The top two teams in the Western Conference, the #1 seed Vegas Golden Knights and the #2 seed Edmonton Oilers advanced to the second round, setting up a fantastic series that begins tonight with Game 1 in Vegas between these Pacific Division teams.
The Oilers went 3-0-1 in the games between these teams in the regular season this year, with two of those games going to overtime and three of them being decided by 4-3 scores. The Oilers won the first game 4-3 in overtime at home on December 19th, won 4-3 again in Vegas on the road on January 14th, the Knights answered back with a 4-3 overtime win of their own in Edmonton in OT on March 25th, and Edmonton finished off the season series with a 7-4 home win on March 28th.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season, the Golden Knights bounced back this year, quietly finishing the regular season as the top seed in the West with a 51-22-9 record, a point ahead of the Oilers. They closed out the regular season hot, on an eight game point streak with a great 24-4-5 record in their last 33 games. They finished first in the West despite not being top ten in goals for, goals against, power play, penalty kill, shots for, or shots against and that was without one of their best players, Mark Stone in the lineup for more than half of the regular season. This team just knows how to win. Playoff hockey in Vegas is electric and T-Mobile Arena is going to be rocking.
Vegas has had success on both ends of the ice. They’ve scored an average of 3.26 goals per game, the 14th-most in the NHL, on an average of 31.5 shots per game. They’ve generated the 16th-most expected goals (3.18 per game) and the tenth-most high-danger shots in the league. The Knights have scored on 20.3% of their power play opportunities. They’re led in scoring by Jack Eichel (66 points), Jonathan Marchessault (28 goals), and Chandler Stephenson (48 assists). Eichel has played in 476 regular season games in the NHL and tonight he will finally start in the first playoff game of his career. Vegas also announced a huge addition to their lineup this week, activating captain Mark Stone from the long-term IR, with the salary cap no longer existing in the playoffs.
The Golden Knights have allowed just the eleventh-fewest goals in the NHL, an average of 2.74 goals per game on an average of 30.9 shots allowed per game. They’ve given up the fifth-fewest expected goals (2.85 per game) and the sixth-fewest high-danger shots. Vegas has killed off 77.6% of their penalties. That didn’t come into play a whole lot though, as they were the least penalized team in the NHL in the regular season. The starter these playoffs for the Knights has been Laurent Brossoit, who in his return from injury late in the season started seven of the last ten games for Vegas. In his limited starts this year he hasn’t lost in regulation, with a 7-0-3 record, a 2.17 GAA, and a .927 save percentage. Brossoit is 2-2 in his six appearances against the Oilers, with a .922 save percentage and a 2.14 GAA in those games. Backing him up is veteran Jonathan Quick, acquired at the trade deadline from LA by way of Columbus. This season he has a 16-15–6 record, a 3.41 GAA, a .882 save percentage, and two shutouts during his time with both the Kings and the Knights.
The first round series for Vegas was the only one of the first round to not go at least six games, as they eliminated the Jets in five games. Vegas was pretty terrible in Game 1 at home in the Fortress on Tuesday night, shocking me with a 5-1 blowout loss at home to the Jets. They generated their fewest shots on goal all season (thankfully Eichel hit his 2.5 prop though), getting outshot 31-17 and outplayed by an expected goal rate of 3.7-2.02. Just a terrible game for the Knights, especially offensively. They bounced back in a huge way though to win the next four games in a row to win the series. In Game 2, Vegas answered back in a big way winning 5-2 at home, and outshooting the Jets 39-33. Although Winnipeg outplayed the Knights by an expected goal rate of 3.26-3.14, Mark Stone’s two third-period goals led to a Vegas win and a tied series. In Game 3, the Golden Knights took their first lead of this series, going up 2-1 with their second win in a row, beating the Jets 5-4 in overtime on the road. After blowing a 4-1 lead heading into the third period, and giving up the game-tying goal with just 22 seconds left in regulation, Vegas won 3:40 into the second overtime period on a goal from Michael Amadio. The Knights outshot Winnipeg 48-34 and outplayed the Jets by an expected goal rate of 4.32-3.04. The Golden Knights got this series back on track in Game 2, bouncing back from their Game 1 loss and then took the series lead on Saturday night in Game 3 in Winnipeg with a win on the road. That should not have been as close as the score indicated as they were the much better team and blew a 4-1 lead in the third period, but still managed to get the win. Vegas won Game 4, 4-2 in Winnipeg outshooting the Jets 30-26 and slightly outplaying them by an expected goal rate of 2.21-2.11. They closed out the series with a 4-1 win in Game 5 at home, outplaying the Jets by an expected goal rate of 4.7-3.36.
The Golden Knights played great hockey on both ends of the ice in their first round series against the Jets. They scored the third-most goals of the first round, averaging 3.8 goals per game on an average of 31.8 shots per game. Their power play scored on 18.8% of their chances. Defensively, Vegas gave up an average of 2.8 goals per game, the seventh-fewest of the first round, on an average of 30.8 shots allowed per game. They had the second-worst penalty kill of the first round at just 58.3%.
