LAS VEGAS — The Vegas Golden Knights punched their ticket to Round Two with a resounding win over the Winnipeg Jets in five games. William Karlsson and Mark Stone led the charge in a series win that may have buckled the Winnipeg Jets roster.
The Edmonton Oilers squeaked by the LA Kings in six games. Three games went to OT, and LA might have been the better team on balance, but Kailer Yamamoto's Game 6 OT winner sent Edmonton packing for Las Vegas.
The Round Two playoff schedule is traditionally announced following the conclusion of Round One. Wednesday or Thursday for Game 1 seems most likely.
The Edmonton Oilers won three of four meetings this season, including one in OT. The Golden Knights were 1-2-1 against Edmonton; their lone win was a strong 4-3 OT win in Edmonton on March 25.
Jack Eichel had three points in that game, including a pair of helpers. Derick Roy scored the OT winner when he buried his own rebound.
However, the Oilers won the rematch three days later at T-Mobile Arena, 7-4. The Oilers scored four consecutive goals from earlier in the second period through early in the third to coast to victory.
The Golden Knights mustered only 22 shots in the loss but gave up 39. Coach Bruce Cassidy pulled Jonathan Quick after the second period, and six goals allowed. Laurent Brossoit finished the game. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had five points (1-4-5).
Eichel had five points (1-4-5) in four games against the Oilers. He led the Golden Knights in scoring against Edmonton. Defenseman Shea Theodore had four assists.
McDavid had only one goal in the head-to-head matchups against the Golden Knights but also had seven points (1-6-7). Nugent-Hopkins had nine points in the season series, and Leon Draisaitl had eight
Keys to the Matchup:
Stuart Skinner is a playoff newbie but held the fort against LA. The Golden Knights started four different goalies in the four games against Edmonton this season, so we don't have much feel for how Laurent Brossoit will handle Edmonton, but he was also solid in Round One.
But things get dicey in Round Two. The Winnipeg Jets were a team not given to long stretches of good play, no matter how good they were on paper. They stumbled into the playoffs with no other Western Conference team able to avoid imploding (see also: Calgary Flames).
Whether it is Brossoit or one of the other options, including Jonathan Quick or Logan Thompson, the Golden Knights will need stout goaltending to fend off the high-powered Edmonton offense. A few softies, and it could be good night.
The Golden Knights should have the advantage here. Edmonton has a scoring abundance in the top-six but not so much in their bottom-six. Coach Jay Woodcroft may separate Draisaitl and McDavid to balance his lineup, or he may stack it and go all-in. Situations usually dictate coaching decisions like that.
The Golden Knights' third line with Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone is as good as any third line still playing. Stephenson is a tremendous defensive center who has found his scoring legs with the VGK.
Nick Bjuigstad is currently rolling as the Oilers' second-line center. Bjugstad has bounced around the NHL over the past few years with stops in Pittsburgh and Arizona before the Oilers acquired the $900,000 forward at the NHL trade deadline.
Bjusgstad is not a noted scorer. He had just 29 points in 78 games this season. Edmonton's bottom six is a bit of a mishmash of available forwards, with the small Yamamoto now centering the fourth line and Klim Kostin, who has split the last two seasons in the NHL and AHL.
Third-line center Ryan McLeod, 23, had only 18 points this season.
Advantage: Golden Knights.
Eichel vs. McDavid:
We'll see if coach Bruce Cassidy chooses to match top lines and let Eichel and McDavid square up. Eichel's skating may be the best weapon against McDavid that Cassidy has in his quiver.
Otherwise, it will be up to top defensive pairing, Alec Martinez and Alex Pietrangelo. No one has stopped McDavid this season, as he posted the best offensive numbers since Mario Lemieux in the 1990s.
Golden Knights Betting Odds:
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The Golden Knights are an underdog, even with home ice. The 111-point season matters less to oddsmakers than facing McDavid, so the Golden Knights have opened as a +130 dog.
Golden Knights Round Two schedule: