In 14 lifetime games against the Vegas, Connor McDavid, the world’s most electric player, has 17 total points. That’s an average of 1.21 points per game. It’s exciting for the fans but not for the Golden Knights. To be fair, most NHL franchises have been torched by McDavid as he’s averaged 1.58 points per game over the past four seasons.
However, in the Western Conference Final, the Colorado Avalanche seem to have figured out how to at least slow him down. Through three WCF games, the Avalanche have held McDavid to 3 points. Well below his 1.44 career points per playoff game and 2.17 he had in the first 12 playoff games this year.
Colorado deserves high marks for successfully executing a plan to slow down Edmonton’s captain. It’s similar to how the Golden Knights handled Avs superstar Nathan MacKinnon.
A couple of mental mistakes, a couple of positioning mistakes. That’s what a team like Colorado does to you. The second that Colorado was up a couple of goals they went into lockdown mode. Colorado knew they had enough to win then they locked it down. That’s what good teams do in the playoffs. –Matt Kassian, Oilers Analyst and Former player to TSN
By limiting McDavid the Avalanche have taken away the Oilers’ biggest weapon and their identity. Edmonton isn’t as effective, fast, nor as threatening without their one-two punch of McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
It’s possible several big names will be dealt on or before the NHL’s trade deadline day this year. One team we expect to be sitting this one out is the Golden Knights, unless they are sellers, but that’s for another day. The local club already made their deadline deal in November by trading for center Jack Eichel. When you consider they’ll also be getting Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez back from injury, you could argue Vegas already won the deadline.
So, while the trade deadline may be boring for VGK fans it could be very busy for other fanbases. Specifically, teams that’ll have to face Vegas in the postseason. Some of those teams have lofty goals as well but most likely they’re not getting to the finals without going through Vegas first.
The Oilers are in trouble. The club isn’t scoring and they’re rapidly dropping in the standings. Even before Connor McDavid tested positive for COVID, the Oilers went on a miserable stretch scoring six goals in five games with a goal differential of -14. Currently, they’re on a five-game dip and are having a hard time digging out of it. Scoring is one problem up in Edmonton but it’s not their biggest.
It’s a brutal mistake. What are you going to do? Call it what it is. We’re playing well, and it’s a brutal mistake. Our goaltending wasn’t very good, and we didn’t get enough pucks to the net to get back in the game. -Dave Tippett, Oilers coach
With McDavid and Leon Draisital, the goals will eventually come but stopping them is a bigger concern. Tippett’s frustrations came out poorly, pointing his finger directly at goalie Mikko Koskinen. Which wasn’t taken well.
It’s not nice for anybody to be thrown under the bus. But this is how it goes in this business. When the team loses, it’s either coach or goalie who gets sacrificed. I have to be better, but at the same time we scored seven goals in my last six losses. I can’t score goals. It’s not only about goaltending when it comes to winning and losing. -Koskinen, Oilers goaltender
It’s understandable why Koskinen was iritated by his coach’s comments and good for him for responding but he should’ve kept it shorter. Now there a speculations that the goaltender has lost Edmonton’s locker room. So on top of his bloated 3.19 goals allowed average he’s creating friction. Bottom line is the Oilers are in the market for a goaltender. And surprise, surprise the biggest name on the market is tonight’s opponents netminder.
Fleury — who has a 10-team no-trade list — might be the biggest netminder name out there if available and none of the above teams has as great a need, or as much urgency to address it, as the Oilers. If Fleury was open to going to Edmonton, finding the right price could be tricky. He’s a rental and, presumably, the Hawks would need to retain cap space on his $7 million tag, so that could add an asset. With the other needs in Edmonton’s lineup, paying up for a rental at any position may not be the chosen course. But if you want someone who you could feel good about making a difference now, Fleury is it. -Rory Boylen, Sportsnet
Elliott Friedman also wrote about Fleury being an option, if the right deal was in place. The former face of the Golden Knights knows the division and has won in the West. Since 2017, the first year Blackhawk is 43-21-7 against the Pacific division and an overall record of 83-16-9 against Western Conference clubs. Fleury’s presence alone would immediately improve the problems in net for the Oilers.
This week the NHL Network ranked the league’s twenty best centers. Lady Byng trophy winner William Karlsson came in at 17th place, not bad for a guy who wasn’t rated in the top 100 last season. Connor McDavid, Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf and Leon Draisaitl were the other Pacific Division centers to make the NHL Network’s list.
So let’s have some fun and rank the top centers in the Pacific Division.
1. Connor McDavid: There’s not much to write. McDavid has 256 career points in 205 games, averaging 1.22 points per game. The Edmonton center has more points (208), goals created (77), assists per game (.84), and adjusted points (220) than any other player in the NHL since 2015-16. McDavid will continue to remain the top center in the division, and the league for many, many years.
2. Anze Kopitar: Again, this is another no-brainer. The Kings captain has averaged almost a point of game over his career, and put up his best (1.12) PPG average last season. After 12 NHL seasons, the Slovenian continues to get better. Kopitar ended the season with a career-high 92 points, and took home the Selke trophy. Also, he’s a faceoff wizard. Against Vegas in the postseason, Kopitar posted a 60.4% faceoff win percentage. Pretty impressive, considering the puck was in his zone most of the series.
3. William Karlsson: I battled myself trying to be as objective as possible and at the end of the day, ranking Karlsson third behind McDavid and Kopitar was the only right decision. Most of the players on this list have consistently produced for multiple seasons. However, the overall skill Karlsson showcased leads you to believe he’ll repeat his production from 2017-18.
Connor McDavid is fast, so fast that it feels like he has the ability to turn on the video game turbo button when no one else can. By my count, in two games against the Golden Knights, McDavid created nine scoring chances, including five directly in front of the net… on his own. Literally, no one else had to do anything but skate to the front of the goal, McDavid did the rest.
He’s ridiculously fast. We’ve got to manage our players. When they go out on the ice against him they’ve got to try and keep his speed away. Try and pick him up early, try and deny him the puck, but every coach says the same thing, it’s tough to do. -Gerard Gallant
Raise your right hand if you think you can stop Connor McDavid. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
One of the biggest reasons stopping McDavid is such a challenge is the incredible amount of time he spends on the ice. In the last game at T-Mobile Arena, McDavid logged 25:22 of ice time. No Golden Knight forward crossed 22 minutes and Shea Theodore, a defenseman, led the team with 24:01, nearly a minute and half less than McDavid.
McDavid averages 21:28 of ice time per game. The Golden Knights leader, again, a defenseman, Nate Schmidt comes in at 22:21. Vegas’ top forward, William Karlsson, averages 18:26, a solid four to five shifts fewer than McDavid.
McDavid’s elite speed and skill have to be matched carefully, you can’t just throw anyone out there against him. All Star head coach Gerard Gallant loves to roll his four lines in order as often as possible, but against Edmonton and McDavid, that’s simply not possible.
There’s probably two lines I like to have against him most of the time or as much as possible and there’s four defensemen I like to have against him. But sometimes it doesn’t happen like that, they’ll throw him out every second shift or third shift. But every player in the NHL can play against those guys. -Gallant
He’s talking about Marchessault/Karlsson/Smith and probably Carpenter/Bellemare/Nosek (though Perron/Haula/Neal played more time against McDavid in the last game), and the defensive pairings of Schmidt/McNabb and Theodore/Engelland.
But here in lies the problem, and likely the reason the Golden Knights have struggled with the Oilers; Gallant admits that it doesn’t always work that way. In the OT victory on January 13th, McDavid’s line went scoreless against the Golden Knights top line, yet he was still on the ice for a pair of goals, the two even-strength goals Edmonton scored in the game. Marchessault, Karlsson, and Smith may shut him down, but that doesn’t mean he’s down and out of the game completely.
It’s a conundrum that every team in the league deals with when they play Edmonton. This year, most have solved the riddle. To this point the Golden Knights have not.
They’ve got another shot at it tonight, and if they do, they’ll become the first team in the Western Conference to reach 80 points, but as Turk implied, it’s easier said than done.
Doing this to him probably wouldn’t hurt. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
We gave Nate Schmidt the chance to answer this question before the Golden Knights first opportunity to play against the league’s best player. His answer was succinct, educated, and actually seemed do-able. Then the Golden Knights lost 8-2 and McDavid went off for two goals and an assist in the butt kicking. Schmidt’s answer has changed a bit since.
It’s a healthy medium. Sorry for the cliche. – Nate Schmidt
Most athletes and coaches say they play one game at a time and always move on to the next game. Classic sports cliches. Well, that’s not always the case. Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt clearly remembers getting lit up in Edmonton.
