Round 1, Game 7 Preview – Past G7 Stats, Kopitar / Maatta on experience, Right Off The Start

WHO: Los Angeles Kings (3-3) @ Edmonton Oilers (3-3)
WHAT: 2022 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS – Round 1, Game 7
WHEN: Saturday, May 14 @ 7:00 PM Pacific
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton, AB
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: Bally Sports SoCal – AUDIO – iHeart Radio – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings

TONIGHT’S MATCHUP: Game 7, Insiders! We’ve reached the ultimate decider, with the Kings and Oilers set to square off once more, with a place in the second round on the line. Winner takes all, loser goes home.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Forward Adrian Kempe leads the Kings entering tonight’s game with six points (2-4-6) from six games played, while forwards Phillip Danault and Carl Grundstrom lead the way with three goals apiece. Four of Kempe’s points have come at Rogers Place, the site of tonight’s game, while Danault has three points (2-1-3) and a +4 rating from three games played in Edmonton.

VITAL KINGS: Not much more needs to be said than Game 7. The Kings have their second of two opportunities to close out a series later on this evening as they look to make it three of four road wins here in this first-round series.

As has been the case throughout the postseason, Jonathan Quick did not take a morning skate today in Edmonton, making him tonight’s expected starting goaltender. Tonight would mark Quick’s fifth-career Game 7. The veteran netminder is 4-0-0 with a .940 save percentage and a 1.95 goals-against average from his prior four appearances in this situation.

The Kings held an optional morning skate in advance of Game 7, following along with the team’s tendencies coming in. On days following a practice, morning skate has typically been optional, with just a couple of veterans not on the ice this morning at Rogers Place.

The Kings kept their 18 skaters intact during Game 6, with just one lineup tweak as Andreas Athanasiou and Brendan Lemieux swapped places on the third and fourth lines. The Kings opted to shuffle their lines at times throughout the game and could do so again here in Game 7.

With that in mind, here is how the Kings lined up in Game 6, with nothing at this time to suggest any changes for Game 7 –

VITAL OILS: The Oilers are set to host a Game 7 tonight for the first time since the 1990 Stanley Cup Playoffs, a game in which current Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford tended the crease for the home side.

We’re expecting the seventh straight familiar goaltending matchup this evening, with Mike Smith expected to get the nod this evening in Edmonton. Smith is in line to play his first-ever Game 7 tonight, his 36th career appearance in the postseason.

The big news on the Edmonton side is the status of forward Leon Draisaitl and defenseman Brett Kulak, neither of whom skated this morning at Rogers Place. No status update on either from an Oilers standpoint, so we’ll wait and see until game time.

It is that time of year – Morning reports from Game 6 had Edmonton set to line up with a 12F, 6D look on Thursday, but the Oilers came out with 11F and 7D during warmups, as defensemen Phillip Broberg and Kris Russell checked in for forward Warren Foegele and the suspended Darnell Nurse. Nurse is back for Game 7 tonight, with the Oilers assigning Broberg back to AHL-Bakersfield yesterday. The status of Draisaitl and Kulak will determine how the hosts align this evening.

Notes –

Seventh Heaven
The LA Kings are expected to have 22 games of Game 7 experience in tonight’s lineup, compared to 19 on the Edmonton side, assuming health across the board and no surprise adjustments. Of those expected to play, the Kings have eight players who have taken part in a Game 7, compared to 12 on the Oilers side, though the Kings have four players with four or more games experience, compared to just one for Edmonton.

Factoring in players who are injured and will not take part in tonight’s game, below is how tonight’s group of Kings have fared all-time in Game 7’s.

The trio of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick are 4-0 together in their respective playoff careers, winning three times on the road during their run through the Western Conference Playoffs in 2014, as well as once at home in 2013. Defenseman Olli Maatta has also appeared in four career Game 7’s and is 1-0 on the road, with Pittsburgh in 2017, a moment he called his best Game 7 memory. Linemates Phillip Danault and Trevor Moore have each played one Game 7 on the road with other franchises, with Danault winning last season with Montreal, and Moore falling in 2019 with Toronto.

On the coaching front, Todd McLellan is in line to coach his fifth career Game 7 as a head coach behind the bench. McLellan is 1-3 in those all-time scenarios and 0-2 all-time on the road, with both away games decided by 2-1 finals. McLellan’s Game 7 victory came with the San Jose Sharks back in 2011 over his former team, the Detroit Red Wings.

On the Edmonton side, they are likely to dress less total experience in these situations, but more players who have experienced a Game 7. Their career statistics are shown here –

With Derrick Brassard not expected to play tonight, defenseman Duncan Keith is Edmonton’s most experienced player in Game 7 situations, with a game-high five to his name. Keith has three assists from those five games played and logged a game-high 32:12 when the Kings and Blackhawks met in Game 7 back in 2014.

