After suffering a frustrating loss to the Flames in Calgary on Saturday night, the Oilers will be back in action again on Sunday as they host the Golden Knights. Here are your game day notes.
1. Remember last year when virtually everything went right for the Golden Knights? It seems their good fortune has finally dried up. I mean, they do deserve credit for last year’s shocking season, but there wasn’t much doubt that they were going to regress a little bit this year. Last season, Vegas had a shooting percentage of 10 and this year it’s all the way down to 7.2 percent.
2. Scoring goals has been a struggle for the Golden Knights this year. Their leading goal scorer is Jonathan Marchessault, who has eight goals, and then Cody Eakin, who has seven. William Karlsson, last year’s breakout 43-goal scorer, has just four goals and newly-acquired Max Pacioretty has only two goals. As I said above, Vegas’ shooting percentage is shockingly low, so you have to expect some pucks to start going in at some point.
3. Another thing Vegas has missed this year from last is the excellent play of Marc-Andre Fleury. They navigated a wild period of time in which all of their starter, backup, and third-string goalies were injured, but when Fleury was playing, he was damn good. Fleury put up a .927 save percentage in 46 games last year. Through 17 games this year, he’s got a .901 save percentage.
4. The issue for Fleury this year has been consistency. His .901 save percentage is the result of being up and down. Sometimes he’ll put up a 34-save shutout against Carolina, and other times, he’ll he’ll get shelled by Philadelphia for five goals on 16 shots. It’s been difficult to predict which version of Fleury will show up this year.
5. Through 20 games this season, Vegas is 8-11-1. This time last year? They were 13-6-1. That’s a difference of 10 points in the standings. Like the Oilers, Vegas has had a heavy non-division schedule so far this season, so things can change for them pretty quickly if they can manage to string some wins together against Pacific Division teams. They’ve played just two games against the Pacific so far, 3-1 and 5-0 wins over the Anaheim Ducks.
6. This next stretch of games for the Oilers are massive. Last night’s loss was really disappointing for the Oilers after they came out and took a 2-0 lead. If the Oilers are going to make the playoffs this year, they need to win against their division. They’re 0-1 now, but they have six of their next seven against the Pacific. What I said above applies to Edmonton as well. If you can string some divisional wins together, it’ll make a big difference.
7. The Oilers were did well against the Golden Knights last season. Edmonton won the season series 3-1, featuring an 8-2 shellacking of Vegas’ fourth string goalie and an overtime win on a goal from Darnell Nurse. Only two teams beat Vegas three times last year — the Oilers and the Minnesota Wild. And, well, of course, the Washington Capitals, if you count the Stanley Cup Final.
8. Tonight will mark Nate Schmidt’s first game back from his 20-game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. Getting Schmidt back will be a huge boost to the Golden Knights’ blueline. Schmidt was the team’s top defender last year, averaging 22 minutes per night and putting up 36 points.
9. The Oilers had two different players making their team debuts last night. Call-up Patrick Russell made his NHL debut at the age of 26, playing 8:37 minutes on the fourth line. Ryan Spooner, who was acquired in a swap for Ryan Strome on Friday afternoon, made his debut on the second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He played 10:35 minutes and was on the ice for two goals against.
10. Depth has been a big issue for both the Oilers and Golden Knights. Edmonton has had a rough time getting scoring from anybody not playing with Connor McDavid and the Golden Knights have a third line that’s absolutely bleeding goals against. Vegas’ third line duo of Tomas Nosek and Ryan Carpenter are -14 and -12 respectively. I don’t usually like to use +/- because it’s a somewhat flawed stat, but if you’re that far into the red, you’re doing something wrong.
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