Series preview: Golden Knights face high-octane Oilers in second round

Series preview: Golden Knights face high-octane Oilers in second round

The Vegas Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers will drop the puck on their best-of-seven second-round matchup tonight at T-Mobile Arena. The top two teams in the Western Conference are set to duel in what is projected to be an epic showdown.

It may prove to be the best series of the playoffs.

But for the Golden Knights and Oilers, this is just the next step towards achieving the ultimate goal of drinking from Lord Stanley's Cup.

The Golden Knights are competing in the postseason for the fifth time in six seasons after missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last year; Vegas has reached the third round of the playoffs three times but has not returned to the Cup Final since the inaugural campaign.

The Oilers are coming off a trip to the Western Conference Final – the first in the Connor McDavid era – that resulted in a four-game sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Colorado Avalanche. The franchise last raised the Stanley Cup in 1990 after the unparalleled feat of winning five in seven years in the 80's.

This will be the first postseason matchup between the division rivals, who battled each other in the standings all year in a race that came down to the wire. In the end, the Golden Knights (51-22-9) finished two points ahead of the Oilers (50-23-9), thus claiming home-ice advantage.

How they got here: Oilers

The Oilers finished the season with 109 points, good for second overall in the Pacific Division. They wrapped up the regular season on a nine-game winning streak, went 14-0-1 in their final 15 and 18-2-1 over the last six weeks of the season. Their 49 points in the final 32 games of the year trailed only Boston (54), Colorado (51) and Vegas (50).

Dating back to the regular season, Edmonton has won 13 of its last 15 games; the last time the Oilers lost in regulation was March 11 against Toronto. Their only other defeat at the end of the regular season was a 4-3 overtime loss to Vegas on March 25. They lost two games in their opening-round matchup against Los Angeles, though both came in extra time.

McDavid and Leon Draisaitl led the NHL in scoring in the regular season by a wide margin; McDavid had the best season of the century, scoring 64 goals and 153 points, while Draisaitl recorded 52 goals and 128 points. In total, the two superstars combined for an unconscionable 281 points.

They didn't stop in the first round, teaming up for 21 points.

Edmonton defeated the Kings in six games, three of which required extra time. Edmonton dropped the opening game of the series but bounced back in Game 2 to even things up at 1-1.

Like Vegas, the Oilers surrendered a multi-goal lead in the third period, giving up two goals in the final 8:27 of Game 1. Unlike Vegas, Edmonton was unable to recover, eventually falling in overtime. Edmonton took a 2-0 lead in the first period of Game 2 but proceeded to blow that lead in the second; however, Edmonton struck twice in the third to take Game 2 by a final score of 4-2.

The Kings won Game 3 and threatened to take a 3-1 series lead after jumping out to a 3-0 lead after the first period of Game 4. But Edmonton responded with a heavy dose of McDavid and Draisaitl, and the Oilers' rally was the first of three consecutive wins to propel them to the second round.

Game 5 wasn't close, as the Oilers were up 5-2 after two periods and won 6-3, but Game 6 was another seesaw matchup that was tied through the first 56:57 of regulation before Kailer Yamamoto scored the series-clinching goal with 3:03 remaining.

It was a very tight series with a lot of power-play goals and a lot of lead changes, but the Oilers prevailed. Edmonton recorded at least one power-play goal in every game and scored two three times. That will be a key factor in the second-round matchup against the Golden Knights.

How they got here: Golden Knights

The Golden Knights had an up-and-down season bookended by two stellar stretches. Vegas started the season 13-2-0 but later stalled, losing seven of eight in January; however, the All-Star break proved to be a turning point in the season, as the Golden Knights finished the year 22-4-5 to win the Western Conference.

The Golden Knights finished off the best season in franchise history with a 5-0-2 record in April, giving up just 12 goals in seven games.

In the first round, Vegas dispatched the Winnipeg Jets in five games, winning four straight after dropping Game 1. The Golden Knights were the only team to limit their first-round series to five games.

Vegas was led by the offensive contributions of Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson, who combined for 16 points in Games 2-5. Stone's return at the start of the playoffs was crucial to Vegas' success; while he struggled (along with the rest of the team) in Game 1, he found his game in Game 2 with a three-point effort and proceeded to record at least a point in the next three contests. Stephenson recorded four straight multi-point games.

William Karlsson was the unsung hero with a team-high four goals, Jack Eichel recorded five points – including two power-play goals – in his first five playoff games, and Laurent Brossoit, once again, stole the show.

Brossoit has lost just once in regulation all year, and he has a chip on his shoulder after facing chants of "You're a backup" in his former barn.

