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Pacific Division: Group of 8 With Only 3 Contenders?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been no secret that over the past six seasons, the Pacific Division was regarded as one of the leagues least competitive. Let’s face it, for basically the entirety of the Golden Knights’ existence three or four teams were annually counted out of contention before the puck hit opening night ice. Vegas is the only team to reach the Stanley Cup Final in that span and the Golden Knights became the first Pacific division team to win the Cup since 2014.

Heading into the 2023-24 season, the division looks to play out the same way it did last year. Of course, it’s foolish to eliminate teams before the season begins but would anyone be surprised if Anaheim, San Jose, or Vancouver missed the 2024 playoffs? According to Sportsnet, they wouldn’t be.

Whether it’s a repeat from Vegas, a breakthrough for Edmonton, or something of a Cinderella story from Los Angeles or Seattle, might the 2024 Stanley Cup champion come out of the Pacific Division again? Might this division also house the team that “wins” the first-overall selection? –Sportsnet.ca

According to William Hill, the Pacific Division is expected to be conquered by the Edmonton Oilers (+180), the reigning champions (+210) or the LA Kings (+440) in 2024. The divisional odds are not much different from last season’s expected winners. Vegas came away with division with Edmonton and LA filling out the top three Pacific clubs. As you go further down the list, the prices drastically get larger, suggesting that it would be a major surprise if any team outside of the top three took the division.

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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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5 Most Anticipated Road Games

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the reigning champions, every single road game this season will be a special occasion for the opposition. No matter how things are going, the Golden Knights will be a measuring stick game for every single team. Of the 41 road games this year, here are the five I’m looking forward to most.

5) November 14th, 2023 at Washington

The game itself is not all that exciting, or at least on paper it’s not. But, the Golden Knights have three days off before this game so it will almost certainly be their chance to visit the White House.

Politics aside, it’s always been a really neat tradition to see the champions of each league make the visit. It typically results in a funny comment or two from the sitting president and a chance to see the players a bit out of their element.

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 5 EDMONTON OILERS 2 (VGK Win 4-2)

Recap: The Golden Knights were looking to wrap up the series with a win in Edmonton. Vegas came out quick, taking the lead :24 seconds into Game 6. Reilly Smith scored Vegas’ goal but Edmonton came storming back. Connor McDavid returned the favor :31 seconds later and his teammates gave the Oilers a 2-1 lead a few shifts after. 

Vegas’ offense got going in the middle frame receiving a natural hat trick from Jonathan Marchessault. Marchessault’s heroics gave the Golden Knights a 4-2 lead going into the second intermission. 

Holding a two-goal lead the Golden Knights played strong defensive hockey in the final frame. Edmonton had several chances but Adin Hill and his teammates blocked shots and swallowed up rebounds. The number one seed in the west preserved their lead and finish the Oilers 5-2.

The Golden Knights defeat the Oilers and advance to the Western Conference Finals. Vegas will now wait to host the winner of the Dallas and Seattle series. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: After a wacky start that VGK found themselves on the wrong side of, the Golden Knights completely took control of the game in the 2nd. They held the puck in the offensive zone for a good portion of the frame and the Oilers could not do anything to turn the game around. It led to a natural hat trick for Jonathan Marchessault which gave VGK a two goal lead to protect to win the series. They played a very conservative style in the 3rd, and despite giving up a myriad of chances, got it done. Adin Hill was terrific, easily the best goalie performance of the playoffs for VGK. The Golden Knights are have still never lost a 2nd round series. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Edmonton Oilers Game 6 at Rogers Place.

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VGK Put Forth “Best All Around Defensive Game” In Game 5

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

Since Game 1, the Golden Knights and Oilers series hadn’t seen a game within three goals in the final 10 minutes. So, while much has been learned about the matchup between the two teams, close defensive hockey was still a question mark.

That was until last night.

Following the kill of a major penalty that brought the score from 4-2 to 4-3, the Golden Knights put on a clinic in how to defend the most potent offense in the NHL this season.

I thought it was our best all around defensive game. Our team has responded well to situational hockey in the playoffs when we’ve had the lead. We understand the value of easy chances against so we’re making the other team work. We did a really good job of that last night and I think we are good 5-on-5 with the lead. -Bruce Cassidy

Vegas became an entry denial machine that stifled the Oilers for the entire 3rd period, not allowing them to erase the one goal deficit. Edmonton generated a measly four shots on goal in nearly 10 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey. And, the Oilers mustered up just 0.21 expected goals in the 3rd period with all ten skaters on the ice, less than half of what they accumulated in each of the first two periods.

Good gaps, check with our feet, staying tight and defending as five as we have all year. I thought we executed plays really well and we won those battles and got the clears when we needed to and got a couple big stops which you need. There’s a lot to build off of there and I thought we executed well. -Nic Hague

It was all highlighted by one shift though, a shift that wasn’t even played in the defensive end of the ice.

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VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 4 EDMONTON OILERS 3 (VGK 3-2)

Recap: The Golden Knights hosted the Edmonton Oilers for Game 5 from T-Mobile Arena. Vegas committed an early penalty which Edmonton took advantage of and struck first. Less than a minute later, Jack Eichel evened the score, getting his team right back on track. Midway through the frame the Oilers regained their lead with their second power play goal of the period.

The first half of the middle frame was back and forth but neither team could find the back of the net. Late in the period the Oilers committed two costly penalties giving the Golden Knights a 5-on-3 man-advantage. Vegas went on to score twice in the period taking a 3-2 lead. Mark Stone and Reilly Smith added the power play goals and a minute later Nic Haque gave Vegas a two-goal lead. After 40 minutes the home team held a 4-2 edge.

Vegas needed to kill off a Keegan Kolesar five-minute major to start the period which the visiting team got within one. The two teams would swap power plays but neither could add to their score. The Golden Knights fought off a late attack from the Oilers but held off and took Game 5.

The Golden Knights take a (3-2) series lead with their 4-3 victory over the Oilers. Vegas will have a chance to clinch the series on Sunday in Edmonton. Puck drop for Game 6 is TBD. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: As has been the case for most of this series, the Golden Knights got the better of the special teams and the Oilers stayed in the game with their power play. VGK’s power play finally came through in a big way though scoring twice on a 5-on-3 situation and then tallying the next moments later. From there, it was an unbelievable job to defend through the neutral zone and keep the Oilers’ speed at bay. What a game for the Golden Knights. Despite better shorelines, this is the most impressive of the series. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Edmonton Oilers Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena.

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