The first series between the Edmonton Oilers and the Vegas Golden Knights will be one between a formidable offense and one of the most complete teams in the NHL.
The Golden Knights finished atop the Western Conference, two points ahead of the Oilers.
“They won the section title and we know what to expect,” Oilers defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. The offense is dangerous. They have very good defensemen, who also move the puck well. It really is a complete team. »
The series kicks off Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena. The Oilers won all four games between the two teams during the season, but three of the meetings ended in a single goal and two required a tiebreaker.
“The season and the playoffs are not comparable,” insisted Oilers star Connor McDavid. Their core has been the same for a long time. They have accomplished many good things. »
Golden Knights forward Mark Stone missed three regular-season games against the Oilers. The 30-year-old Manitoban has missed a total of 39 games due to back surgery. Still, the Knights have compiled a record over .500 in his absence, which shows the depth of the team.
Stone returned to the game in time for the playoffs. He had two three-point games, helping his team eliminate the Winnipeg Jets in five games.
The Oilers needed six games to defeat the Los Angeles Kings. The team stayed in California to rest and fine-tune their preparation before heading from the beach to the desert.
“When you have the opportunity to reduce your commute, that’s a good thing,” McDavid told reporters in Los Angeles. They will be well rested too. They’ve been on vacation for a few days. »
The Oilers’ power play could be the difference in the series. The unit featured 56% efficiency in the first round, while the Golden Knights’ shorthanded didn’t do well against the Jets with just 58% efficiency.
Leon Draisaitl was reunited with McDavid and Evander Kane early in the first round, which led as much to better five-on-five production as more input from Oilers support staff.
Draisaitl had 11 points in six games in the first round, while McDavid provided a goal and six assists in three straight wins to finish off the Kings.
“If you want to beat the Oilers, you have to find a way to slow them down,” Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy said.
“You have to limit their scoring opportunities. You also have to score goals, because it is clear that they will eventually blacken the score sheet, ”he added.
The Golden Knights used five different starting goaltenders this season, but Laurent Brossoit delivered the goods against the Jets.
He knows several members of the Oilers, he who made his NHL debut with this team.
As for the Alberta team, Stuart Skinner had his ups and downs against the Kings, but he did what was necessary while being supported by an offense that averaged more than five goals per game.
The Oilers are one of two Canadian teams still in contention in the 2023 playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs face off against the Florida Panthers in the East.
The Montreal Canadiens were the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup in 1993.