G1 Game Notes: Which Matchups Will Cassidy Want?
Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
By Jason Gregor6 months ago
In round one Vegas head coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t chase a specific matchup. His number one defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo, played 48% of his 5×5 time on ice v. Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois. His top centre, Jack Eichel played 34% of his TOI v. Mason Appleton. I wonder how much that strategy changes tonight with the potential of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid playing together.
— In round one, LA Kings head coach Todd McLellan wanted Phil Danault and/or Drew Doughty against McDavid as much as possible. McDavid played 59.7% of his TOI v. Danault and 55.6% v. Doughty. Vegas doesn’t have elite defensive centres like Danault and Anze Kopitar. Eichel, Chandler Stephenson, and William Karlsson are their formidable centres, but none are Selke caliber. I’d expect Pietrangelo and his partner Alec Martinez to be the matchup Cassidy wants, but without a strong two-way centre support, McDavid and Draisaitl should be able to generate more offensive chances five-on-five than they did in round one. This centre matchup benefits the Oilers.
— In the four regular season games, when Vegas had the last change, Cassidy had Pietrangelo out much more against McDavid compared to games in Edmonton. In the two games in Vegas Pietrangelo played 49.7% of his 37:17 TOI v. McDavid. And in the two road games he only skated 37.6% of his TOI v. McDavid. If McDavid starts with Draisaitl I could see Cassidy chasing the Pietrangelo matchup even harder.
— McDavid and Draisaitl were on the same line in the final few games vs. LA, and they practiced together on Monday. The Oilers didn’t skate yesterday and will have a full team skate this morning. The morning skate should give us a hint of what the lines will be to start the game. Woodcroft isn’t afraid to mix his lines during the game, but the Oilers have better depth this year than last, and loading up McDavid and Draisaitl doesn’t neuter the rest of the lineup like it did before.
— Edmonton scored 14 goals 5×5 in the first round. Draisaitl had four and McDavid had one. The rest of the team scored nine including Klim Kostin (3), Nick Bjugstad (2) and Derek Ryan and Kailer Yamamoto (1). Ryan McLeod had three assists to tie McDavid for the most among forwards. Edmonton’s depth scorers played a huge role in their round one victory and were solid contributors in the second half of the season. They will need to be again, as Vegas has three lines that produce.
— The big question for the Golden Knights will be the health of Mark Stone. Last May Stone underwent a lumbar discectomy, a surgery done to fix a disc in the lower part of the back. This past January he had another undisclosed surgery on his back and didn’t return until game one v. Winnipeg. He played well v. the Jets scoring 3-5-8 in five games, but clearly, his back is still an issue.
Watch him stiffen up when he is walking behind the bench and has to go up one step. It might only be a spasm, and it could calm down, but he clearly is still dealing with some sort of back issue. Anyone who’s had back problems knows it can flare up at any time, and often without doing anything too strenuous. His back will be a story to watch.
— The 2023 playoffs could be called, “Year of the Road Team.” Road teams set an NHL record going 31-19 in the opening round. Florida and Seattle continued the trend as both won last night to begin round two. With 33 road wins already, this season could break the NHL record for most road wins in the playoffs which was 47 in 2012.
— Usually, the team that wins game one has the best odds to win the series. Here’s a look at game one winners by round in the salary cap era from 2006-2022.
|ROUND||GP||Series W||Series L||W%|
It is interesting to see how being the winner of game one in rounds two and three wasn’t as important as round one and four. This year winning the first game was almost a negative. Carolina and Seattle were the only teams to win game one and win the series. Edmonton, Vegas, Dallas, Florida, Toronto and New Jersey all lost game one, but rebounded to win the series. It was the first time in NHL history that six teams came back to win a series when losing game one.
— The Oilers have lost six consecutive game ones and are 3-3. They lost to Chicago in 2020, Winnipeg in 2021 and Colorado last year, while they beat the Kings in 2022 and 2023 and Calgary last May. They also lost game one to San Jose in 2017, before winning the series. They are 1-7 in game one in the McDavid/Draisaitl era.
— This is Vegas’ sixth season in the NHL, and this is its 13th playoff series. They’ve also struggled losing game one in four of their last five series. They won three of those five. All time they are 5-7 in game one.
— Special teams will be a major factor in the series. In the regular season the Oilers’ power play set a new NHL record scoring on 32.4% of its opportunities. In round one v. LA they were even better at 56.3%, which broke the previous best in one series of 52.2%. The Oilers’ PP has proven it can adapt to any penalty kill. They were 55.5% (5-for-9) v. Vegas in the regular season. Vegas’ penalty kill has struggled all season. They were 19th in the regular season at 77.4%. They defeated Winnipeg 4-1 despite going 58.3% on the PK. The Jets’ PP was 23rd in the regular season, and they still lit up Vegas with the man advantage.
— The one strength Vegas has is they don’t take many penalties. They were the least penalized team in the regular season with 2.38 times shorthanded/game. They were 2.4 v. Winnipeg. They also didn’t get many power plays either at 2.52/game in the regular season. Their games had the fewest total power plays of any team in the NHL at 4.9. Edmonton averaged a total of 6.74 in the regular season and 6.16 in the playoffs.
If Edmonton can force Vegas to take even three penalties a game, their power play should be a major factor.
GAME NOTES PRESENTED BY BOSTON PIZZA
Do not miss a single Oilers game at BP this playoff season. We’ve optimized our Sports Bars and playoff menu using Fanalytics to guarantee a perfect playoff experience. See you for puck-drop!
Recent articles from Jason Gregor