LA Kings Return To The Playoffs After Four-Year Drought
The last time the Los Angeles Kings made the playoffs, it was the middle ages. Skinny jeans were still in. We had eggs for breakfast…pterodactyl eggs.
Yes, this is all hyperbolic and possibly hacky. But the world of L.A. sports has not stopped spinning since 2018, when the Kings last made a run at the Stanley Cup and they were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the newest team in the league at the time, the Vegas Golden Knights.
And, well, it’s been a minute since they resembled the red hot team that stormed its way to two Stanley Cups in three seasons between 2012 and 2014. Since they last had their names engraved on hockey’s highest prize, they’ve been a bit mediocre, amassing a 297-261-70 record in eight seasons.
The Kings start their seven-game series Monday night at 7 p.m. in Edmonton against the Oilers away at Rogers Arena. They’ll stick around Edmonton for Game 2 on Wednesday, then will head back home for Game 3 on Friday, hosting Crypto.com’s first postseason game under its new title.
Hockey, although beloved by many (like the person typing this sentence), is still a sort of back-burner sport in L.A. Basketball and baseball reign supreme, imbuing themselves into the very DNA of the city. Soccer is far and away the most popular youth sport locally. And the City of Angels, plain and simply, eats professional football teams, deftly snatching them from other metropolises.
The Kings do have a tight, loyal local fanbase, especially, oddly enough, in the beach cities. But they play a sport in a climate where their surface does not naturally occur, a problem that has plagued pro hockey teams in warm-weather locales for years.
(Hockey is already not the most accessible sport and, candidly, L.A. is never going to benefit from the roots in youth sports that chillier cities have inherently…but that’s a whole different quagmire for a different day).
Additionally, the L.A. sports scene has become beyond saturated since the Kings were any good, adding four pro-sports teams since they last reached hockey’s summit.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers, Rams, Lakers, and Galaxy all have won championships since the Kings' last title. A tear pushing the team past the first round is bound to bolster the team's lukewarm popularity for the everyman.
Kings vs. Oilers: There’s History
L.A.’s regal skaters managed a 33-27-11 record during their first truly full season under head coach Todd Mclellan, good for 99 points and a 3rd place finish in the Pacific Division. Their captain, Anže Kopitar, led the team in scoring for his sixth straight season, notching 19 goals and 48 assists while continuing to post some of the best defensive results among centers in the NHL.
Kopitar’s prolific team-leading scoring has been unmatched in terms of consistency since the 1990s when a King’s ransom was paid to the Oilers to acquire Wayne Gretzky, who many consider to be the sport’s greatest player of all-time (***cough cough*** it’s really Mario Lemieux, but hey, potato tomato).
“The Great One” ended up single-handedly leading to a surge in popularity for the sport in L.A., earning silver screen fame (as a 16-bit sprite) and a mighty head wound along the way. Still, to this day, the Kings carry some swagger and pop-culture clout —just ask Kendrick Lamar.
Their opponents, the Edmonton Oilers, once again carry greatness with them, with a roster led by hockey’s current best player, center Connor McDavid. The 25-year-old captain dashed away with the league’s scoring title this season, scoring 44 goals and dishing out 79 assists.
McDavid is the league’s reigning MVP, but is considered by some to be a king without a crown, plagued by a franchise that can’t seem to muster up enough steam for a serious postseason run and failing to surround their star with ample talent, save for one man.
Leon Draisatl is their second-leading scorer and the league’s fourth this season. He scored 110 points, equal parts goals and assists, 55 and 55. The last time he notched as many points was in 2020 when he took home his first MVP award.
The Oilers finished 2nd in the Pacific Division this season with a 48-27-6 record, good for 102 points. They are widely considered to be the favorite in the series and certainly look great on paper, but the specter of postseason failure still haunts them.
Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that last time the Kings finished third in their division, they ended their season hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2014.