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Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers meet in Stanley Cup playoffs

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Golden Knights-Edmonton Oilers is a second-round dream matchup.

First vs. second in the Pacific Division and Western Conference. First (Connor McDavid) vs. second (Jack Eichel) in the 2015 NHL draft.

Edmonton’s prolific punch of star power vs. the Knights’ consistent jabs of depth

It should lead to a fascinating clash of styles in their first playoff meeting.

Edmonton is all about offense. The Oilers scored the most goals in the NHL, had the best power-play percentage in league history and boasted three 100-point scorers.

The Knights, who got a team-leading 66 points from Eichel, relied on solid puck management, strong defensive structure and contributions from all 18 skaters to win 55 games and counting.

Which formula wins out will begin to be determined when the teams meet in Game 1 on Wednesday and Game 2 on Friday at T-Mobile Arena. Game times haven’t been announced.

It should be one of the NHL’s best matchups. The Oilers are trying to reach the Western Conference Final for the second straight season. The Knights are looking to reach the semifinal stage for the fourth time in six years.

Here are four things to watch in the series:

1. Can McDavid and Leon Draisaitl be stopped?

Most of Edmonton’s firepower is wrapped up in the NHL’s best duo.

McDavid, 26, won his fifth scoring title in eight seasons with 153 points and also led the league in goals for the first time with 64. Draisaitl, 27, wasn’t far behind. His 52 goals ranked fourth, and his 128 points were second.

Saying the two drive most of the Oilers’ success is an understatement. Edmonton scored 20 of its 25 goals in its first-round series with Los Angeles with one or both on the ice. Draisaitl had seven goals and 11 points in six games. McDavid had three and 10.

It will be up to the Knights to find ways to limit the two. Draisaitl had eight points in the four regular-season meetings between the teams, and McDavid had seven.

2. Power-play damage

A lot of Draisaitl’s and McDavid’s production comes from the Oilers’ incredible power play, which scored at a 32.4 percent rate in the regular season before going 9 of 16 (56.3 percent) against the Kings.

The top unit, which also features net-front presence Zach Hyman, 2011 No. 1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and powerful shooter Evan Bouchard, is the NHL’s most dangerous five-man group.

The Knights probably won’t outscore it. They just need to limit it to give themselves a fighting chance in the series. The Knights lost the special-teams battle to Winnipeg by two goals in the first round, but made up for that by being plus-nine at five-on-five.

Also helping their cause is their ability to avoid fouls. The Knights were called for 243 penalties in the regular season, 21 fewer than any other team.

3. Brossoit faces a former team again

Knights goaltender Laurent Brossoit just wrapped up playing one former team in the Jets. Now he gets the only other club he’s played for.

Brossoit made his NHL debut with the Oilers on April 9, 2015. He spent parts of four seasons in Edmonton before leaving for Winnipeg in 2018.

If Brossoit plays as he did against the Jets, the Knights will be in good shape. He posted a .915 save percentage in his first playoff series as a starter and allowed two goals or fewer in three of the five games.

In the Oilers’ net, rookie Stuart Skinner wasn’t as sharp as Brossoit in his first taste of postseason hockey. He had an .890 save percentage against the Kings and was pulled from Game 4 after allowing three goals on 11 shots.

4. Stone’s swing factor

The Knights’ 1-2-1 regular-season record against the Oilers wasn’t ideal. It was their fifth-worst against any opponent.

Three of those games were after captain Mark Stone was hurt and required back surgery. His impact since he came back showed how much he was missed.

Stone was tied for the series lead with eight points against the Jets and had a tremendous two-way impact. His return, coupled with the consistency of center William Karlsson, give the Knights two excellent defensive players on two lines to match up with McDavid and Draisaitl.

Stone has shown he can shut down superstars. He played 42:40 against Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon in the final five games of their second-round series in 2021. The Knights won those minutes 3-1, according to the website Natural Stat Trick.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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