Preview: Golden Knights and Oilers collide in rematch as Vegas looks to clinch playoff berth
A regulation win tonight will punch Vegas’ ticket to the second season.
The Vegas Golden Knights return to T-Mobile Arena tonight to take on the Edmonton Oilers with a chance to secure their ticket to the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Vegas is coming off a perfect 3-0-0 road trip through Western Canada, most recently defeating the Oilers 4-3 in overtime on Saturday thanks to a goal by Nicolas Roy.
Golden Knights sweep road trip with 4-3 overtime victory over Oilers
Laurent Brossoit was back in the crease for the first time in a month; he stopped 27 of 30 shots and came away with his second win of the year (2-0-2).
Vegas became the first team in NHL history to start four different goalies in four consecutive games and win all four of those games (Brossoit, Logan Thompson, Jonathan Quick, Jiri Patera).
Needless to say, consistency between the pipes has been a crucial part of Vegas’ success. Coming into this season, there were question marks surrounding the tandem of Thompson and Adin Hill, but all five goalies who have started for the Golden Knights this season have impressed. Even in losses, the Golden Knights’ netminders have played well enough to give the team a chance to win almost every night of the season.
As a result, Vegas is 46-21-6 through 73 games (8-2-0 in its last 10) and currently sits in first place in the Pacific Division (and Western Conference) with 98 points. Los Angeles is close behind at 96 points, making tonight — as well as the other final eight games of the season — extremely important for the Golden Knights.
The Oilers currently occupy the third seed in the Pacific Division with 93 points in 74 games. Edmonton has gone 8-1-1 in its last 10 games; the Oilers collected two more points in a 5-4 win against Arizona last night.
The Golden Knights are 8-8-2 in the all-time matchup against the Oilers and have gone 1-1-1 through three games of the 2022-23 season series, which wraps up tonight.
All three games between these clubs this season have been 4-3 contests, with two coming in overtime.
Power Play: The Oilers have the best power play in the NHL (31.9 percent); Vegas ranks 16th (21.4 percent).
Penalty Kill: The Oilers’ penalty kill is operating at 75.3 percent, good for 25th overall; Vegas’ 78.5 percent effectiveness rate ranks 19th.
Goals For/Against: The Oilers have the best offense in the NHL, averaging 3.93 goals per game, while Vegas sits in the middle of the pack with an average of 3.26, good for 15th overall. However, the Golden Knights have been much better defensively; Vegas has surrendered an average of 2.77 goals against per game, which ranks 10th overall, while the Oilers have given up 3.32 (22nd).
Leading scorers: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl rank first and second in the NHL in scoring with 140 and 114 points, respectively. McDavid recorded his 140th point in Saturday’s matchup; he is the first player to reach that threshold since 1995-96. McDavid leads the way in the Rocket Richard race with 60 goals; Draisaitl is fourth in the league with 46.
However, Draisaitl leads the NHL with 28 power-play goals, while McDavid is second with 21. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman each have 14 power-play strikes. Nugent-Hopkins is tied for ninth in the NHL with 91 points, while Hyman is fourth on the Oilers with 77, giving the Oilers four forwards with 75-plus points. The next person on the list is defenseman Darnell Nurse, who has 40 points through 74 contests.
For context, the Golden Knights have four forwards with more than 50 points (Jack Eichel-58, Chandler Stephenson-55, Jonathan Marchessault-52 and Reilly Smith-51). William Karlsson is close behind with 48, while Alex Pietrangelo has recorded 47 (though he has done so in 64 games).
In the crease: Jonathan Quick will be in net for the Golden Knights tonight; he is 5-1-0 with a 2.93 goals-against average, .908 save percentage and one shutout with Vegas. Quick last appeared in relief of the injured Thompson for the final 6:07 of last week’s game against Calgary; he stopped all five shots he faced to help the Golden Knights close out the win.
Quick is 24-10-6 with a 2.07 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and three shutouts all-time against the Oilers; he has yet to face them this season.
