Without question, tonight’s match up against Vegas is the most important meeting between these two franchises. It is only their 11th meeting all time, and the first one with both teams in a playoff race. But despite the lack of history, this is a big game.
I’d argue it has a little more meaning for the Oilers, due to their place in the standings.
1. In their 10 previous meetings, each team has won five. Edmonton is 3-1 on home ice, and 2-4 on the road. They play Vegas twice this month in Edmonton.
2. A victory, in regulation, would put the Oilers in a tie with Vegas, but Edmonton owns the tiebreaker (regulation wins) so they’d be in first place with 12 games remaining. More importantly, a win tonight, in any fashion, unofficially will secure home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. An Oilers win would put them at 84 points — five ahead of Calgary, eight ahead of Vancouver and either eight, nine or 10 ahead of Arizona, who plays in Winnipeg.
3. A five-point lead on Calgary with 12 games remaining means the Flames would have to go 9-3 if the Edmonton just played .500 (6-6). Vancouver would need a 10-3-1 finish and Arizona would have to go 11-1-1. It is possible one of those teams goes on a heater, but unlikely based on their seasons. If Edmonton can win tonight you might want to start planning for home games in April on between Wednesday, April 8th to Saturday, April 11th.
4. The Oilers victory over Columbus two nights ago was their first win this season when Leon Draisaitl didn’t score a point. Edmonton is now 1-9-3 when Draisaitl is held off the score sheet. Connor McDavid has played 16 games without a point and the Oilers went 3-10-3. Add in the six games he missed, where they went 3-2-1, and in 22 games without a point from McDavid the Oilers are 6-12-4.
Nathan MacKinnon has played 15 games without a point. The Avalanche are 7-7-1.
Artemi Panarin went pointless in 15 games and the Rangers went 3-11-1. They lost the one game he didn’t play so they are 3-12-1 with him not registering a point.
David Pastrnak has been scoreless in 17 games and the Bruins are 10-5-2 in those games.
5. Vegas has struggled defensively in the first period this season. They’ve allowed a league-high 74 first period goals. Edmonton is second in the NHL with 71 first period goals. The Oilers need a much better start tonight than they’ve had in their previous three games against Columbus, Chicago and Dallas.
The Oilers were outshot 16-6 in the first in Dallas, but Mikko Koskinen kept the game 0-0.
Patrick Kane scored in the first period in Chicago as the Hawks outshot Edmonton 11-7.
Alex Chiasson scored for the Oilers against Columbus, but the Blue Jackets outshot Edmonton 21-7.
The total goals are 1-1, but Edmonton has been outshot 48-21 in the first frame the past three games. They need to be on their toes tonight.
6. A sluggish effort, outside of the stellar play of Koskinen, on Saturday wasn’t a big surprise. It was essentially the Oilers’ first game after a long road trip. The previous seven games Edmonton played In Los Angeles, Anaheim, Vegas, Edmonton, Nashville, Dallas and Chicago. With one home game in between, it was, travel wise, like an extended roadie. I think the Oilers will have more jump tonight.
7. They should be the fresher team. Vegas played in Winnipeg Friday and last night in Calgary. Tonight is the second half of back-to-back and their third game in four nights. I can’t find the article, ugh, but a few years ago someone did research on playing an opponent in their third game in four nights and your chances of winning at the start of the game were up to 64%. It is an overall stat, and each game is different, but a large sample size clearly showed there is an advantage. Now it is up to Edmonton to capitalize.
8. Vegas and Edmonton are both top-nine teams since the All-Star break. Both are near the top of the NHL in many categories.
Vegas is +14 in GF/GA while the Oilers are +10. Vegas is third in GF/game at 3.50 and Edmonton is sixth at 3.30. The Oilers have the second best PP at 29.4% and the top PK at 91.2%, while Vegas’ PK is a dreadful 66.7% (30th), while their PP is 15th at 20.8%. Vegas has dominated at 5×5, however, outscoring teams 45-30. Only Philly has been better (+22) since the AS break.
9. I would start Koskinen tonight. He’s been unreal his past two starts, and in relief against Chicago, he didn’t allow a goal. Koskinen stopped 97 of 99 shots in those three games. I’d ride the hot goalie tonight. He hasn’t started back-to-back games since February 4th and 6th and I’d keep him in a rhythm. He’s feeling it right now.
10. Here is the Oilers’ scoring last year compared to this season, though 69 games, as well as the Golden Knights’ scoring.
|TEAM||TOP-5 FORWARDS||REST OF FORWARDS||DEFENCE|
11. Edmonton is fourth in the NHL in goals by forwards with 197 and Vegas is eighth with 188. And it isn’t just the Oilers’ top-five forwards who are carrying the team. The depth forwards have been quite effective this season. Edmonton’s depth forwards only have four fewer goals than Vegas’s. If these teams meet in the playoffs it should be a very competitive series.
The boys are in the mix and we’re looking ahead to April. Please, Hockey Gords, make it so. Competitive games in February! Exclusively at NationGear.ca.