Vegas benefited from secondary scoring, including a two-goal performance by Brett Howden and a combined 11 points from Howden, Michael Amadio and Ivan Barbashev. Two of those points were game-winning goals.

The Golden Knights were outplayed in Game 1, a 5-1 defeat, but responded with a 5-2 victory to even things up at 1-1. Vegas held a comfortable 4-1 lead at the start of the third period of Game 3 before the Jets stormed back, scoring three unanswered goals, including the equalizer with 22 seconds in regulation.

It took an additional 23:40, but Vegas took its first lead of the series thanks to a one-timer goal by Amadio at 3:40 of double overtime. It was a monster win by the Golden Knights, who could have given the Jets all the momentum and a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4. Instead, the Golden Knights recovered and never looked back. The Golden Knights ended up winning both games in Winnipeg to take a 3-1 edge back to Sin City for a pivotal Game 5.

That's when Vegas had its best effort of the series – and arguably its best 40 minutes of the entire season in the first and second periods – to hand the Jets a 4-1 loss in Game 5 and in the series.

First round: by the numbers


Goals for
Golden Knights: 19, 3.80 per game (4th)
Oilers: 25, 4.17 per game (1st)

Shots for
Golden Knights: 31.8 per game (8th)
Oilers: 35.3 per game (2nd)

Power play
Golden Knights: 18.8 percent (10th)
Oilers: 56.3 percent (1st)


Goals against
Golden Knights: 14, 2.80 per game (8th)
Oilers: 20, 3.33 per game (9th)

Shots against
Golden Knights: 30.8 per game (7th)
Oilers: 33.5 per game (13th)

Penalty kill
Golden Knights: 58.3 percent (15th)
Oilers: 66.7 percent (12th)

Season series

Leading scorers
Vegas: Marchessault (3-2–5), Eichel (1-4–5), Theodore (0-4–4)
Edmonton: Nugent-Hopkins (1-8–9), Draisaitl (5-3–8), McDavid (1-6–7)

Vegas: Brossoit (1-0-0, 2.91 GAA, .886 SV%), Hill (0-0-1, 3.96 GAA, .826 SV%)
Edmonton: Skinner (2-0-1, 3.59 GAA, .878 SV%), Campbell (1-0-0, 3.00 GAA, .900 SV%)

Special teams
Vegas – PP: 1-for-10 (10 percent); PK: 4-for-9 (44.4 percent)
Edmonton – PP: 5-for-9 (55.6 percent); PK: 9-for-10 (90 percent)

Nov. 19: Oilers 4, Golden Knights 3 (OT)

Both teams scored one goal in each of the three periods, but Edmonton came out on top in the end thanks to a McDavid game-winner 1:17 into extra time. The Oilers went 1-for-3 on the man-advantage.

Vegas: Keegan Kolesar, Stone (2)
Edmonton: Warren Foegele, Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, McDavid

Golden Knights drop 4-3 OT decision to Oilers
The Golden Knights have gone 1-2-1 in their last four games.

Jan. 14: Oilers 4, Golden Knights 3

The Golden Knights scored at 13:39 of the third period to pull within one of the Oilers, but Edmonton stormed back and scored 18 seconds later. Vegas added a goal in the final minute of regulation, but it wasn't enough for the win. Edmonton went 0-for-1 on the power play.

Vegas: Kolesar, Paul Cotter, Karlsson
Edmonton: Mattias Janmark, Draisaitl (2), Klim Kostin

Rough start costs Golden Knights in 4-3 loss to Oilers
The Golden Knights gave up two goals in the first 1:42 of the first period.

March 25: Golden Knights 4, Oilers 3 (OT)

In Vegas' lone victory against the Oilers, Eichel led the way with three points before Nicolas Roy scored the game-winner 2:26 into overtime.

Vegas: Eichel, Pavel Dorofeyev, Jonathan Marchessault, Roy
Edmonton: Hyman, Draisaitl, Foegele

Golden Knights sweep road trip with 4-3 overtime victory over Oilers
Roy scored the game-winner, and Brossoit helped Vegas make NHL history.

March 28: Oilers 7, Golden Knights 4

Nugent-Hopkins recorded five points in a lopsided loss. The Golden Knights scored to make it 3-3 early in the third period but proceeded to give up four unanswered goals, three of which came in the middle frame. The Oilers' power play went 3-for-3 in the victory.

Vegas: Marchessault (2), Karlsson, Amadio
Edmonton: Evan Bouchard, Nugent-Hopkins, Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse, Evander Kane, Hyman, Brett Kulak

Golden Knights fail to clinch playoff berth in 7-4 loss to Oilers, lose Theodore to injury
Quick gave up six goals on 34 shots; the Oilers went 3-for-3 on the power play.

