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Tag: Jay Woodcroft

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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Oilers on Golden Knights: “It’s Nothing They Did”, “Nothing To Worry About”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As you can imagine it was a frustrated visitor’s locker room after Wednesday night’s Game 1 loss to the Golden Knights. Edmonton’s players, including imaginary third-star Leon Draisaitl, were vocal answering questions bluntly and honestly. The Oilers center put on a dazzling one-man show but his four-goal performance failed to overcome Vegas’ pressure in the series opener. Not only were the Oilers disappointed with the outcome but felt they played their way out of the game.

After Game 1, Edmonton solely blamed their performance for dropping the opening game in Las Vegas. The Oilers didn’t fully come out and downplay the Golden Knights’ execution, but they didn’t praise them either.

It’s nothing they did. They’re a good team we know that but nothing we can’t handle. This is just on us not bringing our best game. Different looking team, different system but overall, we weren’t good enough. That’s not even close to how we play. Got to move on and we’ll be better. -Leon Draisaitl, Oilers forward

When asked about his momentous night, Draisaitl scoffed at the idea that four goals in a postseason loss was an accomplishment. It sure looked like it to the rest of us but not to a player more concerned with tying the second round series with Vegas. Edmonton’s star was disappointed by the loss and highlighted the mistakes made by his team as to why his team lost, not because of what the Golden Knights were able to do to them.

Again, the Oilers weren’t entirely ignoring the challenges the Golden Knights presented but they certainly weren’t worried.

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Regular Season Success ‘A Different Animal’ For Edmonton’s Stars

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Neither the Vegas Golden Knights nor the Edmonton Oilers are expecting an easy or quick Second Round series. Each team advanced under the seven-game limit in their opening series but in all likelihood, this matchup could go the distance. Both have opposite strengths which could impact the ability to score or defend. No matter how it plays out, both locker rooms are expecting a challenging and entertaining two weeks of hockey.

Going into tonight, the Oilers are likely feeling good about their situation. In the regular season, Edmonton had the upper hand between the two Pacific Division rivals. The Golden Knights dropped 3 out of 4 games (1-2-1) and struggled to outscore the lamp-lighting Oilers. Altogether, both teams scored more goals per game than their season averages in the matchups against each other. 4-3, 5-4, or even higher scores appear to be the expected outcomes in these games.

It’s a different animal this series than what we saw versus LA. A big difference, actually. Different styles, different challenges, different problems they present. And they seem to be firing on all cylinders. They have a deep forward group that likes to play a pressure-based game. They finished at the top of the conference for a reason. They had a pretty steady year and they get contributions up and down the lineup. -Jay Woodcroft, Oilers coach

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On Paper, VGK Have The Answers For However Oilers Deploy McDavid And Draisaitl

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft has a decision to make each and every time he sends the best player in the world over the boards for a regular shift.

When Connor McDavid steps on the ice, does he put Leon Draisaitl out there with him or not?

Early in the series against the Kings, Woodcroft chose to keep his two biggest weapons separate in an attempt to offset the two excellent defensive centers on the other side. It didn’t work. The Oilers fell into a 2-1 series hole and appeared they were going to be down 3-1. That’s when the Oilers bench boss opted to load up his top line and play McDavid and Draisaitl together. From there, the series shifted and the Oilers not only came back from a 3-0 hole in Game 4, but they went on to win Games 5 and 6 and never trailed in either game.

The decision radically changes the makeup of the Oilers’ lineup which is why all eyes will be on how Woodcroft chooses to open up the series in Game 1.

The good news for the Golden Knights is they should have an answer either way. The current setup Vegas has been deploying should give them a great chance at defending the pair when separated and it will offer matchup advantages when both are off the ice. Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, Chandler Stephenson, and Nic Roy can all be trusted to hold their own against either McDavid or Draisaitl and the complementary wingers should be able to pitch in enough to offer not only defensive resistance but also a potent attack.

Defensively it gets tricky when the dynamic duo is separated. Throughout the season, and even more so in Round 1, the Golden Knights leaned heavily on Alex Pietrangelo to share the ice with the opposition’s best players. Pietrangelo spent more than 75 of his 91 even-strength minutes against members of the Jets’ first and second lines. The challenge with Edmonton is that there are two elite centers to defend and only one Alex Pietrangelo.

If Woodcraft separates Draisaitl and McDavid, either VGK’s second pair (McNabb-Theodore) or third pair (Hague-Whitecloud) will be out there consistently against one of the big two. In Round 1, it worked out for the Golden Knights as the Jets top-six were able to muster up just one goal against VGK’s non-Pietrangelo defense pairs. But, McDavid and Draisaitl are a little different than Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mark Scheifele (or Vlad Namestnikov when Scheifele got hurt).

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