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2022–23 Stanley Cup Playoff previews: Vegas Golden Knights vs. Edmonton Oilers

In a historic event, the Edmonton Oilers will take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history. This will also be the first postseason matchup between the top two draft picks in 2015, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.

The Vegas Golden Knights quickly took care of a depleted Winnipeg Jets squad in five games in their first-round matchup. They will be well-rested to take on the offensive powerhouse Oilers.

After a hard-fought, exciting battle with the Los Angeles Kings that lasted six games, the Oilers have prevailed to the second round for the second consecutive year. They are hungry to best their Conference Finals appearance from last season.

These two teams are incredibly exciting to watch and this matchup is bound to be full of fast-paced, high event hockey. But will the strength of the systems that the Golden Knights employ be able to handle the sheer firepower the Oilers possess?

Round 1 playoff stats and head-to-head matchup

TEAM/STATWLOTLGFxGF%GACF%PP%PK%Record vs. Opponent (regular season)
Vegas Golden Knights4101951.4%1448.0%18.8%58.3%1–2–1
Edmonton Oilers4022552.9%2051.2%56.3%66.7%3–0–1

Expected goals for percentage (xGF%) and Corsi for percentage (CF%) stats are in all situations from moneypuck.com.

Vegas Golden Knights Round 1 recap

Heavily favored heading into the opening round of 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Vegas Golden Knights were the first team to emerge victorious from their series. They dispatched the Winnipeg Jets easily in five games.

The series did not start out on a promising note for the Golden Knights, as they lost the first game 5–1. But after that, everything went in Vegas’ favour as they won the next four. The biggest challenge was in Game 3. Vegas was up 4–1, but Winnipeg came back and tied it late. Then in double overtime, the Golden Knights took advantage of a bad turnover to end it.

The Jets could not take advantage of any of the potential weaknesses on the Golden Knights’ roster. This let Vegas establish its strong presence, play its game as it saw fit, and ultimately dominate. And on the flip side, Vegas did an excellent job of taking advantage of a depleted Jets roster. Injuries to Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Morrissey, and Mark Scheifele gave the Golden Knights an even easier path through as the scoring issues that plagued Winnipeg continued to impact them in the playoffs.

The return of Mark Stone was one of the key factors for the Golden Knights in their first round victory. With eight points in five games, tied for the team lead with Chandler Stephenson, Stone was able to do it all for Vegas.

Edmonton Oilers Round 1 recap

Easily the best series of the first round featured the Edmonton Oilers taking on the Los Angeles Kings for the second season in a row. The definition of back and forth hockey, these games would completely change direction in the blink of an eye. Leads given up constantly, special teams was a continual risk for both sides (getting a power play was almost a guaranteed goal at times), and some absolutely huge performances from players on each team. But ultimately, the Oilers were able to take down the Kings in six games.

The early theme in this one was a combination of the Oilers’ undisciplined play combined with questionable officiating. As easy as it is to blame the refs, Oilers players were still putting themselves in positions to take the penalties in the first place, Viktor Arvidsson embellishments notwithstanding. 

A key part of the Oilers’ success in this series was learning to avoid being in positions to take penalties, which they showed in the latter half of the series when they had a 3–0 record. In the first three games, Edmonton gave up 15 power play opportunities, leading to four Kings goals. In the final three, Los Angeles had six power play opportunities, though they still gave up three goals. Regardless of the total goals, spending that much less time on the penalty kill is huge for generating momentum and controlling play.

Leon Draisaitl is continuing to be one of the best playoff performers of all-time. With 11 points in six games, he leads the Oilers in scoring and factored in on the first 14 goals Edmonton scored in this series. Close behind him out of this series is a massive performance from Evan Bouchard, who is playing the best hockey of his career right now.

Despite some early issues with depth scoring, Klim Kostin led the way in turning things around with a huge performance in Game 6, putting up two goals and an assist. And with major contributions from Nick Bjugstad and Derek Ryan in a variety of ways, the depth found a way to step up and help propel the Oilers past the Kings once again.

Matchup overview

The primary question for this series will be if the systems the Golden Knights use will be able to handle the Oilers’ firepower. Ever since they have entered the league, Vegas has has gained an advantage over their opponents with the structure and style with which they play. It’s how they succeeded in their first season when their roster, on paper, did not match up well against most other teams.

Here we are, six seasons later, and the Golden Knights still find ways to succeed and win games with this style of play. It has helped them get through some difficult stretches marred by injuries. Which was a key theme of their regular season as they missed many important players and a bunch of their goalies at any given point.

A team as structured as this could bode well against whatever the Oilers can throw their way. But that is doing a bit of a disservice to the quality of what Edmonton possesses. Two of the best players in the world at their disposal, and Vegas only has one elite defensive forward in Stone to counter. How will that bode for the Golden Knights?

The Oilers tend to play extremely well when they play with 11 forwards and seven defenders. With that lineup, they can ice four scoring lines, if they split up McDavid, Draisaitl, and (even though he had a quiet series) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the fourth line would then feature a double-shifted McDavid/Draisaitl, possibly with a player like Kostin, who had a great series against the Kings.

That level of offensive potency is something Vegas will struggle to defend against. Their goaltending might have issues with it too, as that is a noted weakness on their roster this season. Their starter through the first round was Laurent Brossoit, who had a good series against the Jets, but the difference in the level of offence Winnipeg generates compared to the Oilers is substantial. He will be tested early and often in this series.

Edmonton Oilers versus Vegas Golden Knights prediction

The style Vegas plays should be able to keep these games close. But if the Oilers keep rolling and playing as they were in the first round, they will likely be able to break through the Golden Knights’ defences and exploit some of their weaknesses. And, as always, Edmonton’s power play will be a difference maker.

4–2 Edmonton Oilers

Sean Laycock

Sean is a stubborn, lifelong Oilers fan who lives by the motto "There is always next year".

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