All-time matchup

The Golden Knights have an all-time record of 8-9-2 against Edmonton but have gone 2-5-1 in the last eight meetings.

Leading scorers
Vegas: Marchessault (10-7–17), Karlsson (7-7–14), Theodore (3-9–12), Smith (4-7–11)
Edmonton: McDavid (8-16–24), Draisaitl (10-14–24), Nugent-Hopkins (8-11–19)

Special teams
Vegas – PP: 5-for-47 (10.6 percent); PK: 29-for-42 (69.1 percent)
Edmonton – PP: 13-for-42 (31 percent); PK: 42-for-47 (89.4 percent)

Goalie matchup

Golden Knights

Laurent Brossoit has established himself as the clear No. 1 starter for the Golden Knights and was excellent in Vegas' five-game first-round series against his former team, the Winnipeg Jets. Ironically, he will face his other former team in the second round.

Brossoit spent parts of four seasons with the Oilers at the start of his NHL career and went 7-13-2 with a 2.98 goals-against average and .897 save percentage. He has yet to play more than 24 games in a single season but rose to the challenge this year when Vegas' goalie carousel threatened to come off its tracks.

Brossoit went 7-0-3 in the regular season, recording a 2.17 goals-against average and .927 percentage.

He went 4-1 in the first round, giving up just 13 goals in five games. Brossoit managed a 2.42 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. He was key in what was a closer matchup than the final results indicate; though he and the Golden Knights gave up three goals in the third period of Game 3, Brossoit's calm demeanor in extra time allowed Vegas to save itself from a potentially epic collapse. That could have been a series-altering slip, but he stopped all six of Winnipeg's shots in both overtime periods.

Brossoit made timely saves at critical moments throughout the series. He will need to do the same against the high-flying Oilers. In fact, Brossoit's performance will be a crucial factor in the outcome of this series; Vegas will need him to make all the routine saves in order to keep up with Edmonton's superstar talent, and he'll need to come up with highlight-reel stops to keep the Golden Knights in the running.


Stuart Skinner took over the crease when Jack Campbell struggled out of the gate, ultimately finishing his rookie season with a 29-14-5 record to go along with a 2.75 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and one shutout.

He started in all six of Edmonton's first-round games against the Kings but was pulled in Game 4 after surrendering three goals on 11 shots. Skinner finished the series with a 3-2 record, a 3.43 goals-against average and an .890 save percentage.

He is an untested commodity in the first playoff action of his career but played a key role in Edmonton's impressive push in the final six weeks of the regular season, where he went 14-1-1.

However, he wasn't able to slow down the Golden Knights during the regular season. Though he went 2-0-1, he posted a 3.59 goals-against average and .878 save percentage in three starts.

Neither goalie began the season as a No. 1, but both have earned their keep.

Keys to the series


The Oilers had the top power play in the NHL throughout the regular season and the top power play in the first round of the postseason. It wasn't particularly close. Edmonton scored nine goals on just 16 attempts for a ridiculous 56.3 percent conversion rate. For context, the Golden Knights went 3-for-16 (18.8 percent). The second-place team was the Winnipeg Jets, who scored five goals on 12 attempts. Against the Golden Knights.

Even though Vegas was relatively disciplined, the Jets took advantage of their opportunities; in fact, Winnipeg scored at least one power-play goal in every game in which Vegas took a penalty.

The combination of Edmonton's top-notch power play and Vegas' middling penalty kill sets up a potential series-changing disadvantage, and it's one the Golden Knights have to limit. The only way to do so is to stay out of the box. Even the best units in the NHL had trouble slowing down the Oilers during the regular season, and Vegas' penalty kill has been inconsistent all year.

McDavid and Draisaitl alone combined for 53 power-play goals in the regular season; Vegas' entire roster managed a total of 42. The Golden Knights didn't take many penalties in the season series, but Edmonton still made them pay when they did. Discipline is the No. 1 priority for Vegas in this series.

Contain and restrain

McDavid and Draisaitl form a two-headed beast with nine lives; shutting them down is impossible, but slowing them down will be key. The Golden Knights found ways to win all year; now they have to find a way to contain Edmonton's ferocious duo.

The two put up insane numbers in the regular season, combining for 116 goals and 281 points, and they were at it again in the first round with 21 combined points. Draisaitl can do it all and is considered one of the best passers in the game, and McDavid's skill set puts him in a league of his own.

The Golden Knights' forecheck improved considerably throughout the series against Winnipeg, and Vegas will need to pick up where it left off against the Oilers. Edmonton faced a 1-3-1 formation against the Kings, but if Vegas can get pucks behind the Oilers defensemen and keep play in Edmonton's end, that could go a long way towards slowing down the dangerous offensive threats.

