Golden Knights Task: 3 Keys to Beating Oilers, McDavid in Round Two
Round Two of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs will be a test for the Vegas Golden Knights, unlike anything a team has faced in 25 years. The last time …
Round Two of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs will be a test for the Vegas Golden Knights, unlike anything a team has faced in 25 years. The last time a player scored with such ferocity and quantity was Mario Lemieux, who dominated the NHL in the late 1980s through 1997. Not even Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin scored at the same clip McDavid scored this season.
Though Edmonton's attack doesn't end there, even if Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said McDavid is "another level."
Edmonton won three of the four games this season, and the Golden Knights did not beat them in regulation. The Golden Knights were 1-2-1, and Edmonton was 3-0-1 in the season series.
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense, and the Golden Knights have a hefty advantage over the Oilers, especially in depth. And that seems as good as any place to start, the Golden Knights' biggest advantage.
Vegas Golden Knights 3 Keys, Round Two:
Chandler Stephenson remains a top-flight defensive center even as he and linemate Mark Stone lit the lamp with regularity. Stephenson and Stone may begin the series as third-liners.
The Golden Knights also have talented players such as Phil Kessel and Teddy Blueger in the press box as healthy scratches. Their bottom six has speed, skill, and some jam. Brett Howden, who has simplified his game this season, had 13 points in 57 games. He had four points in Round One and capped off the series with an assist and four hits in Game 5.
Keegan Kolesar is 6-foot-3, 227 pounds. Nicolas Roy is 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. William Carrier is 6-foot-2, 218 pounds.
Yeah, the Golden Knights have some thump in their bottom six. Conversely, if Edmonton rolls four lines, 5-foot-6 waterbug, Kailer Yamamoto would be on the fourth line.
The Golden Knights' bottom six will see time against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl because Edmonton likes to roll three lines. However, McDavid can't score if he doesn't have the puck, and if the Golden Knights' third and fourth lines can play behind the Edmonton defense, they'll also force McDavid to expend energy defending.
"I love our depth. From forward one through 12, from D 1 through six. I think they can match up against anybody," Cassidy said.
The series may hinge on this battle.
2. Edmonton's Power Play
The man advantage in Edmonton is silly good. They set the all-time NHL record at 32.4%, breaking the 1978-79 Montreal Canadiens record (31.9%).
Typically, things tighten up in the playoffs, but Edmonton also laid waste to the LA Kings PK unit. The Oilers converted 56.4% of their chances against the Kings in Round One.
One Golden Knights' saving grace is discipline. The Golden Knights took only 243 penalties all season, the fewest in the NHL. They took 21 fewer penalties than the second least penalized team, the St. Louis Blues.
"We're a very disciplined team. We took the least amount of penalties all year, including playoffs. So that's the good news playing a power play like Edmonton's that is really rolling and has been since about Oct. 1," said Cassidy. "There are certain things we'd like to take away, but they're very good."
Edmonton moves quickly and with lethal intent. The Golden Knights PK has been ugly this season and was further shredded by Winnipeg in Round One. The VGK killed only 58% of the chances against them.
Stay out of the box, or hold on tight.
The Golden Knights evolved from a rush team to a forecheck team against Winnipeg. That's a nice way of saying the Vegas Golden Knights learned to dump the puck into the offensive zone and retrieve it. In the process, if they hammer a few defensemen, even better.
If Edmonton gets a free skate, it's over.
But if the Golden Knights remained disciplined, put pucks deep into the zone, and force Edmonton to continually retrieve the puck before going 200 feet for a scoring chance, that could pay dividends in a seven-game series.
"Our mindset should be, whoever is out there, it's going behind them. Make them turn and go get it," said Cassidy. "It might not have an effect the first period, the second, but maybe by the 15th period … that's how you grind them down and hopefully keep the puck out of their forwards' hands."