Game Five: Oilers @ Golden Knights - Keep It Rolling
Thursday night against the Coyotes the Oilers played the most defensively sound game yet in the early stages of the season. There were still some mistakes and gaffs but overall the defensive group made smart transitions out and let the forwards do their thing. So far this team has come as advertised; a deep forward group with a defense that will have it's ups and downs. Both Smith, prior to his injury and now Koskinen have been solid and the Oilers could be running the duo very similar to their successful 19/20 run.
Edmonton has scored 18 goals through their first 4 games. Here is the breakdown of that scoring:
McDavid - 6 goals
Hyman - 3 goals
Draisaitl - 2 goals
Puljujarvi - 2 goals
Kassian - 2 goals
Foegele - 1 goal
Bouchard - 1 goal
Ryan - 1 goal
Last season through the first four games the Oilers went 1-3-0 and had 10 goals after the first four games. Here is that breakdown:
McDavid - 3 goals
RNH - 2 goals
Shore - 1 goal
Yamamoto - 1 goal
Koekkoek - 1 goal
Nurse - 1 goal
Larsson - 1 goal
In 20/21 there were 7 players which accounted for the 10 goals. 3 goals were scored by defensemen, 6 were done by top six players, and 1 goal was scored by a bottom six forward.
In 21/22 so far there have been 8 players that accounted for 18 goals. 1 goal has been scored by a defenseman, 13 have been scored by top six forwards, and 4 have been scored by the bottom six.
Last season Edmonton was one of the best teams in terms of goals from their defense and one of the worst teams in terms of goals from the bottom six. Early on we have seen the bottom six chip in far more than past years which one could argue has made things easier on the top six as well. Last night, after the Oilers were being pressured by several minutes by the Coyotes, it was Warren Foegele who got the Oilers on the board and pushed things their way. That is not a goal that Edmonton would have scored last season.
Thus far, the Oileres have played Vancouver, Calgary, Anaheim, and Arizona. These are all teams that Edmonton should beat. Tonight Edmonton will play a team that could be fighting with them for top spot in the Pacific Division... if they can recover from their early injury issues. Here are five things to watch for tonight against the Golden Knights.
1) Taking Advantage: Alex Tuch, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Mattias Janmark, and Alec Martinez are all currently injured for the Golden Knights. These are some key pieces for Vegas and their 1-2 record to start the season is a reflection of that. Vegas will not be any easier to beat than right now and the Oilers need to take advantage of their divisional opponent.
2) Back to Back: Last season Edmonton went 7-3 in the second half of back to back situations. That's a promising number but in those situations the Oilers rarely went back to the same goalie that played that night prior. That is something we will likely see tonight.
3) Waiting for Drai: Leon Draisaitl has 8 points in 4 games to start the season and yet we haven't really seen him take over yet. When Neon Leon is on his game he is impossible to stop. Tippett will likely start Draisaitl on his own line once again tonight. Eventually we are going to see #29 dominate a game.
4) 4: The Oilers top three forward lines have all been able to contribute in some form but we have yet to see even a really good scoring chance from the fourth line. No one in that group has been particularly bad but no one has stepped out and looked strong either. At some point if this continues I expect we will see McLeod or Benson back in the lineup.
5) Move Your Legs: Vegas is one of the least penalized teams with only 8 powerplays against them in their first three games. That being said, they also have one of the worst penalty kills at 75% or 24th in the league. The Golden Knights have been disciplined to start the season but if the Oilers can force them to take a trip or a holding call than Edmonton's PP should get things done.