Home-ice advantage could prove to be a significant factor in a series expected to go the distance. While Bruce Cassidy rolls four lines and three pairs consistently, he will need to put Vegas in a position to succeed against a top-heavy roster. To do so, he'll have to take advantage of last change and monitor matchups against McDavid and Draisaitl, whether they're on the same line or not.

There are advantages to both; keeping them together gives Edmonton a super line with outrageous ability, while splitting them up gives the Oilers better depth and solidifies the second line; that line – consisting of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nick Bjugstad and Zach Hyman – struggled tremendously in Game 6 with less than 10 percent of the expected goal share at 5-on-5.

For the Golden Knights, the advantage of facing a top line of McDavid, Draisaitl and Evander Kane is that Vegas' depth becomes even more of a factor. The disadvantage is that it will be that much more difficult to slow them down.

If they're not on the same line, Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez should get the lion's share of minutes against McDavid, while Shea Theodore and Brayden McNabb likely will take on Draisaitl, as was the case for much of the regular season. Both pairs have offensive-minded skaters that can help Vegas in transition as well as stay-at-home rearguards who finished first and second in the NHL in blocked shots.

It's more difficult to project how Cassidy will deploy his forwards against Edmonton's top players since Stone missed so much of the regular season; that being said, one can expect the middle six to share the assignment, with Stone and Stephenson being tasked with playing significant minutes against one or both of the Oilers' stars, and Karlsson and Reilly Smith handling the rest. No matter what, Vegas has much better depth up front and on the back end, which will be vital against an Oilers roster with so much high-end skill.

Even so, the reason the Oilers are much more of a legitimate contender this year is because of the supporting cast. Nugent-Hopkins and Hyman had excellent seasons with 104 and 83 points, respectively. Plus, Kane has a strong combination of skill and physicality, and the Oilers have gotten great results from the third line of Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod and Derek Ryan. Additionally, the fourth line got key goals in the first round, with Klim Kostin putting up three goals and an assist and Yamamoto scoring the most important goal of the series.

But the Golden Knights also have a much more balanced and stable blue line with which Edmonton cannot compete. Pietrangelo and Theodore both controlled the expected goal share in the first round; Pietrangelo and Martinez managed a 51.55 percent share, while Theodore and McNabb came away with 56.14 percent. It's clear Vegas' three pairs can go toe-to-toe with any other defense corps in the playoffs.

The Oilers, on the other hand, have been forced to play 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Aside from deadline-acquisition Mattias Ekholm, the Oilers don't have top-end defenders. Brett Kulak had a good first-round series, and Darnell Nurse and Evan Bouchard are solid play-drivers, but they're not on the same level as Vegas' two No. 1 blueliners.

When all is said and done, Vegas' depth has the clear advantage both offensively and defensively. Cassidy has faith in all four lines and all three pairs, and spreading out the ice time could prove to be helpful if games go beyond 60 minutes or in a long and tightly-contested series. No matter what, Vegas will need to rely on its depth offensively and especially defensively depending on how McDavid and Draisaitl line up.


On the one hand, goaltending could be a wash in this series. Both goalies have played very well at times and both are relatively untested. The two teams could put up so much offense that goaltending may not be a deciding factor.

But if one of the two inexperienced netminders takes a clear step forward in the matchup, that could prove to be critical in the ultimate outcome.

Brossoit had the better of the play in the first round, outplaying Connor Hellebuyck by a wide margin and giving up just 1.24 goals above expected. However, he had a much easier matchup than Skinner. Cassidy's goalie-friendly system should help Brossoit withstand Edmonton's surges, but life for Brossoit will be a completely different ballgame in the second round. The Oilers' offense will be relentless, and even with help from his teammates, he could be overwhelmed.

Skinner, meanwhile, had a much larger sample size in the regular season but didn't impress in the first round, giving up 2.35 goals above expected. If Vegas continues to struggle on the power play, though, that could give Skinner an edge since the Kings scored seven goals on 21 power-play opportunities for a 33.3 percent efficiency rate.


Golden Knights

Stone/Stephenson: Stone and Stephenson could end up being the most important players for Vegas given their contributions on both sides of the puck. They'll get difficult defensive minutes but also will need to produce offensively. They are both game-breakers and have undeniable chemistry, and Stone broke through after a rough performance in Game 1, scoring eight points in the final four games of the series. He had two three-point performances and became more and more effective in the defensive zone as the series wore on. Stephenson also managed eight points in Games 2-5, and he became the second Golden Knights skater to record multi-point efforts in four consecutive postseason games, joining Max Pacioretty. In Game 3, which went to double overtime, Stephenson led all forwards in ice time by nearly three minutes (2:48). In Games 2-5, the two combined for 13 takeaways, outscored their opponents 6-1, scored five high-danger goals, owned a 64.26 percent expected goal share and held a 28-13 edge in scoring chances (11-3 high-danger).

