Kick rocks, Vegas. Final Score: 4-0 Oilers
As far as massive games down the stretch go, I couldn’t think of any that were more important than this afternoon’s matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights. With a potential four-point swing on the line, this was a massive opportunity for the Oilers to solidify their position within the division while also putting some space between themselves and Vegas, but it was going to take another effort like the one they put down against Nashville for that to happen. Vegas is playing too well right now to mess around with a lacklustre effort, and I wasn’t about to have the rest of my Saturday ruined by a half-assed outing when points matter the most. In the early going, however, it was the Golden Knights that were buzzing around and firing pucks from all over the ice whereas the Oilers needed a few shifts to get their legs going. The good news is that the boys were eventually able to settle in and start manufacturing chances of their own, but they certainly weren’t doing themselves any favours with the bake sale’s worth of turnovers they were dishing out. Yet, even with giveaways galore, the Oilers managed to get a late one from Kris Russell and grab themselves an almost unexpected lead heading into the intermission.
Heading into the second period, the Oilers needed to come up with a better effort at both ends of the ice because they were way too sloppy with the puck and I thought they were incredibly lucky to be the ones leading the game. That’s not to say that they were awful — the Oilers looked much better on the attack as the period wore on — but they absolutely needed to stop coughing the puck up so much. Vegas has too many guys that can burn you to keep giving them bonus looks on your goalie. And as hoped, the Oilers showed significantly more care with their passes and it was a small change that gave them a whole lot more time on the attack despite their insistence on passing up shooting opportunities. In the defensive zone, the Oilers did a decent job of limiting Vegas’ ability to sustain any pressure while also keeping many of their shots to the outside of the ice. Overall, it was a decent period for the boys as they were able to navigate a lot of back-and-forth sequences that saw both clubs manufacturing chances to score with regularity. Obviously, you’d like to see another goal on the board for the home side but you have to appreciate that Vegas couldn’t anything done either.
Up by a goal with 20 minutes to play, Edmonton needed to keep their foot on the gas pedal and avoid falling back into some kind of prevent defence. As we’ve seen far too often over the years, the Oilers are always better off keeping their attack going when trying to close out the win rather than trying to ride the clock out, and I was hoping that would be the case against Vegas since their lead was only a single goal. The first step, of course, was to get their legs moving to try and have a good start. What I didn’t expect, however, was that the Oilers would get a second goal from their defence to kick the period off, but that didn’t stop me from shrieking with delight when Cody Ceci was able to give his side a little breathing room. All of a sudden, the Oilers had themselves a little bit of insurance and it seemed to loosen them up a touch as Ceci’s goal was followed by a flurry of chances that could have put the game away in a real hurry had it not been for some key saves by Thompson. But even Thompson’s best wasn’t enough to stop the wave that was coming his way as the Oilers were able to tack on another pair of goals from Foegele and Kane to set themselves for a decisive victory. Two. Huge. Points.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- UNDEFEATED IN THE BEN STELTER ERA!
- Oilers are now 10-0-1 in their last 11 home games.
- Kris Russell (KRIS RUSSELL!) got the Oilers on the board (1-0) with a seeing-eye shot from the high slot that made its way through traffic and passed the goaltender. If I’m being honest, I was about to scream at Kassian when he hung onto the puck instead of shooting but it all worked out in the end as Russell was able to get his first goal since March 17th, 2019, or 125 games. Coincidentally, that last goal also happened to come against Vegas.
- Cody Ceci gave the Oilers some insurance (2-0) early in the second period after his point shot made its way through a Puljujarvi screen, changed direction off the Vegas defenceman, and passed Thompson for a massive goal. I know I was one of the people that doubted signing Ceci to a four-year deal — it’s still a little long for my liking — but he’s been incredible for the Oilers this year.
- Warren Foegele extended the lead to three goals (3-0) after he picked off a pass at his own blue line to give himself a full-ice breakaway that he made no mistake on. Once in on the goaltender, Foegele finished the play off with a nice deke to his backhand before lifting a shot up and over a flailing Thompson.
