The Edmonton Oilers’ potential to turn back the clock officially stopped on Sunday night. Despite having two of the top five players in the league, a deep playoff run wasn’t in the cards, again. Three straight uninterrupted goals came in the second period off the stick of Jonathan Marchessault in the Golden Knights’ series-ending victory over the Oilers, sending Edmonton home before the Western Conference Finals. The final score was 5-2 in Canada, a 3-goal difference, with Marchessault scoring the game-tier, game-winner, and the final non-empty-net goal of the series.
What can make the NHL more exciting?
What’s a natural hat trick?
The natural hat trick is a rare feat, no doubt, as only 8 percent of NHL games feature one player scoring three goals. And only a handful of those are scored without another player for either team finding the back of the net. And with the competitiveness of the playoffs, it’s even more rare, with the most recent before Sunday coming last season, when Evander Kane pulled it off against Calgary. Before that, it was Sidney Crosby against Philadelphia in 2018. The last one in any NHL game belonged to the Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov in March.
I made the prediction a dozen days ago that the victor between Vegas and Edmonton would lift the Stanley Cup. And I feel even more confident in that selection now that the series is over. Florida isn’t winning it. Carolina will likely be the league’s runner-up. And whoever comes out of Game 7 between Dallas and Seattle doesn’t have the depth to keep up with the Golden Knights. Vegas has only been playing in the NHL since 2017 and have made the playoffs five of six seasons in the franchise’s history. This is also the Golden Knight’s fourth time being one of the final four teams standing since its inception. Vegas rode the NHL’s bizarre expansion rules to take a solid player from every other NHL team to bolster their original campaign, the team’s only trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. And that trip was in its first season, where the Golden Knights got blitzed by the Capitals in five.
Golden Knights’ route to the Cup
Last year was Vegas’ only season ending in 82 games. That disappointment gave way to a re-tool of the roster and coaching staff. The Golden Knights couldn’t rely on the expansion draft’s momentum to win any longer, rules that were changed for the Kraken, which makes Seattle’s postseason run this year more impressive in their sophomore campaign. The new blood is so evenly spread that Edmonton and Winnipeg played glorified games of pick your poison. And there was too much arsenic in their Tim Horton’s. Marchessault’s natural hat trick was just the finishing touch. His first two goals were tap-ins on back-to-back shifts. Before the second period ended, a 4-on-3 wrist shot from the left faceoff circle beat Oilers’ goaltender Stuart Skinner clean.
Vegas still has the aura of the new kids on the block for the NHL and yet will face the actual neophytes or a team that’s been to a Stanley Cup Final more recently than it is in the Western Conference Finals. And I’m not looking past the Kraken or Stars, but what has either team shown in the postseason thus far that can hang with what the Golden Knights have displayed? The answer is simple: nothing. And for the first time since the maiden voyage, Vegas should head back to the Stanley Cup Finals, which will make all the difference.