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Vegas Unfazed By Delusional Oilers Hype

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Edmonton Oilers’ historic streak came to a close on Tuesday in a typical, and most predictable fashion, by losing to the Golden Knights. The same team that ended Edmonton’s playoff dreams and sent them into an offseason and then early season, spiral spoiled their chance at becoming NHL immortals.

Since December 21st, the two Pacific contenders were heading in different directions. In that timeframe, the Golden Knights lost first-place to the Vancouver Canucks and the Oilers leapfrogged several teams in the division. However, all of that came to a halting crash on Tuesday after the better team came out on top.

It’s always a tough game in this building, we were expecting that. Disappointing, but we move on. It’s been a while since we’ve done that, and you forget sometimes how bad you hate losing. It’s a good reminder. -Connor McDavid, EDM captain

For the umpteenth time, Vegas proved to be more well-rounded. Just like in the 2023 postseason, the reigning champions are better coached, defend and protect the net better, and have an overall better lineup than the Oilers. Sure, there are no players in VGK’s lineup that match skills with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid or Leon Draiaitl but the comparison ends there. While the Golden Knights possess a Stanley Cup-winning roster, the Oilers are a two-man motor that perennially over-exhausts.

We’re back in the hunt, and we’re not content by any means. I think we worked hard to get ourselves into this position, but we lost tonight to a team in our division that we played a lot over the last couple years. It’s gonna leave a bad taste in our mouths. -Darnell Nurse, EDM defenseman

This summer I hammered the Oiler’s inflated confidence heading into the 2023-24 season. Some of it may have come from the exaggerated expectations by dozens of Canadian hockey analysts but Edmonton’s optimism was completely shattered 12 games in. Now that Edmonton has bounced back and is projected to qualify for the playoffs, their sole focus should be directed toward Vegas. To win the Western Conference, the Oilers will most likely have to face the Golden Knights. Going off past history, Vegas will likely prevail on the big stage in under seven games. Tuesday’s poorly designated ESPN+ matchup was just a sample.

Edmonton defenseman Darnell Nurse had a realistic reaction to their first loss in 46 days. On the other hand, Nurse’s captain hasn’t accepted that the Golden Knights are the more complete team. Likely, for a second straight season.

There’s a lot of things we’ve got to do, there’s a lot of things they’ve got to do to get to that situation. Obviously, we’d love to play Vegas in a playoff series again. Makes for great hockey. -McDavid

When asked who the Oilers current rivals were, McDavid veered away from his notorious robotic responses. A geographical rival is one thing but choosing the LA Kings over the reigning champions is puzzling and almost impossible to take seriously.

Good question. For me, it’s Calgary, then L.A., right now. I’d say those two. -McDavid

Has McDavid turned into the most delusional superstar in sports?

William Karlsson Passed An Impossible Test, Keying The End Of The Oilers’ Streak

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Having not played a game in nearly five weeks, William Karlsson was tasked with one of the most difficult jobs in the NHL. Stop Connor McDavid.

Might as well throw me into the fire, or to the wolves, or whatever you guys say. Yeah, just right at it, so I better be on my toes. -William Karlsson

Playing alongside a makeshift line created specifically for this matchup, Karlsson, Michael Amadio, and Jonas Rondbjerg pulled it off.

I thought Karly did a great job against McDavid. He played against him not all the time but a lot of the time, and they did a really good job. You have to if you are going to beat Edmonton. You’ve got to keep him in check. He’s going to get his looks but all in all Karly did his job great. -Cassidy

In eight minutes of ice time against the league’s best player, Karlsson’s line allowed just three shots on goal while starting every shift either in the defensive or neutral zone. As Cassidy said, McDavid and Co. got their looks, they generated 12 shot attempts, four high-danger chances, and .56 expected goals, but when the game ended the Oilers had not recorded a single goal at even strength.

Karlsson shoulders the brunt of the load as the center, but his wingers deserve a ton of credit as well. Jonas Rondbjerg delivered his usual solid defensive outing while Michael Amadio has continued to insert himself among VGK’s most reliable players.

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What Makes Edmonton Believe They Can Eliminate The Reigning Champs?

(Photo Credit: TNT)

All summer long, continuous noise has been coming out from Edmonton. Beginning with Connor McDavid’s postgame decree following a Game 6 loss to Vegas. Also, deflated superstar Leon Draisaitl flatly stated it was Stanley Cup or bust for the Oilers. Now, Edmonton’s front office are vocally optimistic about a better outcome in 2023-24.

I feel good about the team. Obviously the depth is a question… What I’ve learned through my experiences, through the years, is that you’ve just got to keep with it. –Ken Holland, EDM GM to Sportsnet

Sure it’s common for NHL general managers to sound off about the way the roster was built. If you ask a first place team or a last place team, each front office will give the same response. Of course, they love the team they drew up. Eventually, the players and coaches will answer if the managers were right or wrong. That leads us back to the Golden Knights.

They have a proven Stanley Cup-winning lineup, and all but one significant player is returning. So what gives other Western Conference organizations the confidence that they will leapfrog Vegas in the 2024 playoffs?