Evander Kane is 2-0 in his Game 7 career, while Zach Hyman is 0-3, all played with other organizations. Lots of history and lots of experience between the two teams. All set to change later on tonight.

Been Here Before
“I think every Game 7 is different, it’s unpredictable, you never know what you’re going to get,” McLellan said this morning. “The fact that some of them have played in that situation, I think it’s valuable, but I don’t know if it always transfers over. For us, Game 1 was Game 7. Game 80 was Game 7 for us, we were scrambling to get in for the last few months. We’ve played multiple Game 7’s, it just wasn’t labeled Game 7, if you will. ”

The Kings experience in Game 7 situations is noted above, detailed and broken down by player. Every Game 7 is different, everyone has unique moments, so in some ways, having played in those games doesn’t count for as much as you might think, because it won’t be the same tonight. In other ways, though, it counts for a heck of a lot, because those veterans have handled that unpredictability, that adversity before. And that’s a good thing.

Speaking with two of those veterans – Anze Kopitar and Olli Maatta – this morning, they talked about the importance of both experience, and the game itself.

Copy – Yeah, it always comes into play. We have a few guys that have been through that, some multiple times. It’s always nice to have that in your back pocket, but every game is a new game so I’m sure this one is going to have a few wrinkles in it. You go, you play the game as hard as you can and you see what the outcome is.

Maatta – A little bit, you know what to expect. This building is going to be loud, it’s going to be a lot of fun, that’s a big part too, it’s a big game, do or die. There’s definitely going to be some nerves, but I think that’s good for us because I don’t think you’d change anything. We know what we need to do to win a game and we’ve just got to go out there and do that. We don’t want to over-do anything, just go in and play the game.

There are a lot of ways to look at it. There isn’t a scenario out there that will phase a player like Kopitar at this point in his career. He’s been to the top of the mountain twice in his career and he’s played in four Game 7’s throughout his NHL career. He’s also seen several younger players play in their first Game 7 at that time and he knows the current group of younger players pretty well at this point.

“They’re gaining experience, they’re learning on the fly and it’s probably the best way to learn, is by being right in the thick of things,” Kopitar added. “Getting to feel it, play in it and ultimately learn from it.”

Both he and Maatta were not particularly concerned with that group handling themselves in tonight’s game, with those plays appearing ready to go.

Importance Of The Start
So far in this series, the team that has scored the first goal has gone on to win each of the six games played. Three of those games (2, 3, 4) saw the team that scored first carry their lead all the way through a victory. The other three games (1, 5, 6) saw the team that conceded first eventually come back to tie the game, taking a tied game into the final six minutes of regulation, before a winner was found either late in regulation or in overtime.

“Our start has to be better,” Maatta said. “I think we’ve been pretty good off the start usually, but last game, that wasn’t it and I think that has to be better. When we get off to a good start, I think we’re a tough team to beat. ”

While the Kings conceded the early goal in Game 6, Todd McLellan didn’t feel that the start was all that different than it was in Game 4. On that night, the Kings gave up an early breakaway that didn’t go in, one that set the stage for the eventual game-opening goal from Phillip Danault. On Thursday, it went in through McDavid on a wraparound.

That fine of a line at this time of the season.

“They scored in the first two minutes of the game, Zach Kassian had a breakaway in the first few minutes of Game 4 and he didn’t score,” McLellan said. “One went in, one didn’t go in, and I’m not sure that the start was all that different than it was in the other games.”

The importance of starts throughout NHL History are remarkable when it comes to Game 7’s.

All-time, the team that scores first is 138-46 in Game 7’s, winning 75 percent of games played, including a 3-0 mark during the 2021 postseason. The importance of the start is emphasized by the fact that exactly half of Game 7’s all-time have been decided by a single goal, similar to this series, when Games 1 and 5, as well as more or less Game 6, were one- goal games.

That is the way that the Kings have won for much of the season and the way they’ll likely need to play tonight, with the hopes of having their “A” game, making and receiving passes crisply and being that pesky, hard to play against opponent. If the Kings do those things, they’ll give themselves a chance tonight in Game 7. If they don’t, we’ve seen what happens.

“We were a little bit too passive, so we’ve got to get more aggressive, especially on the forecheck,” Maatta added. “That’s been a big part of our game and we’ve got to play a simple, fast game. When there’s no play to be made, just put it behind them and go forecheck. ”

It’s all on the line tonight, Insiders!

Kings and Oilers. Game 7. Rogers Place in Edmonton. Winner advances to face the winner of Game 7 between Calgary and Dallas, loser sees their season come to an end after a hard-fought, opening-round series. Which is which, to be determined later on tonight!

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