Eichel: This series presents the highly-anticipated matchup between the top two picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft: McDavid at No. 1 and Eichel at No. 2. The two have been compared since their rookie seasons, a judgment that has not been entirely fair.

"I think, obviously, Connor is on his own; that's no disrespect to Jack," Cassidy said. "I think everyone would be talking about that matchup. Whether it be fair to Jack or not, it doesn't matter; it's playoff hockey. You've got to outplay the guy across from you ... if you want to advance."

The matchup nevertheless will be a storyline in this series, and Eichel could step out of McDavid's shadow and be a game-breaker for the Golden Knights. This is his first taste of playoff hockey, and he played well in the first round, recording five points in five games, including a two-goal performance in Game 3.

If Eichel can match McDavid's production at 5-on-5 – which is reasonable considering they had similar rates in the regular season – that could be a game-changer for the Golden Knights.

What McDavid has accomplished in his career sets him apart. However, he hasn't led the Oilers to the promised land. That's no slight on him, as he has carried this team for many years. But Eichel has a chance to do something special as the Golden Knights continue their quest for the franchise's first Stanley Cup. He was acquired on Nov. 4, 2021 to be a game-changer, and there's no better time to do it than in the playoffs.

The two are unlikely to see much ice time against each other, at least in the games in Las Vegas when Cassidy has last change. However, Eichel has the potential to turn this series on its head. If his elite ability starts to come through on a more regular basis, that will add a whole new dimension to Vegas' game.

Honorable mention
Jonathan Marchessault: Marchessault scored zero goals in the first-round matchup against Winnipeg. Though the top line produced, he has yet to light the lamp and represents another gear in Vegas' offense. Marchessault leads the Golden Knights in all-time scoring against Edmonton, and he and Draisaitl are the only two players with 10 goals. Vegas got offensive bursts from the third-line combination of Stone and Stephenson as well as from Eichel and Karlsson. But Marchessault has yet to deliver, and he could prove to be an under-the-radar weapon in this matchup.


The dynamic duo: The statistics don't lie, despite how ridiculous they may seem. McDavid and Draisaitl continue to outdo themselves year after year, scoring at will and dominating the game one shift at a time. For most of the regular season, they did so on separate lines. That was true at the start of the Los Angeles series. However, Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft put the two together starting in Game 4, and it helped turn the series around. The Oilers were trailing 3-0 in Game 4 and 2-1 in the series, but McDavid and Draisaitl went to work. In the end, Edmonton won the last three games, and McDavid and Draisaitl led the way. While Edmonton has more depth this year than in years past, the Oilers need McDavid and Draisaitl at their best.

Bottom line

The Golden Knights and Oilers are both talented hockey clubs and are eager to capitalize on the chance to advance to the third round. The Oilers have the better offensive scoring punch with the two most dynamic players in the game, while Vegas is stronger defensively and has impressive depth throughout the lineup. Vegas will not win this series if Edmonton's power play is given ample opportunities to strike; special teams will be critical.

Projected lineups

Golden Knights

Ivan Barbashev – Jack Eichel – Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith – William Karlsson – Michael Amadio
Brett Howden – Chandler Stephenson – Mark Stone
William Carrier – Nicolas Roy – Keegan Kolesar

Alec Martinez – Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague – Zach Whitecloud

Laurent Brossoit
Adin Hill


Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – Evander Kane
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Nick Bjugstad – Zach Hyman
Warren Foegele – Ryan McLeod – Derek Ryan
Klim Kostin – Kailer Yamamoto

Darnell Nurse – Cody Ceci
Mattias Ekholm – Evan Bouchard
Brett Kulak – Vincent Desharnais
Philip Broberg

Stuart Skinner
Jack Campbell

How to watch Game 1

Game 1: Golden Knights vs. Oilers
When: 9:30 p.m. PT
Where: T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas, NV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM

Partial schedule released for Golden Knights vs. Oilers second-round matchup
The Vegas Golden Knights last played April 27 but will gear up for their second-round matchup against the Edmonton Oilers, which is set to begin on Wednesday, May 3. The Golden Knights and Oilers were the top two teams in the Pacific Division and will square off after first-round victories

Statistics courtesy of, Natural Stat Trick and Evolving Hockey.