Edmonton to prevail.
The wrong kind of Mike Smith flashbacks for Stuart Skinner
Here’s a take: for all of the ups and downs during Mike Smith’s time with the Oilers, his overall numbers were often pretty good (sometimes really nice, like a .923 save percentage in 2020-21), particularly considering how affordable his contract was.
It’s human nature to focus on the bigger memories. With Smith, puckhandling misadventures often stick in your mind.
Considering Stuart Skinner’s light NHL resume and similarly-cheap asking price, the unlikely All-Star’s already surpassed expectations. However, it’s tough to focus on that after an epic blunder on the 4-4 goal, when Skinner coughed up the puck and Phillip Danault scored shorthanded midway through the third period.
PHILLY D ARE YOU ACTUALLY KIDDING pic.twitter.com/a1SjVRit3A
— x - LA Kings (@LAKings) April 30, 2023
Although maybe it was just bad luck? Skinner’s stick appeared to break on that dreadful goal:
Everyone ripping on Skinner but his stick broke trying to make that pass, was clearly compromised before but in a spot you wouldn’t really expect it pic.twitter.com/Nq7ibSi9nF
— Kevin Woodley (@KevinisInGoal) April 30, 2023
Luckily for Skinner, Yamamoto bailed him out a few minutes later to take most of the sting out of the gaffe.
Starting to thrive at 5-on-5
Remember when there were mild concerns about Connor McDavid being able to produce at even-strength against the Kings? Those worries have largely dissolved since Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft decided to load up with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the same line. Just 1:25 into Game 6, McDavid scored in a slightly unusual way for him: finding space and tipping in a brilliant pass by Evan Bouchard.
Bouch sets up The Captain 🚨 pic.twitter.com/7yva6aaYGW
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 30, 2023
Luckily for the Oilers, such even-strength gains haven’t come at the cost of power-play potency. McDavid set up Draisaitl for a power-play marker during a hectic second period, giving Edmonton nine such goals in this series.
Most Power Play goals in a single playoff series, Oilers history
1987 Smythe Division Semi vs Jets: 10
1992 Smythe Division Semi vs Kings: 10
2023 West First Round vs Kings: 9
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 30, 2023
Repeating storylines from earlier in the series
While the Oilers’ increased even-strength threat level highlighted one change as this series went along, there were also some narratives that carried over (and sometimes resurfaced).
At times in this series, the Oilers struggled to maintain multi-goal leads versus the Kings. Adrian Kempe factoring into a rally was also a fixture, so maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising that he scored one of two Kings power-play goals to dissolve a 3-1 Oilers lead into a 3-3 tie.
Every now and then, the Kings baited the Oilers into taking extra penalties (or you could argue the Kings were getting favorable calls). That thought was difficult to shake during that frantic second period, as by the time it was 3-3, the Kings received three power-play opportunities (scoring twice) compared to the Oilers going 1-for-1.
In another familiar storyline, the Oilers got some crucial help from players not named Draisaitl or McDavid. In the case of Game 6, Klim Kostin scored two important goals, showing off his powerful release.
Make no mistake, Draisaitl, McDavid and the other top Oilers drove the bus. That said, if Edmonton wants to win a Stanley Cup, it will need other players to pitch in here and there. That’s especially true if the Oilers go top-heavy with Draisaitl and McDavid on the same line more often than not.