Stuart Skinner likely will patrol the crease for Edmonton tonight after Jack Campbell got the nod last night against Arizona. Skinner is 23-14-5 with a 2.93 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 42 starts this season. Skinner stopped 30 of 34 shots in Saturday’s contest.
The Golden Knights have a chance to clinch a playoff berth tonight. It would be the fifth postseason appearance for the Golden Knights in six years and would mark Vegas’ return to postseason play after missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season.
The Golden Knights will clinch a playoff berth:
- If they defeat the Oilers in regulation./
- If they defeat the Oilers in overtime or in a shootout AND either of the following occurs: /
—The Jets lose to the Sharks in any fashion.
—The Bruins defeat the Predators in any fashion or Nashville wins in extra time (any outcome other than a Predators win in regulation).
- If Vegas gets one point against the Oilers AND any of the following occurs:
—The Jets lose to the Sharks in overtime or a shootout AND the Predators lose to the Bruins in any fashion.
—The Jets lose to the Sharks in regulation AND any result in Bruins-Predators other than a Predators regulation win.
—The Bruins defeat the Predators in regulation./
At the end of the day, it’s more important for the Golden Knights to focus on playing tonight’s game the right way than it is to worry about clinching; the two points matter more for maintaining Vegas’ standing in the rankings. It’s unlikely that clinching is a real focus in the locker room, however; instead, the Golden Knights need to focus on executing on all the little details that have led to the club’s remarkable 17-3-2 stretch since the All-Star break.
- A win of any kind will give the Golden Knights 100 points on the season, something the club has not done since hitting 109 in the inaugural campaign.
- Eichel, who has yet to experience playoff hockey, is two points away from hitting 60 points for the fourth time in his career.
- Karlsson is two points shy of hitting the 50-point mark, something he has not done since 2018-19; it would mark the third 50-point campaign of Karlsson’s career (2017-18, 2018-19).
- Teddy Blueger is three points away from 100 career points.
- Shea Theodore is two helpers away from reaching 200 career assists./
Keys to the game
Maintain discipline: The Oilers have the best power play in the NHL. Vegas went 1-for-2 on the penalty kill in Saturday’s win, but Edmonton’s man-advantage is lethal. The fewer opportunities Vegas gives it, the better.
Take charge: As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, in the month of March, the Golden Knights are 11-0-0 when scoring first and 0-2-0 when giving up the first goal. While there’s no clear or direct correlation between taking a 1-0 lead and winning the game, it’s difficult to overlook the trend. The Golden Knights took a one-goal lead three times in regulation in Saturday’s game; each time, the Oilers came back and tied the game. However, Vegas never trailed, and that’s an ideal position to be in when facing players of Connor McDavid’s and Leon Draisaitl’s caliber.
Clear the crease: The Golden Knights blocked 24 shots on Saturday and 32 in last Thursday’s game against the Flames. There were a few very close calls in Edmonton, including when Brayden McNabb’s block saved a goal as well as when a Mattias Janmark attempt skated through the crease. The Golden Knights’ system is goalie-friendly, but getting pucks out of the crease, clearing bodies from in front of the net, getting in shooting lanes and making strong first passes out of the defensive zone will go a long way towards helping the Golden Knights win their fifth straight game.
Ivan Barbashev — Jack Eichel — Jonathan Marchessault
Michael Amadio — William Karlsson — Pavel Dorofeyev
Chandler Stephenson — Nicolas Roy — Phil Kessel
Brett Howden — Teddy Blueger — Keegan Kolesar
Ben Hutton — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud
Evander Kane — Connor McDavid — Kailer Yamamoto
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — Leon Draisaitl — Zach Hyman
Warren Foegele — Nick Bjugstad — Mattias Janmark
Klim Kostin — Devin Shore — Derek Ryan
Darnell Nurse — Cody Ceci
Mattias Ekholm — Evan Bouchard
Brett Kulak — Vincent Desharnais