Golden Knights' Top Line Clicking At Right Time vs. Edmonton
The Vegas Golden Knights rebounded in Game 3 with a convincing 5-1 win on the road in Edmonton after falling by the same score in Game 2 at T-Mobile Arena.
At this time of year sample sizes are small when looking at the playoffs, whether it be an individual series or an entire run in general, and things can change rather quickly. That said, so far the Golden Knights are getting exceptional production out of their top line of Ivan Barbashev, Jack Eichel, and Jonathan Marchessault, and this advantage is something that can help them get past the Oilers and move on in the playoffs.
Travis Yost had this to say after Game 3, and later on he posted a chart looking at how the top line has been a force thus far vs. the Oilers.
Through 3 games played vs. the Oilers, here are some stats of note at 5v5 via Evolving-Hockey.
Ivan Barbashev – 3-0-3
100 GF% – 6.86 GF/60 | 0.00 GA/60
68.03 xGF% – 3.94 xGF/60 | 1.85 xGA/60
53.98 CF% – 67.33 CF/60 | 57.39 CA/60
Jack Eichel – 1-3-4
100 GF% –5.94 GF/60 | 0.00 GA/60
62.59 xGF% – 3.77 xGF/60 | 2.25 xGA/60
52.9 CF% – 67.12 CF/60 | 59.77 CF/60
Jonathan Marchessault – 2-0-2
100 GF% –7.11 GF/60 | 0.00 GA/60
69.92 xGF% – 4.95 xGF/60 | 2.13 xGA/60
58.91 CF% – 77.38 CF/60 | 53.97 CF/60
While a good chunk of this success came in Game 3, particularly from a points perspective, it is still worth calling out as it shows a roadmap on how the team can continue to be successful vs. Edmonton. No one should expect Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl both the be kept off the scoresheet again, but there's a way the team can have success even when they are producing.
Marchessault scored twice in the first period, with both goals being setup by Eichel. The Golden Knights were able to gain the zone, and both goals were a byproduct of Marchessault getting to the home plate area.
This is the area of the ice that includes the front of the net and the slot, and here's a visual from an old story by Alison Lukan of the Seattle Kraken.
As you can see, Marchessault was in a perfect spot to capitalize, and it helped the team end the first period with a lead.
Lastly, here's the 4th goal of the game which arguably was made possibly by taking advantage of an Oiler mishap that saw Evan Bouchard fall down, but the main sequence starts with Vegas taking the puck from their own zone and moving up the ice with relative ease.
The last goal of the game didn't involve the top line, but I am including it because it is another example of moving up the ice, and getting a puck to the home plate area. It is quite possible at this point that Edmonton was a little checked out of the game, but if they want to have a chance in this series they will need to make it tougher on Vegas to enter the zone and get pucks up the ice in even strength situations.
This may be easier said than done given the gifted players Vegas has on the roster, but the Oilers have some heavy hitters themselves that can pack a punch offensively and skate well.
What is impressive in all of this is that the Oilers had a big opportunity in this game when Laurent Brossoit left the game with 8:16 remaining in the period after making a save on Connor McDavid. Even though Adin Hill got some time in Game 2 after coming in relief of Brossoit, the Oilers were unable to capitalize on a cold goaltender, and he was able to get into a rhythm on his way of stopping all 24 shots faced.
The Golden Knights should expect the Oilers to have a better game on Wednesday, because a loss would put them in a 3-1 series hole with play shifting back to Las Vegas.
Overall, the Golden Knights have a 70.29 GF% at 5v5 through 8 playoff games which is best in the NHL. They have a 50.06 CF% which puts them middle of the pack at 8th overall, and a 56.55 xGF% which is also best in the NHL. They are playing a brand of hockey that should allow them to continue to have success, and now they are going back to a goaltender who played pretty well for them in the regular season now that Brossoit appears to be sidelined for a bit.
Game 4 offers a big opportunity, and if the Golden Knights can continue to play well 5v5, they have a great chance of ultimately going back to the Western Conference Final.