3 Takeaways From the Golden Knights Series Win Over the Oilers

For the third time in six seasons, the Vegas Golden Knights are off to the Western Conference Final. A tough, emotionally charged six-game Western semifinal against the Edmonton Oilers saw the two teams trade wins over four lopsided games to open the series, only for Vegas to close out a 4-3 Game 5 triumph and a closer-than-the-score-indicates 5-2 Game 6 clincher.

Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.

The Hockey Writers HockeyPedia 800x120

While Edmonton superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were their usual dynamic selves, the Golden Knights responded in kind with the similarly productive duo of Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault. Behind them, the blue line stood up during some big moments down the stretch, and Adin Hill, filling in for an injured Laurent Brossoit, continued the ongoing trend of the team getting just enough goaltending support regardless of who happens to be between the pipes.

As the Golden Knights get set to face the Dallas Stars for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final, let’s look at some of the key factors that have propelled the club into Round 3:

Eichel & Marchessault

Points by McDavid and Draisaitl in the series: 17. Points by Eichel and Marchessault: 17. That Eichel and Marchessault essentially matched the production of the most dynamic duo in the NHL was certainly not expected, but serves to highlight how effective the linemates have been – both against the Oilers and throughout the postseason thus far.

Jack Eichel Vegas Golden Knights
Jack Eichel, Vegas Golden Knights (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Experiencing his first foray into the NHL playoffs this spring, Eichel has shown that he was born to play a faster, more intense physical brand of hockey. Not only did he record three multi-point games along the way to finish with nine points in the series (he leads the team with 14 points in 11 playoff games), but he was making a visible impact without the puck as well, going into corners, forechecking and even keeping tabs on McDavid.

With eight points in six games, Marchessault was a constant offensive threat throughout the series, although he did save his best for last. The Vegas original put the team on his back in Game 6, turning a 2-1 deficit heading into the second period into a crucial 4-2 advantage thanks to a natural hat trick. The diminutive winger had already been a point-per-game player heading into the contest, but his second-period hat trick put his performance over the top and catapulted the Golden Knights into the final four.

Jonathan Marchessault Vegas Golden Knights
Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While Eichel assisted on only one of Marchessault’s Game 6 goals, the two men had pretty well been involved in everything that the other was doing up to that point. Both men recorded points on three of their club’s four goals in Game 5, while Eichel provided the lone assist on each of Marchessault’s two Game 3 markers.

Holding On

A high-octane offensive series meant that defense wasn’t often the defining trait, but credit to the Golden Knights for locking down when they had to. While they’d probably rather forget allowing nine goals over the first two games, Vegas’ blue line came up big when it mattered over the last two games.

Latest News & Highlights

In Game 5, a third-period McDavid power play goal narrowed their deficit to one goal and gave Edmonton some much-needed momentum. But as a comeback appeared to be brewing, the Golden Knights’ defense rose to the occasion, withstanding 12 third-period shots and blocking five others, with an Evan Bouchard shot off the post providing a bit of luck. Although the Oilers were applying serious pressure, they didn’t succeed in recording many significant scoring chances down the stretch.

In Game 6 and in the face of a spirited and desperate Rogers Place crowd, Vegas fell victim to an early Edmonton onslaught, allowing two goals in the game’s first three minutes. And that was it. From there, the Golden Knights managed to score four unanswered goals even though it was the Oilers whose season was on the line. After letting in the first two shots he faced, Adin Hill rallied to stop the next 39.

You Might Also Like

Trade Deadline Returns

Both the Golden Knights and the Oilers should be very pleased with the performance of their respective key trade deadline additions, both down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs. In the aftermath of the series, however, it was Ivan Barbashev who delivered in a big way for Vegas while Mattias Ekholm stood out for all the wrong reasons as his Oilers were sent to a second round exit.

Ivan Barbashev Vegas Golden Knights
Trade deadline acquisition Ivan Barbashev has been a revelation for the Vegas Golden Knights in the playoffs.
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Acquired from the St. Louis Blues with the hopes that his playoff pedigree would carry over, Barbashev has been a postseason force for the Golden Knights. He recorded three goals and three assists in the second round, including a two-goal performance in Game 1 that saw him net the game-winner. Ekholm, meanwhile, was a key scapegoat in Game 6, committing a brutal turnover that led directly to Reilly Smith’s breakaway goal just 24 seconds into the game. He later committed a costly penalty late in the second period that led to Marchessault’s third goal.

Now, it’s time to move past the Oilers and prepare for a very different opponent in the Stars (Game 1 is Friday night). But even as head coach Bruce Cassidy makes strategic tweaks in preparation for Dallas, that which helped the Golden Knights get to this point can still help. If Vegas gets continued production from the top-line tandem of Eichel and Marchessault, more standout defensive play in key moments, and an additional boost from guys like Barbashev, a return to the Cup Final could be in the cards.