One game. And so many reasons to win it.
For the Edmonton Oilers, a win Saturday afternoon against the Vegas Golden Knights would give them 94 points in the standings and pretty much seal the deal of providing home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Obviously, there’s that.
But there’s so much more potentially involved.
If the Oilers defeat the Knights on Saturday at Rogers Place, the result could end up being two fold when it comes to the ‘Pacific Three’ guaranteed playoff positions.
• L.A. in
• Vegas out
No guarantee, but that’s where those two teams sit going into the game. And with a win, that’s where the Oilers would leave the two teams after the game. Edmonton would be the massive benefactor by that final outcome.
If this team hopes to go deep into the playoffs this year, it would most certainly help to have a first-round series that would set itself up to be a short one. And that’s L.A.
The Kings are by far be the first-round playoff opponent Edmonton would be most hoping to draw. Vegas, at the same time, would be the outfit you could guarantee the Oilers would be most hoping to avoid.
The reasons on the heels of Edmonton’s 4-0 win in Nashville and the 6-1 Vegas victory Thursday in Calgary, are not incidental. They’re monumental.
The wheels appear to have fallen off the Kings. ‘Loss Angeles’ is 4-5-1 in their last 10, including dropping four of their last five. And the Kings were slaughtered 9-3 Wednesday in Colorado.
L.A. wasn’t expected to be in contention back when the season started, but had a Cinderella season with a still developing lineup. You know how Cinderella ended.
While the Oilers lost their first game of the season to L.A., 5-1, the Oilers have won the last three.
Injuries have recently been devastating to the Kings, especially on defence, and the Kings realized John Wayne and the cavalry wasn’t coming to save them when superstar Drew Doughty underwent wrist surgery this week and was confirmed to be out for the season.
The Golden Knights are a different story.
Predicted and projected back then to finish first in the division, and now finally getting healthy, Vegas has been making a desperate drive to get into the playoffs.
They’re 7-1-1 in their last nine.
Coach Peter DeBoer said he’s never seen anything like the number of injuries suffered by the Golden Knights this year, which included the likes of Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, William Karlsson and Jonathon Marchessault.
With all that it mind, it was a very interesting quote Calgary coach Daryl Sutter tossed out in reference to the Golden Knights going into their visit to the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“When they have a full squad, they’re the favourites to win the Stanley Cup. Other than the team that has the Stanley Cup, they’re the favourities. They have a $100-million payroll, so they have to figure out how to keep $20 million out.”
Realizing they’d essentially run out of wiggle room, the Golden Knights crossed the boarder knowing they had to come close to running the table in their three games in Vancouver (overtime loser point) Calgary (lopsided win on a night where the Flames were positioned to clinch their playoff position) and Edmonton.
One game. It’s huge.
An Edmonton win would give the Oilers a record of 8-1-1 in their last 10 and 14-3-2 in their last 19.
That’s a lot of confidence to take into the playoffs, especially if it followed that mess they made Tuesday in Minnesota with victories over Nashville and Vegas.
To return home and have a similar total team effort as the one Thursday led by Leon Draisaitl’s three-goal, dominant 200-foot game and and another Connor McDavid multi-point complete game as they produced from the git-go in Nashville, would go a long way.
That was the exact game Edmonton needs to produce in the playoffs. The Oilers outshot the Predators 11-1, for starters, to stake goaltender Mike Smith with the opening support he used to go on to record his first shutout in a year.
Do it again Saturday, and it would make a major statement to take into Stanley season. Give Vegas a game like Calgary just did and it would make an entirely different statement to take forward to the playoffs.
Edmonton goes into the Saturday matinee with 92 points in the standings and seven games to go, including five at home where they’ve finally been proving to be a tough out. So, there’s that too.
The win in Nashville moved the Oilers four points ahead of L.A. with a game in hand. The Kings’ remaining six games are all against teams positioned out of the playoffs. So, they should be able to find some success.
But suddenly, Vegas is only one point back of Los Angeles, although the Kings have a game in hand.
At the same time, the Golden Knights are two points back of Central Division Nashville and Dallas, who both have eight games to go compared to the seven for Vegas.
One game. You can make a case that it’s The Game.
On Twitter: @byterryjones