Why the Oilers can beat the Golden Knights
Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
Round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is here. The Oilers finished off the Los Angeles Kings in six games and the series kind of played out exactly how I expected. The Oilers were clearly the better team but made some self-inflicted mistakes and the pesky Kings took advantage of them. When the Oilers were on their game though, it really wasn’t that close. They had more skill and it showed over the course of six games.
Now, they’re moving on to face the Vegas Golden Knights and honestly, I love this matchup even more for the Oilers.
The Kings were good at suppressing offence and grinding teams down. The Golden Knights are not as good at suppressing offence and generally play a more aggressive style. I think that matches up perfectly with the Oilers. If this series turns into a track meet, it’s easy to envision the Oilers making quick work of the Golden Knights.
The Kings ran with Anze Kopitar and Philip Danault down the middle, two high-end defensive centremen. The Golden Knights have a solid trio with Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, and Chandler Stephenson. All are fine players, but none are coming close to winning a Selke anytime soon.
From January 1st on, the Oilers were the second-best team in the NHL based on points percentage. The Golden Knights were the sixth-best team. They were both really solid in the back half of the season, but there were some concerning trends in the Golden Knights game as they moved closer to the end of the season.
From March 1st on, the Golden Knights were in the bottom third of the league when it came to shots allowed at 5v5, shot attempts allowed at 5v5, and were in the bottom five when it came to scoring chances against at 5v5. All numbers are from Natural Stat Trick.
Despite those numbers, they were still a top-ten team when it came to goals allowed at 5v5. Basically, goaltending and luck powered them down the stretch. Their 5v5 team save percentage was fourth best in the league over that span and their 5v5 PDO was the highest in the league.
Now, the Oilers weren’t exactly elite defensively, but they were better.
They ranked fourth in shot attempts against per sixty, 16th in shots against per sixty, and eleventh in scoring chances against per sixty. They were sixth in 5v5 PDO but that was more a result of their shooting percentage being very high.
The Oiler’s offensive numbers down the stretch were also much better than the Golden Knights. The Oilers were the highest-scoring 5v5 team in the league in the final six weeks of the season and they were top ten in both shots per sixty and scoring chances per sixty at 5v5. Vegas was in the bottom third of the league in both of those categories.
The Oilers created more chances and prevented chances better than the Golden Knights down the stretch.
In the playoffs, the Oiler’s 5v5 play has been solid. It really hasn’t hurt them at all and their depth scoring is a big reason why. With Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl off the ice in round one, the Oilers outshot the LA Kings 67-64 at 5v5 and outscored them 4-3. The Oiler’s bottom six didn’t just tread water, they outplayed the Kings and scored some massive goals.
That should have the Golden Knights very worried. The Oiler’s depth is a massive asset for this team and is yet another reason why I think they can make quick work of Vegas.
Also, the powerplay is running at a historic rate. At nearly 57% in the first round, the Oilers had the best PP% of any team that advanced to the second round and second place is almost a full 20% behind them. It’s insane.
The Winnipeg Jets powerplay produced at a high level in round one and finished at 41.7% in a losing effort. They were able to take advantage of a Golden Knights penalty kill that was 19th in the league during the regular season and 28th in the league from March 1st on.
If the Oiler’s powerplay can produce at a level even close to what it did in round one, it will be a major difference maker. The Golden Knights penalty kill got worse as the season went on and now, they’ll have to try to stop the best powerplay in NHL history.
Also, I’m beyond excited to get down to Vegas and see how many Oilers fans are taking over the strip. Nation Citizens travelled very well during the Kings series and with Vegas being an easier spot to get to, I think we’ll see even more orange and blue in the crowd at T-Mobile Arena. This series will be one to remember.
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