The Golden Knights find themselves on the road once again as they face off against the Edmonton Oilers tonight at Rogers Place. This will be Vegas’ second Pacific Division opponent of the season, as well as its first-ever taste of reigning MVP Connor McDavid.
The Oilers have gotten off to a surprisingly slow start this season, failing to take advantage of the momentum generated by last year’s playoff run — the most successful run this team has had in a decade. Edmonton finds itself 6-9-2, good for seventh place in the division.
But the Oilers are coming off a fairly successful road trip, gaining five of a possible eight points with back-to-back overtime wins against the Islanders and Devils. It was the first time all season they won two in a row. The Oilers lost to Washington Sunday in a shootout.
While it’s clear Edmonton lacks the overall confidence and “swagger,” if you will, it had last year, there is plenty of talent on this roster, and by no means is Edmonton to be taken lightly.
McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are game-changers, and the duo can be one of the most lethal combinations in the league. Throw in power forward Patrick Maroon and his net-front presence and the Oilers’ top line can do serious damage. But the Oilers have had tremendous trouble scoring and sits dead last in the league with an average of just 2.24 goals per game.
Add to that goaltender Cam Talbot’s inconsistent play and it’s no wonder why Edmonton has struggled early on. That being said, Talbot, who is coming off a dominant 42-win campaign in which he often carried this team on his back, played much better on the recent road trip, giving up six goals on 104 shots for a .942 save percentage in three games.
So, here’s what to watch for.
How will Maxime Lagace respond?
It’s no secret that the Golden Knights struggled mightily on the team’s recent six-game road trip. After replacing Oscar Dansk in net in the second period in the first of those six games, Lagace finished up the road trip with an ugly 1-4-1 record. Upon returning home Friday night, however, he picked up his second career NHL win with a solid 5-2 victory against the Jets.
Lagace and the Knights had a chance to “reset” with Friday’s home tilt against Winnipeg, excelling on home ice and adding yet another impressive win to the club’s resume. But now that Vegas hits the road again, which Lagace will man the crease? The one that gave up 21 goals on 157 shots for an .866 save percentage in the span of five-plus games? Or the Lagace who stopped 27 of 29 shots for a career-best .931 SV% against the surging Jets?
Will multiple players extend their point streaks?
David Perron and Erik Haula have points in four straight games, with Perron recording one goal and six points and Haula collecting three goals and six points in that stretch. The two skate together with James Neal and will try to extend their point streaks to five games. Perron, who leads the Knights in points with 14, spent parts of two seasons with the Oilers, scoring 76 points in 116 games.
everyone no one expected, defensive defenseman Deryk Engelland is tied for the team lead in points by a defenseman with nine; he also is tied with Perron for team lead in even-strength points (9). Engelland has points in three straight games, scoring a goal and adding three assists in that time. While it’s only a matter of time before he regresses, Vegas’ newest “scoring threat” on the back end would set a career record with a point in tonight’s game. This is the third three-game point streak of Engelland’s career; he has never found the scoresheet four games in a row.
Can Vegas contain McDavid?
Here’s the $1 million question. McDavid has seven goals and 19 points in 17 games this season. Even though he’s scoring at higher than a point-per-game pace, that’s relatively low production for the forward that reached the 100-point mark last year in just his sophomore campaign. However, McDavid is a threat every time he steps on the ice.
The acceleration in his first few strides is unlike anything anyone else in the NHL can muster. If Vegas fumbles the puck at the blue line, McDavid is gone. Even if McDavid appears to be a step or two behind the defender, it’s more likely than not that he’ll have at least a partial breakaway. Vegas will have to be very careful not only at the blue line but in the neutral zone as well; McDavid is especially dangerous on the rush, and he will make any minor puck-handling mistake cost the Knights dearly.
How to Watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM
Time: 6 p.m. PT