The 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs have been notable more for the unexpected than the expected. The regular-season juggernaut Boston Bruins and defending cup champion Colorado Avalanche were ousted in the first round. The final team to qualify for the playoffs — the Florida Panthers — is through to the Eastern Conference finals. Home-ice advantage has been largely nonexistent.
And then we have the Pacific Division bracket.
The No. 1 seed Vegas Golden Knights and No. 2 seed Edmonton Oilers both took care of business in Round 1 and have waged a back-and-forth, high-scoring battle this round that has looked like the glorious Smythe Division showdowns in which the Oilers played back in the 1980s — including a healthy dose of physical aggression, some of which resulted in suspensions. This series has been as great as expected.
But there must be a victor, and with a win in Game 6 tonight (10 ET, ESPN), the Golden Knights can ensure that it is them. The Oilers stand in their way and are certain to not go down without a fight — figuratively and perhaps literally as well.
Before the two teams take the ice at Rogers Place, let’s get you up to speed. We’ve put together a guide on 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 this postseason in games following a loss. Edmonton has yet to lose consecutive games this postseason, going 4-0 and averaging 4.5 goals per game following a loss in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs. Connor McDavid (two goals, seven assists) and Leon Draisaitl (five goals, four assists) have led the way in those games with nine points each.
Among skaters to appear in at least 10 playoff games, Draisaitl (1.60) and McDavid (1.54) rank third and fourth, respectively, in points per game in postseason history, trailing only Wayne Gretzky (1.84) and Mario Lemieux (1.61).
Speaking of Gretzky and Lemieux, McDavid joined them as the only three skaters in the history of the game to record 70 goals and 100 assists in a single season (including playoffs). Gretzky did it four times (last in 1984-85 with Oilers) and Lemieux did it three times (last in 1995-96 with Penguins).
The three Oilers goals in Game 5 were each scored on the power play, giving Edmonton 18 in the playoffs so far (18-for-38, 47.4%). That is the most power-play goals by any team through the first 11 games of a playoff year since the Avalanche had 19 in 1997. The only time an Oilers team registered at least 18 power-play goals through the first 11 games of a playoff year was in 1988, which became Wayne Gretzky’s final Stanley Cup win in his career as Edmonton dropped only two games en route to the title (16-2).
Of the five NHL skaters with at least eight power-play points this postseason, four are from the Oilers — but the skater on top is not who you would think. Defenseman Evan Bouchard has four goals and 11 assists on the power play during 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 are tied with Denis Potvin (1981 with Islanders) for the third most by a defenseman in a single playoff year. That total trails only Al MacInnis (Flames), who had 23 in 1989, and Ray Bourque (Bruins), who had 17 in 1991.
Jack Eichel, getting his first taste of the postseason, pushed his point total in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs to 13 (six goals and seven assists), the most points by a Golden Knights skater through 10 games of a playoff campaign. The only active players to produce more points through their first 10 career playoff games than Eichel are Boston’s David Pastrnak (15), Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (15), Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (15) and Florida’s Eric Staal (14) — who accumulated those points for the Hurricanes in 2006.
With their win in Game 5, the Golden Knights improved to 45-31 (.592) in postseason games all-time, the best win percentage in Stanley Cup playoff history. The only franchises to reach 45 playoff wins in fewer games than the Golden Knights (76) are the Oilers (67) and New York Islanders (75).
Game 5 was a microcosm of the Golden Knights’ playoff year, as Vegas seized control of the game in the second period. The Golden Knights have outscored the Jets (first round) and Oilers (second round) by 11 goals in the middle frame (16-5), the largest goal differential in a single period for any team this postseason.
Vegas was the most disciplined team in the NHL during the regular season (3:46 short-handed time on ice per game, the only team under four minutes) but has been uncharacteristically undisciplined in the first five games of this series, taking an NHL-high 41 penalties in the second round.
The Golden Knights won the Pacific Division during the regular season despite ranking outside of the top 10 in goals per game (14th) and goals allowed per game (11th). It is worth noting that no team has won the Stanley Cup the same season it ranked outside the NHL’s top 10 in both goals scored and goals allowed.