We didn’t do a very good job of it. I didn’t do a very good job. That top line is productive, and we didn’t do enough to stop them. -Schmidt
Schmidt spent plenty of time sharing the ice with McDavid. He led the team with 29 shifts, shorthanded minutes (3:55), and total ice time (23:39) against the Oilers. Schmidt ended the night -2 after being on the ice for four of Edmonton’s eight tallies. He hit for the cycle while on the ice; two power-play goals, one shorthanded goal and one even-strength goal. Well, actually I guess McDavid and the Oilers hit for the cycle.
He had his way with us, and that’s what makes this game that much more exciting for us. Especially, after what happened the last time we played them. -Schmidt
What can Vegas do to contain McDavid this time around?
Luca, the good guy is about to go out there. Luca? Hey, where’s Luca? Doesn’t he know we really need him tonight? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
As you’ve read on SinBin.vegas, containing individual talent has been a key factor in the early success of the Golden Knights. Today, on a day in which the Golden Knights are set to face the league’s superstar, we’re taking a closer look at how Vegas has done against each of the previous stars they’ve faced.
Our sample includes 21 star players over the course of the first 16 games of the season. 13 stars performed under their points per game averages, including eight who went scoreless against the Golden Knights. While only eight of the 21 exceeded their average against Vegas. Plus, you could argue at least four of the eight (Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, Patrick Kane, Erik Karlsson) were skewed by late-game, man-advantage points.
Warning: This is about as in-depth on hockey tactics as we will likely ever get on this site, but here goes.
Tomorrow night the Vegas Golden Knights travel to Alberta to take on the Edmonton Oilers and one of the league’s best players Connor McDavid. Before they left for the road trip, we caught up with Nate Schmidt and he gave about as in-depth of a breakdown on how to stop slow one of the league’s greats.
So what exactly is Schmidt saying here?
The first thing he says is “make sure you have a good gap.” What Schmidt is talking about when he says gap is the distance between the defenseman and the attacking forward. Usually, the ideal scenario for a defenseman is to be within one stick length of the forward when the player enters the blue line. This closes down the space the forward has to make a play. Against a player like McDavid who has elite speed, the gap often increases because he’s either moving so quickly or the defenseman doesn’t feel comfortable staying in front of him. When he says “good gap” he means he wants to be as close to McDavid as possible without being left in the dust.
I’m going to get crap for this but what the hell, go ahead and pile on. When Las Vegas enters the NHL next season maybe they won’t be chasing the Sharks, Kings, or Ducks in the Pacific division. Possibly the newly formed Knights could be looking up at the high-flying Edmonton Oilers. In six games played, the Oil has 10 points, the second most goals in the NHL, all with a solid +7 goal differential. Yeah, they’re pretty slick.
Obviously, after six games I’m jumping the gun a bit. We have no idea if this team can sustain their early success and break the postseason drought. Edmonton fans haven’t seen a playoff game since the Game 7 Stanley Cup loss against Carolina. So you can only imagine their desire to get back. However, the 2016-17 Oilers are on pace to score over 100 more goals than they did last season. Edmonton hasn’t scored more than 250 goals since that 05-06 Western Conference Championship team. In fact, this year’s team is projected to score the same amount of goals as Edmonton’s last Stanley Cup winning team in 1989-90. Scary, right? The Oilers have been so irrelevant over the past 25 years it’s been sad, but the end is near.
Leading the charge is obviously McJesus. Connor McDavid is lighting it up as we all expected. Edmonton’s Captain is on pace for over 120 points. Silly right? Granted, McDavid won’t play 82 games, will hit a drought, and has had a relatively weak schedule thus far. Either way, his video game like numbers at 1.5 points per game are getting everyone’s attention. Next on the list is right wing Jordan Eberle who’s averaging a point per game, and same for center Leon Draisaitl. Also, making a difference is bruiser free agent signing Milan Lucic with four points early on. Overall, every forward has a point, and only two defenseman remain pointless. Really good point distribution. Compare that to the woeful LA Kings, with 14 goals for and 18 goals against. If it wasn’t for Tanner Pearson‘s four goals, the Kings might not even have the measly two wins they do have. Is this article making any sense yet?
Hallelujah for Connor McJesus! We’re starting to think the Double Minor is developing a bit of a jinx (sorry Isles). Finally, it’s the first ever SinBin.vegas challenge. Ken’s got no chance. Jason’s back in the box. It’s Double Minor with Jason Pothier.
Brendan Brisson just had the best shift he's had in a VGK uniform in this scrimmage. First time I've really ever seen him be the driver of offense for the line. No goal, but more of that will accelerate his path to the NHL.