The Los Angeles Kings were unable to close out their series against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6, falling 4-2 after rallying back from a 2-0 deficit. In the end, it was a good effort from the Kings, but they couldn’t get it done and now have to play Game 7 in Edmonton. Here are three takeaways from Game 6.
Kings Start the Game Slow
A common theme in this series has been the Kings’ strong starts. Game 3 was the only game in which they ended the first period down before Game 6. An early Connor McDavid goal stunned the Kings in this one, though, as they failed to get a handle on the game until Sean Durzi’s goal 14 minutes into the second period. Oilers’ head coach Jay Woodcroft loaded up his top line early, putting McDavid and Leon Draisaitl together often, which kept the Kings on their heels.
After getting torched by McDavid in the third period of Game 5, the Kings looked deflated after his early goal in Game 6. Evander Kane made it 2-0 early in the second as the Kings carried over their poor first period into the frame. Despite getting back into the game, the Kings were unable to recover from the deficit and complete their comeback.
Oilers’ Star Player Took Over
Speaking of McDavid, the league’s best player proved that he’s earned that title in Game 6, dominating from the opening faceoff. His early goal put the Kings on their back foot, and he didn’t stop after that. He finished the game with 24:02 of ice time to lead all players.
With one goal, two assists, and a plus-3 rating, he rightfully took home first-star honors. Woodcroft dressed seven defensemen and 11 forwards and leaned heavily on McDavid, double-shifting him frequently throughout the game. The Kings had no answer for him either. They had either Anze Kopitar or Phillip Danault on the ice for most of McDavid’s shifts, but they couldn’t stop him. He now leads the playoffs in scoring with 12 points through six games, leaving the Kings searching for answers on how to stop him in Game 7.
McDavid was the shining star in this game, but he wasn’t the only big-name Oiler to have a good game. Kane finished with two goals and an assist, proving why the Oilers took a risk on him, despite his off-ice issues. He now leads the series with six goals; the Kings’ blue line has struggled with his size and speed all series, and they’ll have to find a way to slow him down in Game 7 as well.
The one Oilers star who didn’t play up to his standards was Draisaitl. Fortunately, an off-night for Draisaitl still involved earning the primary assist on the game-winning goal, but he wasn’t the dominant force he’s been all series. He struggled in the first two periods of Game 5, being outplayed by Danault and his line before Woodcroft moved him onto McDavid’s wing. He was hurt early in Game 6 after a scrum with the Kings’ Mikey Anderson and didn’t look himself for the rest of the game. Even if he’s not at 100%, Draisaitl is still an elite player, but his health will be an interesting topic for Game 7.
Grundstrom Impressive Again
The Kings found life early in the third period when Carl Grundstrom scored just 29 seconds into the period, as he continues to impress since his move onto Danault’s wing. This goal was his third of the series, and his fourth point, with all four points coming after his promotion in Game 4. He also finished Game 6 with a team-leading five hits, as he continues to play a power forward’s game. It’s the style that most often finds success in the playoffs, and it’s exactly what the second line needed. That line has found success all season by outworking their opponent, and he fits that mold perfectly while also bringing an element of physicality that was also missing.
While it’s important not to overreact to this small playoff sample size, it feels like Grundstrom has played himself onto another contract with the Kings. He was good this season, but with prospects coming up and roster spots being in short supply, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the Kings move on from him. However, his play in this series should change that. He was drafted as a physical, two-way forward with goalscoring upside, and he looks exactly like that player right now. He’s developed a lot since the Kings traded for him in 2019, and he might be a serious part of this team’s future.
Also playing for his next contract is Andreas Athanasiou, and the speedy winger is quickly losing his spot to Grundstrom. It was a surprise that he was re-signed last summer, and it appears his days are numbered with the Kings. He has not been a reliable top-six player during his two years with the Kings, leaving a bottom-six role the only spot available for him. Given the team’s prospect pool and the emergence of Grundstrom, the team will likely move on from Athanasiou, using the extra cap space to improve the roster in other areas.
Kings First Game 7 Since 2014
The last time the Kings played a Game 7 was in 2014 when they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in the Conference Final en route to their Cup championship. However, this team severely lacks experience in series-deciding games, with Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Danault, Trevor Moore, Alex Edler, Troy Stecher, and Olli Maatta being the only players on the roster to have played in an NHL Game 7. The Kings know what they need to do to win – they need to forecheck hard and clog the neutral zone – and if they play their game, the Kings will come out victorious. As Kopitar put it post-game, “If you told us we got to win one game to advance, we’d take that opportunity.”
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.