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Can the Los Angeles Kings Swing the Series?

The Los Angeles Kings are coming off a big loss against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 2. But it's still early, and tied at one apiece, they'll have the home crowd on their side.
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They’re coming off a shellacking, shutout loss to the Edmonton Oilers that evened their first-round playoff series at one game apiece, but the Los Angeles Kings have much to be proud of to start off the Stanley Cup post-season. 

The Kings stole home-ice advantage from Edmonton after their Game 1 victory over the Oilers, and, while Edmonton showed resilience and their high-octane offensive firepower in the Game 2, 6-0 win over L.A., the Kings’ transitional roster is experiencing playoff hockey for the first time, and progress for them may not be linear

That said, the Kings still can win this series. Edmonton has a worse road record (21-15-5) than L.A. (23-11-7), and these next two games, in front of a friendly California crowd, will be huge in deciding who heads back to Edmonton for Game 5 on the brink of being eliminated. And it just feels like the Kings are playing with house money. 

They looked looser in Game 1, more prepared to sacrifice for the sake of the team. That wasn’t there in Game 2, but again, consistency is usually the hardest part of a team ascending up the ranks in the NHL The Kings have it, in spurts. Now they have to elongate and connect those spurts so that they always are a threat.

The inconsistent goaltending we’ve seen from the Oilers is also reason to believe the Kings are going to have success in these next handful of games. Edmonton never knows whether Mike Smith is going to step up and steal a game, or whether they have to turn to backup Mikko Koskinen. There is just too much that can go wrong here, and the pressure to succeed is squarely upon the Oilers.

Let’s repeat that last part, just to stress its importance: the pressure in this series is squarely on the Oilers. I think reasonable Kings fans have been hoping for (a) a playoff berth; (b) a first-and second-round win; and (c) their youngsters to learn and develop coming out of their playoff battles. They got part (a), and I think they can shock the Oilers and make it to the second round before they’re eliminated. I don’t think they have a true Cup threat, and I don’t think I’m alone. I don’t think L.A. fans would be upset if the season went that way

However, I do think the Oilers are under immense pressure, not only to beat L.A., not only to beat Calgary (probably) in the second round, but to the Western Conference Final and beyond. If, for example, the Kings pull off another win in either Game 4 or 5, they head back to Edmonton confident they can win at home as well, L.A. is going to be a monstrous opponent for the Kings. We all know superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl power Edmonton’s attack, but the Kings have enough talent to scrape out wins.

The last time the Kings won a playoff round was in the 2013-14 campaign, when they went on to win their second Cup in three seasons, and the second Cup in franchise history. In five of the past seven years, they’ve failed to make the playoffs, and in the two seasons they did make the post-season, the Kings managed to win just a single game. Their rebuild has been slow, but patient. GM Rob Blake has added some key pieces (Philip Danault, Alex Edler) to supplement their core. Bit-by-bit, they’ve raised the bar for themselves. These next few games will tell us whether they’ve cleared that bar.

Don’t be surprised to see large swings in competition before this series is through. It’s important for both teams to be in a winning position by the end of it, but sometimes, the team that may have less top-end talent winds up outworking and outsmarting their opponent who is better on paper.

The Kings have enough skill not to be pushed over and lose the series 4-1. The Oilers do as well. But the hockey gods could be on L.A.’s side this season, And if the Kings do move on to Round 2, it will be a very intriguing, crossroads of a summer for the Oilers.

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