Vegas Golden Knights
Golden Knights Triumph: 3 Reasons to be Excited, 3 Reasons to Worry
LAS VEGAS — Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas blared over the thumping speakers at T-Mobile Arena. The Vegas Golden Knights not only survived Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl’s four-goal outburst but thrived at even strength and outplayed the Oilers in a 6-4 win at T-Mobile Arena.
Perhaps the two best teams remain in the Western Conference, if not the league and only one will make it out of the Pacific Division playoffs.
Game 1 was the first window into the series, the battle of coaches, and neither team disappointed. There were no flat efforts; each team played to their strengths. It was the Golden Knights’ first win in regulation over Edmonton this season.
#1 The Good: Handily Winning Even-Strength Battle
The Golden Knights’ defensive centers shined through. Chandler Stephenson and Nicholas Roy were able to keep Connor McDavid in check. The Oilers’ star center did not burn the Golden Knights and had only two shots on goal through two periods.
Not only did the Golden Knights keep McDavid from beating them, but they also suppressed most of the Edmonton offense at even strength. They allowed just 28 shots overall and only one high-danger scoring chance in 40 minutes. In 60 minutes, they limited Edmonton to just eight Grade A chances, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
Stephenson scored the game-winning goal on a rush with Mark Stone. The Golden Knights were the better team.
#1 The Bad: The focus on McDavid left Leon Draisaitl open. He’s deadly in the playoffs (and the regular season) and sniped four goals. Pick your poison — McDavid or Draisaitl?
#2 The Good: Depth Scoring
Stephenson’s goal. Zach Whitecloud had a pair of assists from the backend. Reilly Smith had a helper, as did Stone and Brett Howden. The Golden Knights rolled four lines and have contributions from the defense that kept the forecheck aggressive and Edmonton off balance.
Edmonton feels they were a little sloppy, and perhaps they were, but some of that (or a lot) was caused by the Golden Knights forecheck and tight gaps. Edmonton didn’t have room to make mistakes.
And Edmonton was relying on Nick Bjugstad as their second-line center to mitigate Chandler Stephenson-Mark Stone or the top-line Ivan Barbashev-Jack Eichel-Jonathan Marchessault.
That’s the advantage that might swing the series.
#2 The Bad: Special Teams
You can say Edmonton’s power play is too good. The LA Kings couldn’t stop them in Round One. The Edmonton Oilers set an NHL record with a 32.4% conversion rate.
You may also say the Golden Knights penalty killing is quite poor. They had killed just 58% of the chances against them in Round One. They allowed two goals in three chances in Game 1, dropping them to 53%.
It will be difficult to win a series if the VGK spots Edmonton two goals a game.
#3 The Good: Coaching
It was clear the Vegas Golden Knights coach had a plan to put McDavid in a bottle, and it worked very well. From the collapsing winger to the tight defenseman, McDavid was largely confined to the outside and forced into several turnovers, which became Golden Knights odd-man rushes.
Cassidy easily won the coaching battle against Jay Woodcroft and the Edmonton Oilers.
Edmonton didn’t have an answer for the Vegas forecheck, nor were they able to adjust to the straight-speed rushes. A few of the Golden Knights’ goals were on the rush, which Edmonton wasn’t able to adequately cover.
#3 The Bad: Goaltending
Neither team received spectacular goaltending Wednesday. Edmonton’s Stuart Skinner was shakier than four cups of coffee and a Red Bull. Golden Knights’ trendy Laurent Brossoit didn’t allow any soft goals, but perhaps one or two of Edmonton’s markers were stoppable.
Maybe it’s nitpicking, but he didn’t anticipate the cross-ice pass from McDavid to Draisait and reacted slowly, which allowed Draisaitl to bury a one-timer from about 22 feet. Brossoit could have moved faster. A few inches more and Brossoit makes the save. Draisaitl’s fourth goal, which kept Edmonton in the game, was a 30-foot shot from the back of the circle to the low blocker side.
The fourth goal was through traffic and was a well-placed shot, but it was also stoppable.
The Vegas Golden Knights won the goaltending battle Wednesday, better goaltending never hurt, either.