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G77 Game Notes: Connor McDavid won’t play tonight versus Vegas Golden Knights

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Photo credit:Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
24 days ago
Connor McDavid will not play tonight against Vegas. He could miss up to a few games, but right now he is expected to return before the end of the regular season. The Edmonton Oilers are comfortably in second place in the Pacific Division, six points up on Los Angeles, who lost 3-1 to Anaheim last night, and the Oilers still have an outside chance to catch Vancouver. Without McDavid, going 6-0 will be a much bigger challenge, but it is much more important to have him healthy for the playoffs than finish first in the Pacific.
However, the Oilers should embrace his absence and tonight presents a great opportunity to show they are a good team, even without McDavid in the lineup.
— Good teams don’t use injuries as an excuse, especially when they aren’t long-term. The Oilers should be able to absorb McDavid’s absence for a few games. The longer a player is out, the more difficult it is for others to step up regularly, but tonight a few players will get more ice time and opportunities.
Dylan Holloway was recalled from Bakersfield, and will play his 33rd game of the season and first with the Oilers since March 5th. He played well in Bakersfield, scoring 8-4-12 in 14 games and should feel good about his game. He will start on a line with Ryan McLeod and Corey Perry. Adam Henrique will centre the second line with Evander Kane and Warren Foegele, while Leon Draisaitl will centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman. Evander Kane or someone else will take McDavid’s spot on the first unit power play, and whoever it is needs to take advantage of it.
— Vegas is still a formidable opponent, but they haven’t played very well for months. On December 20th the Vegas Golden Knights were 20 points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers.
Dec 20thRecordGFGAPP%PK%
Vegas21-7-5 (1st)3.39 (8th)2.61 (6th)22.8% (11th)83.2% (8th)
Edmonton13-15-1 (27th)3.34 (11th)3.45 (27th)27.3% (4th)78.3% (21st)
Vegas had a great start winning 21 of their first 33 games. Meanwhile, the Oilers still hadn’t dug their way out of their terrible start (2-9-1) on December 20th, but they were heading in the right direction.
— Since December 20th the Oilers and Golden Knighgts have gone in opposite directions.
Dec 21st-nowRecordGFGAPP%PK%
Edmonton34-9-4 (1st)3.72 (3rd)2.49 (4th)26.1% (4th)80.1% (9th)
Vegas21-20-3 (20th)3.07 (16th)3.23 (20th)15.3% (27th)77.1% (23rd)
Edmonton has the best record in the NHL, while Vegas has the 20th. The Oilers reduced their goals against/game from 3.45/game down to 2.49. Vegas has become leaky defensively allowing 3.23 goals against/game. Injuries have played a role on defence. Shea Theodore missed 22 games, Alex Martinez and Alex Pietrangelo each missed eight and Zach Whitecloud missed seven (although they did add Noah Hanafin at the trade deadline). Today the Oilers are seven points ahead of Vegas and three points away from securing home ice advantage. It’s been quite the turnaround.
— How a team is playing in October, November and December often has no impact in how they play in the playoffs. Even if you play well late in the season it doesn’t guarantee playoff success, but usually the final six weeks of the season will give a good indication of what a team is.
March 1st to nowRecordGFGAPP%PK%
Edmonton12-4-3 (5th)3.68 (6th)2.47 (6th)23.8% (12th)79% (15th)
Vegas9-7-1 (15th)3.24 (12th)3.41 (26th)18.2% (24th)76.2% (22nd)
The Oilers continue to lower their goals against. It is down to 2.47 since the beginning of March, while Vegas has seen theirs increase to 3.41. They are not the defensive juggernaut they were when they won the Stanley Cup last spring. Pietrangelo has missed eight of their last 17 games, however in the nine games he played they allowed 32 goals (3.55/game), so even with him they’ve been a sieve defensively. Vegas has allowed four or more goals in eight of their last 17 games, and only six times have they allowed two goals or fewer.
— Meanwhile, the Oilers have allowed four or more goals in four of their 19 games. In 11 of those games, they allowed two goals or fewer and went 10-0-1. They are 2-0-2 when allowing three goals and 0-4 when allowing four or more. The Oilers have become what Vegas was — a sound defensive team.
— In 63 games with Kris Knoblauch and Paul Coffey the Oilers are the only team in the NHL with a point% above .700. They are .730 with a record of 44-15-4. They are third in GF/GP at 3.76 and fifth in GA/GP at 2.63. They are the only team that ranks top-five in both GF and GA. They aren’t sacrificing offence by being sound defensively. Their biggest weakness for decades has been their inability to defend consistently, but that has changed over their past 63 games. And I see no reason why it should suddenly falter in the postseason.
— Edmonton has no reason to be intimidated by Vegas. They should respect them, and I sense they do, but this version of the Golden Knights is not one the Oilers need to be fearful of. They miss Mark Stone‘s energy and emotion. They haven’t found their stride defensively and their goaltenders have been inconsistent for months. Logan Thompson allowed 14 goals in four starts, then only five goals in his next five starts, before allowing 13 goals in his last three starts including five in seven minutes v. Arizona on Saturday.
— An Oilers’ victory tonight ensures Vegas can’t catch them. More importantly, a victory keeps the door open to winning the division. Edmonton controls their destiny. If they win all six of their remaining games, they are guaranteed to finish first. They would have to defeat Vancouver, because if Vancouver loses in OT/SO to the Oilers but wins their other three games then both teams would be tied with 111 points, and Vancouver would have the tiebreaker. Edmonton only needs to go 1-4-1 to guarantee they finish second and have home ice advantage in round one.
— It won’t happen tonight, as Pietrangelo isn’t on the trip, but I wonder when the Oilers will go after Pietrangelo. They didn’t in either of the first two games this season, but at some point, they should. His slash on Leon Draisaitl’s wrist in last year’s playoffs was incredibly cheap. “I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet,” said an Oiler player to me earlier this week. You don’t have always to do it the next game, but next season I wonder if we see some retribution.
— Adin Hill has been injured on three separate occasions so far this season. He was injured on November 30th, after finishing the second period v. Vancouver, but didn’t return for the third. He missed seven games, and then returned December 17th v. Ottawa. He suffered another lower body injury 6:25 into that game. He remained out for another month before returning to action on January 23rd. He was healthy for two months, before he left the game v. Columbus on March 23rd with 16 minutes remaining. He’s on the trip and has practiced the past few days. Vegas is carrying three goalies right now, as Hill didn’t backup Thompson on Monday. He’s been dealing with lower body injuries all season, and if he does play tonight, you wonder if there will be any lingering doubt in his mind about his health.

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