Evander Kane ended his goalless streak with a shorthanded goal (4-0) that came on the back of a fine individual play by Nugent-Hopkins that saw #93 dangle the Vegas defender before throwing a puck on net that eventually lay in the crease waiting for Kane.Actually, after I posted the Wrap Up, the NHL gave the goal to Nugent-Hopkins which means he finished off a beautiful play with a goal that somehow snuck in the net and all of a sudden I am very aroused.
- Mike Smith was back in the crease after picking up his 43rd career shutout on Thursday night, and I was looking for the old boy to keep this heater running that he’s been on over the last few weeks. Picking up right where he left off, Smith was very good for the Oilers once again and he did a wonderful job of keeping the boys in the game in the moments where Vegas had the pressure cranked up. Even though many of the shots came from the outside, there were also plenty of high quality looks that Smith was able to turn aside with confidence. Smith finished the night with 39 saves to close out his second straight shutout.
- How good has the PK been lately? The Oilers have been incredibly effective when down a man over the last few weeks, and that trend continued this afternoon as the boys killed off three of three shorthanded situations. Not only were the boys perfect on the kill but they were also able to add a shorthanded goal to punctuate a fine evening.
- Oilers found a way to put up four goals without McDavid or Draisaitl even getting a point. Gotta love that depth scoring.
- Brett Kulak appreciation post. The guy is just so quietly solid on a nightly basis and I’m getting to a point where I really hope the Oilers can find a way to keep him around.
- I can’t be the only one that likes the 11-7 lineup configuration, right? I like having the ability to throw Connor or Leon out on the ice for an extra shift, and it also seems like the defence benefits from having the minutes spread out a little bit. Just me?
- You’ve finally arrived at the special place in the Wrap Up where I bless you with the delicious info that the Oilers won 53% of the faceoffs.
- The Oilers’ magic number is now 6.
THE FACE PALMERS
- Beating Vegas in regulation means the Flames have locked in their playoff spot. The Oilers helped the Flames and it makes me feel dirty inside.
- The Oilers were coughing the puck up at an alarming rate all game long, and it was the kind of sloppiness that drives us all crazy.
- I don’t know how many times I yelled “SHOOOOOOOOT” at the TV this afternoon but the Oilers were driving me crazy with how often they were refusing the throw pucks on net in favour of looking for an extra pass.
- Unfortunately, the Oilers lost the Corskis after being outshot by a 39-36 margin.
- Leading up to puck drop, I was thinking how this was going to be the kind of game where the Oilers needed to get something done on the power play, and unfortunately, that was not the case even though they were only awarded one opportunity with the man advantage. I didn’t know Vegas was such a bunch of saints out there but I guess that’s the way she goes.
- Word from the spreadsheets was not so great as the Oilers finished with a 47.75 CF% and a 43.44 xGF%.
— Jarrod Sharp (@jarrodsharp94) April 16, 2022
I’m a huge fan of #NoHatRick, because I know why he doesn’t have a hat. Much respect.
— Jake (@FatDad_) April 16, 2022
— sʜʀᴏᴏᴍsᴀᴜᴄᴇ┋MIKE SMITH #1 FAN┋🎤🍏🐐┋#41 FOR HOF (@ShroomSauce) April 16, 2022
Warren Foegele just told @tyleryaremchuk to shove it lol
— Luke Meyer (@LukeMeyer4) April 16, 2022
Kane will have to do.
— Erick Erickson (@Golfczy) April 16, 2022
— William James (@William_J87) April 16, 2022
BETTER LAIT THAN NEVER
The Oilers had an up-and-down week since my last podcast, and I walked through it all. From the heartbreaking loss to Colorado to getting dummied by Minnesota to defending Jesse Puljujarvi, I was all over the map on the latest episode of Better Lait Than Never. Subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts.