Viva Las Vegas! After a gritty 3-2 overtime win in Arizona last night, the Oilers will finish off their back-to-back in the desert with a date with the Golden Knights. Here are your game day notes.
1. The Oilers managed a win last night in Arizona but, unfortunately, it took them until overtime to do it, so they only gamed one point of ground on the Coyotes in the playoff race. The Oilers have one game in hand on the Coyotes, so if they can with tonight in Vegas, they’ll be five points back of the Coyotes with 10 games left to play.
2. The Oilers are getting a little bit of good luck tonight as Marc-Andre Fleury is sidelined with an injury. In his place, Malcolm Subban we get the start. In 12 games this year, Subban has a .902 save percentage, while Fleury has a .914 save percentage in 59 games.
3. The Golden Knights won’t be rushing Fleury back from injury as the team is pretty much locked into their playoff spot. They’re 11 points back of San Jose for second in the division and they’re five points up on Arizona for third. Barring some implosion, the Golden Knights are stuck in that third seed and will play either Calgary or San Jose in the first round.
4. The Golden Knights are as close as they’ve been to icing their ideal lineup as they have been all season. Save for injuries to Erik Haula and Fleury, the Golden Knights have a very deep roster. They were without Nate Schmidt for the first 20 games of the season due to a suspension and both Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny missed significant time to injury. When healthy, Vegas has one of the deepest rosters of quality players in the league.
5. The Golden Knights relied on somewhat unsustainable performances last year from guys like William Karlsson and Erik Haula who had breakout seasons out of nowhere. It was realistic to expect regression, so the Golden Knights went a built a new veteran top line on the fly. They acquired Max Pacioretty from the Canadiens in the off-season, signed Paul Stastny in free agency, and then finished the trio by acquiring Mark Stone at the deadline. I can’t think of an instance in which a team just built a top line in just a few months like that.
6. In order to acquire Pacioretty and Stone, the Golden Knights dealt away two of the three players they picked in the first round of their first-ever draft in 2017, Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom. This shows Vegas’ expansion draft creativity paying off. Brannstrom was picked 15th overall with a pick the Golden Knights got from the Islanders for taking Mikhail Grabovski. Suzuki was taking 13th overall with a pick the Golden Knights got from Winnipeg for taking Chris Thorburn.
7. The Oilers made it out of the expansion draft pretty much unscathed as the Golden Knights took Griffin Reinhart. Reinhart, who is currently playing for Vegas’ AHL team, was selected over guys like Jujhar Khaira and Laurent Brossoit. I think Vegas did incredibly well at the expansion draft, but they might want a do-over on the Reinhart choice.
8. With three points in last night’s win in Arizona, Connor McDavid now has 103 points on the season. He’ll certainly beat his career-high of 108 points set last season but he’ll be in tough to catch Nikita Kucherov for another Art Trophy win. Kucherov has 117 points with 10 games remaining and he could become the first player in the lockout era to break 130 points in a season.
9. Leon Draisaitl has 11 games to score eight more goals to become the fifth Oiler ever to reach the plateau. Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Glen Anderson, and Jari Kurri are the only other Oilers to record 50-goal seasons, though Craig Simpson scored 56 in 1987-88, the year he was dealt from Pittsburgh to Edmonton.
10. The weather in Vegas is excellent right now as it’s 22 degrees Celsius without a cloud in the sky. Despite the warm weather, people here are still wearing jackets and the people in Oilers jerseys are the only ones around wearing shorts.