We’re going to start with the seven defencemen who finished last year. The goalies are set. Up front, we signed Brandon Sutter this summer. We’ll go to camp, see what they can do, watch the waiver wire. –Holland to Sportsnet

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McDavid Quickly Moved On After Lopsided VGK Game 6 Win

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Golden Knights Have Stymied Top Players Deep Into Each Series

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have faced their fair share of offensive superstars this postseason and they’re about to see a few more.

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and now Matthew Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov.

As with any playoff series, the biggest names dominate the conversation before it begins. Then, as it wears on, the winning team usually finds a way to slow them down.

As a staff and as a team we’ve done a good job of taking certain players away from what they want to do as that series has gone on and that’s why we’re still playing. -Cassidy

Vegas has struggled against opposing stars early in series. In Game 1 against Winnipeg, Dubois and Connor each scored to give the Jets a 2-0 lead. Draisaitl scored four in the opening game of the second round and then added another pair in Game 2. And Game 1 of the series against Dallas saw both Hintz and Robertson hit the back of the net.

However, the impact of the best players for the other team dwindled as the series got deeper and deeper.

Points Per Game (Game 1 & 2)Points Per Game (Game 3 & Beyond)Goals Per Game (Game 1 & 2)Goals Per Game (Game 3 & Beyond)
Dubois1.00.670.50.0
McDavid2.51.251.01.0
Draisaitl3.00.253.00.0
Robertson1.50.751.00.5
Hintz1.50.50.50.0

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Vegas Won As A Team By Dominating Every Important Individual Matchup

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

In a series highlighted by individuals, both head coaches kept using the term “team” in the postgame press conferences directly after Game 6.

Nobody on our team is asked to carry the team on their back. That’s part of the story here is the team that plays the best usually wins. We feel our team outplayed their team. It wasn’t about this player outplayed this player or this goalie against this goalie. -Bruce Cassidy

We win as a team and we don’t win as a team and we stick together. -Jay Woodcroft

While both coaches are absolutely correct, the reason the Golden Knights won as a team was they won all of the key individual matchups in the series. From front to back to on the ice and off, Vegas dominated in all the places necessary to beat the Edmonton Oilers and now they’re headed to the Western Conference Final for the fourth time in six years.

Here are five specific matchups the Golden Knights got the better of on their way to dispatching the world’s greatest player in the second round.

Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault vs Cody Ceci and Darnell Nurse

You don’t have to look further than the scoring numbers when breaking down this matchup. Eichel was 5-1 against Ceci and 4-1 against Nurse while Marchessault was 6-1 against Ceci and 4-1 against Nurse.

Beyond the scoring though, the Golden Knights’ forwards were consistently able to hold the puck in the offensive zone against Ceci and Nurse. Eichel in particular was excellent in gaining controlled entry over the course of the series which relieved pressure on the VGK defense and forced whichever forward line was against them to defend. Marchessault’s forechecking caused havoc and he scored four times from directly in front of the goal.

In a series where puck possession was always going to be paramount for the Golden Knights, Eichel and Marchessault delivered in as big a way as they could over the six games. The Oilers only had one pair that should have been able to handle these two, and they weren’t able to do it.

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Vegas Defense Set Early Tone For Game 4 Dud

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the better part of eight games, the Golden Knights defense have carried their team to success in the postseason. That was until last night’s Game 4 in Edmonton. Not only did Vegas’ blueliners jump start the Oilers offense in the opening period but they potentially put their team at a disadvantage for Friday’s Game 5 too.

Before the game clock hit the eight-minute mark Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore committed two slashing penalties and committed an egregious turnover. Unfortunately, the bad luck didn’t end for the 27-year-old blueliner. Edmonton cashed in on Theodore’s second slash and things began to unravel for the Golden Knights 7:38 into Game 4. Almost six minutes later, the Oilers took a three-goal edge, all with Theodore on the ice.

Opening 13:30 of Game 4

  • Score: 3-0 EDM (2 EV, 1 PP)
  • Shots on Goal: EDM – 8, VGK – 2
  • Penalties: VGK (Theodore – 2 x Slashing), EDM (McLeod – Tripping)
  • Faceoff Wins: EDM – 6, VGK – 4
  • Hits: EDM – 14, VGK – 11

It’s been stressed a dozen times over the past week; do not give the Oilers power play opportunities. Although Edmonton scored just once on the man-advantage in Game 4, it came seven minutes into the game, doubled their lead and completely shell-shocked the Golden Knights. Theodore’s inability to cleanly defend opened the door for an Oilers rout. Of course, it wasn’t just the penalties taken because Edmonton was the first team to hit the box. It was a combination of over-committing, poor positioning and problems tracking the puck. It was uncharacteristic for an overall reliable defenseman.

Going back to the last series with the Winnipeg Jets, Vegas’ blueline has been the team’s most consistent unit. Last night, the shaky defense hurt VGK’s attempt at taking a two-game series lead back home for Friday’s Game 5. It’s easy to compliment the opponent’s attack but even coach Bruce Cassidy couldn’t hold back after last night’s 4-1 defeat.

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