The 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs were characterized more by the unexpected than the expected. The regular-season Boston Bruins and reigning cup winners Colorado Avalanche were knocked out in the first round. The last team to qualify for the playoffs — the Florida Panthers — is through to the Eastern Conference Finals. The home field advantage was largely non-existent.
And then we have the Pacific Division.
The No. 1-seeded Vegas Golden Knights and the No. 2-seeded Edmonton Oilers both took care of business in Round 1, delivering high-scoring back-and-forths that round that looked like the glorious Smythe Division showdowns of The Oilers played in the 1980s – including a healthy dose of physical aggression, some of which resulted in bans. This series was as great as expected.
But there has to be a winner, and with a win in Game 6 tonight (10ET, ESPN), the Golden Knights can make sure they are. The Oilers are in their way and they certainly won’t go down without a fight – figuratively and maybe literally.
Before the two teams step onto the ice at Rogers Place, let’s give you an update. We’ve put together a guide showing what to watch from each team, including in-depth statistical insights from ESPN Stats & Information.
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Line: EDM-190 | O/U: 6.5
Notes from ESPN Stats & Information
Much like the Golden Knights, the Oilers have been a successful team in games after losing this postseason. Edmonton is yet to lose straight games this postseason, 4-0 and averaging 4.5 goals a game after losing in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs. Connor McDavid (two goals, seven assists) and Leon Draisaitl (five goals, four assists) were the leaders in these games with nine points each.
Among skaters who appeared in at least 10 playoff games, Draisaitl (1.60) and McDavid (1.54) in postseason history rank third and fourth, respectively, in points per game, just behind Wayne Gretzky (1.84) and Mario Lemieux (1.61).
Speaking of Gretzky and Lemieux, McDavid joined them as the only three skaters in the game’s history to have 70 goals and 100 assists in a single season (including playoffs). Gretzky made it four times (most recently with the Oilers in 1984–85) and Lemieux made it three times (most recently with the Penguins in 1995–96).
The Oilers’ three goals in Game 5 all came on the power play, giving Edmonton their 18th playoff run (18v38, 47.4%). That’s the most power-play goals by a team in the first 11 games of a playoff year since the Avalanche had 19 goals in 1997. The only time an Oilers team had at least 18 power-play goals in the first 11 games of a playoff that year was 1988, it was Wayne Gretzky’s last Stanley Cup win of his career, as Edmonton only two on the way to the title Games lost (16:2).
Of the five NHL skaters with at least eight power play points this postseason, four are from the Oilers — but the skater at the top isn’t who you’d think. Defenseman Evan Bouchard has four goals and 11 assists on the power play in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs, ahead of McDavid (12 power play points), Draisaitl (eight power play points) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (eight power play points). ). Bouchard’s 15 power play points ranks third by a defenseman in a single playoff year, tied with Denis Potvin (1981 with the Islanders). That total is behind only Al MacInnis (Flames), who had 23 in 1989, and Ray Bourque (Bruins), who had 17 in 1991.
Stanley Cup Playoffs 2023
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Jack Eichel, getting his first taste of the postseason, took his points tally to 13 (six goals and seven assists) in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs, the most points by a Golden Knights player in ten playoff games -season scored. The only active players to have more points than Eichel in their first 10 career playoff games are Boston’s David Pastrnak (15), Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (15), Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (15), and Eric Staal ( 14) from Florida – who earned these points for the Hurricanes in 2006.
With their Game 5 win, the Golden Knights went 45-31 (.592) in all-time postseason games, the best winning percentage in Stanley Cup playoff history. The only franchises to have 45 playoff wins in fewer games than the Golden Knights (76) are the Oilers (67) and the New York Islanders (75).
Game 5 was a microcosm of the Golden Knights’ playoff year as Vegas took control of the game in the second third. The Golden Knights have surpassed the Jets (first round) and Oilers (second round) with 11 goals at midfield (16-5), the largest goal difference in a single period for any team this postseason.
Vegas was the most disciplined team in the NHL during the regular season (3:46 shorthanded times on the ice per game, the only team under four minutes), but showed an unusual performance in the first five games of that series to produce an NHL win undisciplined – high 41 penalties in the second round.
The Golden Knights won the Pacific Division during the regular season despite finishing outside the top 10 in goals per game (14th) and goals per game allowed (11th). It is worth noting that no team has won the Stanley Cup in the same season in which they ranked outside the NHL top 10 in both goals scored and goals allowed.