How the Kings are looking to change the narrative in Chapter 3

Sure it looks exactly the same.

Same logos.

Same arenas.

Same hopes and dreams.

But this isn’t a movie. This isn’t Groundhog Day or Edge Of Tomorrow or Happy Death Day.

And it would be a gross oversimplification to suggest that when the Los Angeles Kings square off against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on Monday night to start what will be the third straight first-round series between the two teams, that this is somehow time bending backwards on itself.

Same old, same old?

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact the third in what is now a trilogy stands as a great litmus test for both teams given how little separated the two teams during the first two series.

The two Pacific Division rivals have played 13 games between the two series. Although Edmonton prevailed in both series it’s also fair to say both series were there for the taking.

In the end the Oilers were the ones who did the taking. The Kings continue to seek ways to do some taking of their own starting with Game 1 Monday night in Edmonton.

“I think you’ve got to look at it as we’re a different group,” said Kings forward Viktor Arvidsson after the team’s last full practice before jetting to Edmonton Sunday. “They’re a different group too I think.”

Every playoff series is a measuring stick of a team’s evolution, an unyielding examination of how a team drafts, develops and acquires talent.

The Oilers view this third straight meeting with the Kings through a different prism given their successes. Call it ‘Stanley Cup or bust’ as some of the local media have put it.

Fair enough. But make no mistake the Kings view this series as a significant test of their own evolution.

Because, while the Kings’ roster remains for the most part familiar to those who followed the first two series, the players that make up this Los Angeles Kings roster are wholly different.

Many of these players are more mature both physically and mentally. Many of these players are going to be asked by Head Coach Jim Hiller and his staff to do different things in the coming days than they were asked to do a year ago and/or the year before that. So, while the names may be familiar, the roles and expectations for so many members of this current Kings team have changed and evolved so as to suggest an almost entirely different entity.

Two years ago Quinton Byfield played in only two of the seven games that it took the two teams to settle the matter. Last year he played in all six and had four points.

This year, coming off his first 20-goal season, Byfield will be counted on in a vastly different way.

“I think if you look at a guy like ‘Q’, he’s developed very nicely for this organization and for our team,” Arvidsson explained. “He’s been probably our most consistent player through the whole year. He had a slump at the end but he’s a young player and if you look at him as a player, he’s grown since last year when we played Edmonton. I think he can have a really positive impact on how we play.”

Byfield is not alone in hoping to play a significant role in changing the narrative of this playoff drama.

Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Trevor Moore has played in all 13 of the playoff games in the first two series of this trilogy collecting three goals.

But the undrafted Moore has blossomed into a legitimate NHL scoring threat leading the team with 30 goals during this regular season. He is an important part of the team’s power play configuration that will play a key role in determining success against the Oilers.

The Thousand Oaks native loves the dynamic of the playoff environment and is chomping at the bit for this next opportunity.

“It’s a lot of the same excitement,” Moore, 29, said Saturday. “Every year playoff time is really fun. I love the preparation. I love when the coaches come in and try and dissect things, get a game plan for one team.”

Maybe there were some nerves two years ago when he got his first taste of NHL playoff action with his hometown team, but now, not so much.

“We’re just confident and we really just want to get started,” Moore said.

As for being tested? Sure. That’s part of it too and it’s something to be embraced.

“Absolutely,” Moore said. “I think three years in a row we made the playoffs and it’s a privilege to make the playoffs. You don’t know how many times in your career you’re going to have the opportunity to go out there and compete, so that’s definitely something we want to take advantage of.”

Keep going down the roster and you’d be hard-pressed to find a player of whom more isn’t expected in the coming days.

Last year Kevin Fiala was healthy enough to play in only three of the six games in Round Two of Kings/Oilers. He recorded six points in those games.

Fiala, along with contributing on the power play, is going to be counted on to bring offense as part of an energy trio with Blake Lizotte and Trevor Lewis.

Defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov had just nicely arrived in Los Angeles after a trade deadline deal with Columbus before jumping into the Oilers/Kings fray. Now, he and partner Matt Roy are an integral part of the team’s defensive structure.

Fellow defenseman Jordan Spence remembers suiting up for three of the seven post-season games two seasons ago and feeling the goosebumps on his arm hearing the Canadian national anthem at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

“The biggest thing is that it’s a complete different type of game,” Spence said. “I hear that from a lot of veterans especially Doughty and Kopi, saying that it’s another season and it’s just another level that we have to be ready for. So, it was an eye-opener to be completely honest, but obviously I was fortunate enough to play the three games that I played two years ago. Being on the team a full year this year and getting ready for playoffs, I’m really excited. I think I know what to expect.”

Older, healthier, wiser, hungrier, this series will be an important reminder that time is not stationary.

So, sure, this series looks familiar but the Kings insist that there is nothing familiar about their team and about their belief that this is their time.

“It’s exciting,” Hiller said after Saturday’s practice. “We can talk about individual players on our side and their side. It’s going to take us as a collective, we know that,” Hiller added. “I really like where we are as a collective. We’re healthy. I think we’re confident and we’re excited. I think you’re going to see a passionate hockey team.”

Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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