When the Edmonton Oilers step on the ice at T-Mobile Arena tomorrow they’ll be chasing history. With a win, they tie the NHL record for most consecutive wins at 17. They also have a chance to make it 15 straight games allowing two or fewer goals. And, they can officially clinch the regular season series against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year.
Then, there’s the Golden Knights, who on paper have a lot less to play for, but would love nothing less than to continue tormenting a team that is quickly becoming their most hated rival.
Vegas has to enter this game with plenty of confidence. They are still the reigning champs and there’s not a player on the roster who has forgotten the playoff series from nine months ago.
But, this is not the same Oilers team from last year though. It starts with a systematic change that may have just been inspired by the Golden Knights.
They’ve changed their D-Zone system from last year. It looks very familiar because I’ve coached it for 15 years so I recognize it when I see it. -Bruce Cassidy
Edmonton’s former head coach Jay Woodcroft attributes the system to “the team that had the best record in the NHL last year” but it’s also the same one Cassidy installed the moment he became the head coach of the Golden Knights.
It took quite a while, and a coaching change, for the Oilers to truly become comfortable playing the system, but since December 1st, only Edmonton and Winnipeg have allowed fewer than two goals per game (VGK are at 3.08 since 12/1/23).
Are their D trying to be a little less aggressive and reckless trying to win 3-2 instead of 5-4, that could be part of the formula as well. -Cassidy
Cassidy pointed to usage as another reason why the Oilers look a bit different. Both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are down nearly a minute per game in ice time this season. That has meant a bit more time for some of Edmonton’s depth players.
If you are using four lines the chances are those 3rd and 4th lines are more inclined to be good checking lines. When you have guys like McDavid and Draisaitl, the role (of the bottom-six) is probably first and foremost to check well. -Cassidy
And finally, maybe the biggest difference with this version of the Oilers is their reliance on the power play has decreased dramatically. Edmonton has outscored their opponents at 5-on-5, 58-34 since December 1st while they rank just 14th in power play goals scored in that same span. The Oiler power play remains potent (4th in the NHL), but they aren’t up a creek if they don’t get them like they were last season.
Without Jack Eichel, Shea Theodore, and William Carrier, and with William Karlsson returning to game action for the first time in five weeks, it’s going to be an uphill battle for the Golden Knights to end the new-look Oilers’ historic streak. However, if there’s any team that knows how to expose the Edmonton, it’s Vegas.