NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
Quick Breakdown: 3 Keys for Golden Knights to End the Edmonton Oilers
Which teams will show up in Game 6? The Round Two matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers has been a battle with internal consistency as much as the external battle vs. the opponent. The teams have alternated wins and solid performances.
Game 5 was the first one-goal game of the series, Edmonton still failed to score an even-strength goal.
With home-ice advantage, line matchups will favor Edmonton in Game 6. Woodcroft can shift McDavid to more favorable matchups, putting McDavid against fourth-line center Teddy Blueger. Such a matchup would significantly skew toward Edmonton’s favor.
How Woodcroft plays it could decide the flow of the game.
Late in Game 5, with the backing of the increasingly loud and energetic T-Mobile Arena crowd, the Golden Knights pinned Edmonton in the defensive zone and didn’t let up. The bottom six, as they’ve done in large parts of the series, took the puck from Connor McDavid and didn’t give it back.
And therein lies one of the big keys to putting the Edmonton Oilers’ season six feet under.
3. Force McDavid to Play Defense
The shifts at the end of the game were the equivalent of Rocky making Ivan Drago bleed (Rocky IV for you youngsters). With the ice time McDavid gobbled up on the power plays of Game 5, a few of the Golden Knights felt McDavid was a little bit worn down by later in the third period. Then the Golden Knights put McDavid on the defensive and kept the pressure on him.
3B. Get a lead and force Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft to play his stars more.
3C. The Golden Knights are a rush team transitioning to a forechecking team in the playoffs. Coach Bruce Cassidy has openly discussed the transition and its struggles of it early in the Round One series against Winnipeg.
2. Stay out of the Penalty Box / Score First
The Vegas Golden Knights were the least penalized team in the league throughout the regular season. Yet, they’ve taken early penalties in four of five games.
Edmonton has scored the first goal in all five games, and those have mostly been power-play goals.
Stay out of the penalty box.
Relating to No. 3, getting that first goal and forcing Edmonton to stare at the abyss of extinction. Let Edmonton get tight, nervous, and desperate, but respond with patience and a methodical attack.
1. Forecheck, Forecheck, and Forecheck
If the Golden Knights can stay out of the box, they will have the opportunity to slip the puck behind the Edmonton defense and force the tight team to make mistakes.
Pressure? It’s not on the VGK.
“Pressure to me — win or lose, we’re getting up tomorrow, getting on a plane to Vegas to prepare for our next game, whether it’s against Edmonton or (someone else),” Cassidy said. “I think pressure is your local and provincial firefighters. They’re under pressure, right? … I don’t think (of the game) as pressure. I view it as an opportunity, and we’re excited to have it.”
If they again fail to get on the forecheck, as they’ve done in Games 2 and 4, they’re sitting ducks for the Edmonton Oilers’ speedy, talented attack.
If they allow McDavid to have the puck, they’re going to have a bad time.
Take the puck away, and that next game won’t be against Edmonton.