Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
You said measuring stick, right?
2 months ago
It’s one of those hockey cliches that makes me cringe a bit. That said, I would rather have the Edmonton Oilers referring to tonight’s meeting with the Vegas Golden Knights as a measuring stick game than see them get sidetracked by a measuring dick game against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The latter refers to the old school approach that tells us the Oilers have to send a message to Vegas defenceman Alex Pietrangelo for taking a two-handed chop at Leon Draisaitl and then going after Connor McDavid in Game 4 of last spring’s playoff series between the teams. Pietrangelo was suspended for one game and apologized to Draisaitl in the handshake line at the end of the series, but some people want to see the Oilers “send a message” tonight.
That’s fair comment — even if I’m not convinced it’s necessary beyond playing a heavy game and finishing every check – but I’d rather see the 7-12-1 Oilers go with the measuring stick approach against the team that eliminated them from the post-season in six games than get caught up in messaging and payback.
If the Oilers want to send a message that’s meaningful, then they should be all over the Golden Knights, who are 1-2-2 in their last five games and 3-5-2 in their last 10 after an 11-0-1 start, from the opening face-off until the final buzzer. Get the two points and let the rest of the cards fall where they may.
READY TO BE HAD?
May 10, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal scored by forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) during the first period against the Vegas Golden Knights in game four of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
This is the second of back-to-back games and the third in four nights for the Golden Knights, beaten 2-1 in overtime down the road in Calgary last night. Even with a couple defencemen banged up and their recent skid, the defending champs sit atop the Western Conference with 31 points, but they’re as vulnerable right now as they’re ever going to be. This isn’t just a measuring stick game, it’s a winnable game.
“It’s a big game, it’s a measuring game for us to see where we’re at against one of the league’s best if not the league’s best,” McDavid said. “It’s a good measuring stick game for us and something that we should be looking forward to.”
The background to last spring we know. The Golden Knights won the Pacific Division with 111 points, two up on the Oilers, who had 109 points on a record of 50-23-9. With their series tied 2-2, the Oilers coughed up a 2-1 lead in Game 5 and lost 4-3. Vegas closed the deal with a 5-2 win in Game 6, then beat Dallas in the conference final and Florida in the Cup final.
“It’s exciting, facing the team that you lost out against. We forgot about last year,” Draisaitl said straight-faced. “Obviously, we’ve got ourselves a new situation this year. Excited. A really good team coming in, so a good test for us.
“Confidence is good right now. We’re excited for tonight. Obviously, we know that we have to make up some ground. Every game for us is a big one right now.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Coach Kris Knoblauch wasn’t part of last spring but he’s here now and it sounds to me like he’s got a pretty good handle on what this game tonight means.
“I think it’s going to be an emotional game,” he said. “Obviously the past, what happened last year in the playoffs. I think what’s going on with our team right now, kind of hoping that we’re at a turning point. There so much for our team to play (for).”
Win the game. Send a message.
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