The Oilers finished the regular season in second place in the Pacific with a 50-23-9 record, just two points back from the Golden Knights for first place in the Western Conference. Edmonton has the best record in the NHL in the second half of the season and they were the hottest team in the league going into the playoffs, on a nine-game win streak and 15-game point streak with a 14-0-1 record in that span.
They are led by two of the best offensive players in the NHL, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid is a generational player and the best in the NHL, leading the league by an insane margin with 153 points, 64 goals, and 89 assists this season. The Oilers lead the NHL in scoring this season, averaging 3.96 goals per game on an average of 33.6 shots per game. They’ve generated the second-most expected goals (3.76 per game) in the NHL and the fifth-most high-danger shots. They have the best power play in the league by a significant margin, scoring on 32.4% of their opportunities. The depth behind McDavid and Draisaitl has been very good this season. Edmonton is the only team in the league with two 50+ goal scorers, and four 35+ goal scorers and eleven of their twelve forwards have at least ten goals on the season (Janmark has eight and plays on the penalty kill).
Edmonton’s been inconsistent at best defensively. They’ve allowed an average of 3.12 goals per game, the 16th-most in the NHL, on an average of 31.4 shots allowed per game. They’ve given up the eleventh-fewest expected goals (2.94 per game) and the fifth-fewest high-danger shots. The Oilers have struggled on the penalty kill, ranking 13th-worst in the NHL at 77%. Starting goaltender Stuart Skinner has a 29-14-4 record, a 2.87 GAA, and a .915 save percentage. Their backup goaltender Jack Campbell has really struggled this year, around 20 goals saved below expected, with a 21-9-4 record, a 3.41 GAA, and a .888 save percentage.
The Oilers opened their first round series against a very tough opponent of the Kings with a 4-3 overtime loss on a Kings power play after a third period collapse in Game 1. Edmonton answering back with a 4-2 win at home to even the series in Game 2, and the Kings took the series lead once again in Game 3 at home, winning once again in overtime on the power play again, 3-2. The game winner should not have been a goal as the play should have clearly been blown dead on a high sticking call, but after review they said it wasn’t conclusive…which should not have been a goal, whatsoever. The Oilers outshot LA 40-31 in that game and outplayed the Kings by an expected goal rate of 3.89-3.18. Game 4 in the series was absolutely incredible to even up this series. The Kings started the game off hot but blew a 3-0 first period lead, going on to lose 5-4 in overtime as Edmonton put together a hell of a comeback. Jack Campbell was sensational coming in relief of Stuart Skinner, making 27 saves on 28 shots he saw with a .964 save percentage. It eventually ended up being a very evenly matched game with the Kings just barely outplaying the Oilers by an expected goal rate of 5.1-4.98 but outshot 42-39, just an offensive show on both ends of the ice. The Oilers came out with a big 6-3 win at home on Tuesday night to take their first lead of the series in Game 5 and put the Kings on the brink of elimination. In LA for Game 6, the Oilers pulled out a 5-4 win to eliminate the Kings in a fun, back and forth game. They were outshot 44-26 by the Kings and outplayed by an expected goal rate of 4.06-3.46, but got the win on a great performance in goal from Stuart Skinner.
Edmonton lead the first round in scoring by a significant margin, averaging 4.17 goals per game on an average of 35.3 shots per game, not only getting scoring from their top two players in McDavid and Draisaitl, who were both incredible, but also from the offensive depth in their lineup. The Oilers set a record in the first round with their power play clicking at an insane 56.3% rate. Defensively, Edmonton gave up an average of 3.33 goals per game, on an average of 33.5 shots allowed. Their penalty kill ranked fifth-worst of the first round at 66.7%.
This is such an interesting series to me. Probably the most unpredictable, in my opinion of this season’s playoffs. I think the team that dictates the pace of play ends up winning it and I can’t see enough of an edge on either side of this matchup. I can’t see Vegas scoring at the rate of the Oilers in a run and gun type of series but the Knights are so much better defensively than Edmonton is. With that, I expect this to be a back and forth series. I’ll take the series to go at least six games for two units along with another half unit shot on it to go to Game 7 with the nice +200 odds.
I have futures on both of these wins to win the Stanley Cup, and with how wide open the playoffs are now with the way that the first round went, I love the value that I have on both of them. I also have the Stars, so unless the Kraken find a way to win two series and go to the Cup Finals, I’ll have at least one future alive for a team in the West to lift Lord Stanley.
I’m staying off a side in Game 1, but I do like the over in it, which I’ll take for a unit.
2u Vegas Golden Knights – Stanley Cup Champions (+1200)
2u Edmonton Oilers – Stanley Cup Champions (+800)
2u Oilers/Golden Knights over 5.5 games (-186)
.5u Oilers/Golden Knights over 6.5 games (+200)
Game 1 Bets
1u Oilers/Golden Knights over 6.5 (-120)
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