The Edmonton Oilers were leading Game 6 against the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1 after the opening 20 minutes. That would be the last time the Oilers would score in the postseason. Vegas recorded four unanswered goals, including a 2nd period natural hat trick from Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Marchessault. Adin Hill fearlessly frustrated Edmonton’s stars by allowing just 2 goals on 40 shots.
This year was different, in the sense that our belief was stronger. We competed with Vegas. We gave them a series. We look back at that Vegas series and it’s really the small, little moments. The small, little things that make all the difference in the world. We felt like whoever won that series was going to have a great opportunity to keep moving on, in what was a little bit of a strange playoffs with big teams going out early. It was just disappointing because the belief was there, and it was so high. We felt like the series was close. That we had a real chance. –Connor McDavid to Sportsnet
One of those stars that the Golden Knights contained is the most dangerous man alive … on a sheet of ice. After Vegas eliminated the Oilers, Connor McDavid had already moved on and immediately shifted his focus to the 2023-24 season. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector explained what occurred in the home club’s locker room following their painful playoff exit.
In the moments after that Game 6 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, before the media entered the Edmonton Oilers dressing room, Connor McDavid was already setting the tone for the 2023-24 season. We’ve heard the story now from a few places, that he cleared all but the closest team staff out of the room and laid down the parameters for his franchise going forward. That the window for learning how to win was slamming shut, and the time for applying those lessons — and winning Stanley Cups — has officially begun. –Mark Spector, Sportsnet
It’s not to suggest that the 2023 Stanley Cup champions broke McDavid but he clearly saw a difference between the two organizations. Vegas took advantage of their championship window by spending to the cap, eating bad salaries, and jettisoning players who were not part of the plan. (Oh, and by shoring up their defense and goaltending.) Edmonton’s tweaked their roster over the last six seasons but not enough to compete with the reigning champs. McDavid agrees.
That feeling in the room has really sat with me for a long time now, you know, ever since that series ended. It’s something that we’re all going to want to hold on to. When we’re back in that situation, maybe when we’re down in a series, understanding that the time is now to do it. Because once it’s over, it’s over. You don’t get any re-runs. That was just as big of a feeling in our room: how far away you are from being in that exact same position and getting a chance to do it over again. So, you don’t want to have any regrets. –McDavid to Sportsnet
Quite like VGK’s failed playoff bid in 2022, McDavid and the Oilers can use their six-game series loss to the Golden Knights as motivation for the 2023-24 campaign. There’s no question the three divisional regular season matchups should be competitive, but no outcome will matter until the playoffs. Assuming both will be fighting for the first seed in the Pacific Division, home-ice advantage could be the difference in a long postseason series.
McDavid’s superstar teammate Leon Draisaitl chimed in on his expectations for the upcoming season, but it was much more direct.
It’s Cup or bust. –Draisaitl to Sportsnet
Edmonton’s fiery motivation is just another case of a team set to chase down and defeat Vegas in 2023-24. McDavid may be the most talented player on the planet, but the Golden Knights proved it takes a full roster to win, not two record-breaking centers. If the Oilers expect another series of mediocre defense and poor goaltending, they might as well start worrying about their post-McDavid/Draisaitl championship window.