By W.G. Ramirez
The boys are back on the ice, as the Vegas Golden Knights conclude their three-game road trip by looking for their sixth-straight victory after shellacking the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, 8-3, then outlasting the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, 4-3.
Tonight marks the second meeting in Edmonton between the Pacific Division rivals, after Vegas won the first battle, 6-3, on Nov. 18.
The Oilers have overcome a 2-7-1 stretch to win their last two games, a 1-0 win versus Dallas and 3-2 win over Los Angeles. New coach Ken Hitchcock seems to be making an early difference.
Tonight the competition is a bit more stringent, against a Golden Knights team that currently boasts the league’s second longest win streak at five games. Defending Stanley Cup champion Washington, which visits Vegas on Tuesday, is riding a seven-game win streak.
The Golden Knights have outscored their last five opponents 23-8. In scoring five or more goals in five of their last eight wins, the Golden Knights have outscored their foes 39-14 in the eight wins — which include three shutouts.
Prior to the trip, coach Gerard Gallant insisted on his team getting at least four points from the trip. The Golden Knights have done that. A clean sweep before facing the Capitals would bolster the momentum.
Edmonton is 6-4-1 at home this season, but is also 2-3-1 against Pacific Division teams. Vegas, meanwhile, is 7-9-0 on the road and 7-1-1 against the Pacific Division.
Now 10-3 with totals involving the Golden Knights, and 4-2 with top-rated power plays throughout the league after hitting Calgary on the Puck Line last night, we look to continue our winning ways with tonight’s visit to Edmonton.
Oddsmakers have made the Golden Knights a -120 road favorite, while the Oilers bring back +110.
Value in the Knights
Where do we start? This team has re-established faith in its fans, that a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs is inevitable. It took some time, but the chemistry is brewing. The way we saw Vegas in the second period of the first meeting, when Cody Eakin, Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault responded to a 2-1 deficit to give the Golden Knights a commanding lead, is the way we’re going to see this team respond tonight. The aforementioned skaters remain hot offensively, and give Vegas a chance to win this game. Add in Alex Tuch, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson — not to mention the fourth line — and laying a cheap price on the road is pure value.
Value in the Oilers
Edmonton has a little bit of momentum flowing right now, with two straight wins, and that could help it catch Vegas ripe for a letdown. The Golden Knights had road trips of three games or longer five times last season. They never swept one of them. They did have one three-game win streak during a five-game road trip, but they were also 0-2-0 in Edmonton last season. And we all know when you have Connor McDavid in your lineup, and you’re at home, there is value in an underdog price. McDavid has points in 21 of the Oilers 25 games to date this season, and in five appearances against Vegas, he has three goals and six assists. If McDavid has a big game tonight, the Golden Knights could be in trouble.
As of 2:30 p.m. pacific, the line we’re seeing is 6-under -120.
How do we not side with the Over in this matchup? The Golden Knights are playing their best hockey of the season, and the only way the Oilers can challenge Vegas is with an offensive surge of their own. Mikko Koskinen is in net for the Oilers, and whether it was going to be him or Cam Talbot, either goalie was poised to be under a lot of offensive pressure from Vegas’ high-flying offense. We are familiar with the fact Marc-Andre Fleury is 5-0-0 with a 1.77 goals-against average, and a .940 save percentage and a shutout in his last five visits to Edmonton, but that won’t scare us away from the fact the Oilers could lose this game 5-2, or 4-3.
Vegas has gone Over in six of its last eight on the road, and will push the tempo against Edmonton’s fast-paced lines. Play this one high.
W.G. Ramirez is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas who covers the Vegas Golden Knights for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez