It’s Saturday, we’re getting set for our first Nation Viewing Party in nearly two years, and I can’t think of a better way to spend my day than here with you as we all get set for the second matchup of the season between the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights.
It’s funny how much can change in the NHL over the course of a month. Throughout most of October, the Golden Knights found themselves towards the bottom of the Pacific Division standings as they sputtered through the start of their year in a less than spectacular fashion. They didn’t look much like the team that everyone expects to contend for at least the division anyway. Then, after a couple of weeks of getting their at-bats, Vegas turned their year around and now find themselves sitting in third place in the Pacific Division, coming into tonight’s contest with a 7-3-0 record over their last 10 outings. Powered by scoring throughout their lineup and quality goaltending, Vegas is going to be a major challenge for an Oilers team that’s missing half of their back end and not exactly known for being super tight defensively at the best of times.
Even though we’re only a quarter of the way through the season, these divisional games are already huge opportunities considering the four-point swing, and there’s nothing that I’d love more than to see the Nation Viewing Party go crazy with a win. If we’re going to get there, the Oilers will obviously need to buck the trend of giving up the first goal by doing what they can to keep Vegas to the outside of the ice and limit their ability to generate chances from the danger zones in front of the net. There are way too many times when Edmonton can get caught giving up 10-bell chances and that can’t happen against Vegas or they’ll burn you for it. Whether it’s at even strength or on the power play, the Oilers will have to make smart choices with the puck and that includes firing shots on net when they have a chance to rip it rather than passing up the chance to try and make an extra pass. There are times when being selfish is good and I would certainly suggest that the Oilers have the firepower to consider ripping the puck a little more.
Let’s see what the numbers say.
|LAST 10 GAMES||6-4-0||7-3-0|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||50.89||47.57|
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)
Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
Hyman – Nugent-Hopkins – Yamamoto
Foegele – McLeod – Puljujarvi
Benson – Ryan – Sceviour
Russell – Barrie
Broberg – Ceci
Lagesson – Bouchard
From where I blog, I look at this game against Vegas as a massive test for the Oilers as they continue to battle the injury bug on their back end while trying to keep pace atop the Pacific Division standings. Not only is Vegas proving to be a hell of a team in their own right, but these four-point divisional games are a monstrous opportunity to make a move within the division and that’s something they have to find a way to execute. I know the boys are banged up a little bit, but they also need to find ways to win these hockey games.
Pacioretty – Stephenson – Smith
Marchessault – Roy – Smith
Carrier – Brooks – Dadonov
Janmark – Howden – Kolesar
Hague – Pietrangelo
McNabb – Theodore
Hutton – Whitecloud
Now that the Golden Knights are starting to get healthy again, they’re going to be a massive challenge for the Oilers to handle in all three zones and they need to make sure their game is tight so they don’t look like idiots. I mean, I’ve been to a couple of games in Vegas at this point and they do a very good job of limiting the Oilers’ chances to score and that’s going to be a hurdle I’d imagine we’ll have to clear again tonight.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Let’s be honest, we all thought the Golden Knights would be a lot worse off than they are today. Thanksgiving has passed and we can all let out a collective sigh knowing that if the season ended today Vegas would be in the playoffs.
The injury bug hit the Golden Knights hard but through coaching, leadership, and responsibility, the Golden Knights are currently in third place in the division.
One player that was an enormous reason why the Golden Knights kept their heads above water is defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Since Game 52 of last season, Pietrangelo has emerged as Vegas’ most important player. Sure, some deep stats will disagree but frankly, this is a case of mistaken identity. You want a stat? The Golden Knights are 7-2 when Pietrangelo registers a point. A point! Not a goal, but just one point from #7 usually propels the Golden Knights to a victory. That’s just his offensive contributions.
Clearly, coach Pete DeBoer isn’t concerned with what the data says about his most essential player. If the 31-year-old is such a deterrent than why would he be one of the most utilized defenseman in hockey? Pietrangelo is a bonafide workhorse and a fantastic facilitator for DeBoer.
Game Day Prediction: The big boys come to play and power the Oilers to a huge 4-2 win.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Leon Draisaitl scores a power play goal assisted by Connor McDavid.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Philip Broberg scores his first NHL goal with a wrister from the point that weaves its way through traffic and past the goaltender.
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