3 Takeaways From Oilers’ Game 1 Loss to the Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights are taking on the Edmonton Oilers in Round 2 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Right out of the gate, both teams were flying. Over the course of 60 minutes, neither team let their foot off the gas. The Golden Knights came out of the contest with a 6-4 victory to take Game 1 and start the series up 1-0.

Leon Draisaitl Edmonton Oilers Chandler Stephenson Vegas Golden Knights
Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers skates with the puck ahead of Chandler Stephenson of the Vegas Golden Knights (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

An injury to Mattias Janmark the day he returned to the lineup left the Oilers with just 10 forwards to close out the game. There were some positives, but some adjustments need to be made for the next game in order for the Oilers to tie the series heading back to Edmonton.

Draisaitl Continues Playoff Dominance

Leon Draisaitl continues to be an elite player during the playoffs. He scored all four of the Oilers’ goals last night and leads the league with 11 goals in the playoffs. He was also at his playmaking best, setting up his teammates for great chances around the net that either missed the net or were intercepted by the Golden Knights. Draisaitl has always been known for his playmaking abilities, but over the course of his NHL career he’s been working on his shot and has one of the NHL’s most deadly one-timers on the powerplay.

Related: Oilers’ Draisaitl More Valuable to Team Than McDavid in Playoffs

Draisaitl played 24 minutes in Game 1. In that time he went 63% in the faceoff circle, delivered three hits and had one takeaway. He is incredibly strong on his stick, which allows him to win the majority of his draws. In the playoffs this year, his intensity has gone up with 14 hits in seven games played. In the regular season he had 66 hits in 80 games, which works out to 0.82 hits per game.

Golden Knights Weather Late Third Period Push

The Golden Knights were the better team in Game 1. They pushed the pace and matched the speed of the Oilers. Regardless of the pace of the game, the Golden Knights were able to limit the Oilers to just eight shots on goal in the first period and seven shots in the second.

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In the third period the Oilers mustered up 12 shots. They would have had a lot more, but the Golden Knights did an excellent job of limiting chances, which was key to their series win against the Winnipeg Jets. The Oilers would push through the neutral zone and whenever the puck carrier crossed the Golden Knights’ blue line, they were met with two or three players who would collapse on them, and one of those players would deflect the puck away to neutralize the play. The Oilers will need to try dumping and chasing the puck whenever they see three Golden Knights waiting at the blue line for them.

Desharnais Needs A Game Off

Vincent Desharnais was on the ice for another goal against, this time with a pass that was intercepted. The interception led to a few chances on Stuart Skinner which Ivan Barbashev finished off for the Golden Knights’ first tally of the night. Desharnais was coming around the back of the net towards the left side and when he made the pass, the Golden Knights player was right there. A better play would have been a quick chip off the boards to at least get the puck to the neutral zone and relieve some pressure.

Vincent Desharnais Edmonton Oilers
Vincent Desharnais, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The rookie blueliner needs to be scratched in Game 2. Desharnais could sit in the press box and get a birdseye view of the game, and give him a soft reset. At the very least it could give the defender extra motivation for his next game. If the Oilers want to go with seven defencemen again for Game 2 they could insert Marcus Niemelainen. He has similar foot speed issues as Desharnais, so they may need to lean on Philip Broberg more instead.

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They are going to need to challenge Laurent Brossoit more, get pucks in deep whenever the Golden Knights clog the blue line, and limit Desharnais’ minutes in favor of more ice time for Broberg (or healthy scratch Desharnais). They need contributions from their depth to push back in the next game. Game 2 isn’t until Saturday, so the Oilers have plenty of time to make adjustments.