When the king catch the ice on Thursday for Game 6 of their Stanley Cup first-round playoff series with the Edmonton Oilersthey will have a chance to do something the team hasn’t done in eight years: win a post-season series.
“Obviously, we’re very excited about where we are right now,” the winger said Adrian Kempewhich brought the team to the brink of advancing with the winning goal in extra time in game 5. “Our confidence is good right now.”
They also have an unexpected advantage in Game 6. The Oilers will have to do without defender Darnell Nurse, who has been suspended a game for headbutting the Kings center. Philip Danault towards the end of the second period of Race 5.
No penalty was awarded to the game, but after the NHL player safety department investigated the incident, it was determined that the warhead was delivered with intent to injure.
Oilers forward Zack Kassian was also fined $ 5,000 for cross-checking Sean Durzi during Game 5. This is the maximum penalty allowed by the collective agreement. Kassian was assessed a minor penalty in the second period.
Regardless of whether the Kings are able to close the deal, they have already achieved more in this playoff series than they have in any post-season since their last Stanley Cup win.
With three wins over the Oilers, they have more than doubled the post-season wins of the past eight years combined. And their Game 4 win at Crypto.com Arena, where they will play on Thursday, was the first playoff home win since that 2014 championship season.
But the transformation goes way beyond those results because these Kings have changed more than just post-season results. Expectations have changed.
Although the team started with the least experienced roster and fourth youngest in the playoffs, they quickly came of age. Only three players from the last Stanley Cup team: the captain Anze Kopitardoorman Jonathan Fast and forward Dusty brown – have played in this series. The Kings quickly switched to a younger and faster team.
Of the 15 goals scored against the Oilers, only one came from a player over the age of 28. Kempe, 25, is two. So does Carl Grundstrom, 24, one of eight Kings to play for the first time in the postseason.
At the start of the season, the team’s goal was simply to qualify for the playoffs. Even that modest goal was considered ambitious for a team that had only finished fourth in the Pacific Division once in the past five seasons.
It is now a win away from the Western Conference semi-finals and will have two chances to get there: in Game 6 on Thursday and Game 7 on Saturday in Edmonton, if necessary. If the Kings advance, they would play the winner of the Calgary-Dallas series.
Yet, following Tuesday’s victory, the Kings made it clear that getting close is not the same as getting there.
“Is never enough. It will never be enough, “said Danault, who is in his first season with the Kings.” You don’t want to be just that team that goes to the playoffs. We really want to get some things, some good things. “
The young Kings have shown in Game 5 that they are certainly not lacking in confidence. Playing in front of a noisy and hostile crowd in Edmonton, they kept two goals clear, only to see the Oilers score three times in the third period, two on power plays and once short of hand, to send the match into overtime. .
But it only took Kempe 72 seconds of overtime to calm the crowd with his second goal of the night and send the Kings back to Los Angeles with a 3-2 lead in the series.
“We have shown all year that we have a great identity as a team,” said Kempe. “It doesn’t matter if we are three goals down or if we are ahead and the teams come back to us. We always have that mentality that we have to reset. “
The Kings’ current challenge is to put that emotional victory behind them and focus on Thursday, when they will once again don their glass slippers and look to extend their run to the Cinderella playoffs in the second round. What they won’t do coach Todd McLellan said, he is resting on his laurels.
The Kings special teams have been atrocious, for example, with seven of Edmonton’s 21 goals in the series being made with power plays. Two others have become understaffed. Meanwhile, only two of the Kings’ 15 scores have come with a male lead.
So while this team already has a lot to celebrate, they still have a lot to achieve.
“We have to improve, not keep doing what we’re doing,” McLellan said. “It has to go up in some areas. We need to clean up some things. We have to find ways to be better. “