After a short two game road trip the Edmonton Oilers returned to Rexall Place for one more away game. The seats, filled with blue and white jerseys for as far as the eye could see, while chants of Kessel! Kessel! Kessel! filled the air. The lone fan wearing his blue and orange jersey was the focus of the SportsNet West's broadcast over 10 times throughout the night. Yep the 8-4-0 Toronto Maple Leafs were in town and the home crowd was in attendance ready to cheer them on.
Earlier in the day it was announced that Sam Gagner would return to the lineup after suffering a broken jaw thanks to the fancy stick work of Zack Kassian. In order to make room for Gagner, Anton Lander was sent back to the AHL to fulfill his captaining duties with the Oklahoma City Barons.
The Oilers forward line-up, starting to somewhat resemble a NHL team again, was dealt yet another blow when it was announced that David Perron would not dress due to illness. The Oilers would dress 7 defensemen as Denis Grebeshkov would move to the wing.
The Oilers' line-up still included the likes of Ryan Jones, Ben Eager, Luke Gazdic and Will Acton. As luck would have it Randy Carlyle decided his Leafs would counter the Oilers "skill" with powerhouse players like Colton Orr, Frazer McLaren and Carter Ashton. The stage was set for "Don Cherry's UFC On Ice" but as it goes on nights like this the mouth breathers would have to wait for their knuckle draggers to beat the crap out of each other.
After a decent cycle in the offensive zone and a good scoring chance by Ales Hemsky the puck landed Mason Raymond's stick. He was able to get the puck over to Nazem Kadri who was able to spring Phil Kessel on a clear break away. That was all it took as Kessel was able to deke out Bachman and score to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead.
The Leafs got a powerplay after Sam Gagner tripped up Paul Ranger trying to get the puck back after he had lost it. So the Oilers "top ranked" penalty kill had to go to work. As bad as the penalty kill was Bachman was able to keep the Oilers in the game and stopped the 3 shots he faced during the penalty kill.
The second period started just like the first after the Oilers got a good chance on net Justin Schultz went crashing into the boards and the puck bounced out to Kessel for a 2 on 1 with James van Riemsdyk against Anton Belov. Even someone not watching the game knew what was going to happen. The Leafs went up 2-0
As the period dragged on the Kessel and Reimer show just continued. In a play from what seemed to be an impossible shot Phil Kessel scored his second goal of the night and the Leafs were up 3-0.
As it goes when leading by 3 goals the Leafs just started to clog up the neutral zone making it tough for the Oilers to enter the zone. So when the opportunity arose Kessel fed a pass to Morgan Reilly that apparently was tipped by Nazem Kadri giving the Leafs a 4-0 lead.
At the 11:42 mark of the third period Luke Gazdic and Colton Orr started pushing back and forth but nothing really came of it as the linesmen jumped in and stopped it before anything could happen. Both were handed 10 minute misconducts.
Ales Hemsky - He does everything. He gives this team a chance to win every game and he is so nice to watch out there.
Justin Schultz and Ryan Jones - Due to Perron's scratch the Oilers decided to dress 7 defensemen. Why was Ryan Jones playing with the top 2 lines throughout the night? He just could not keep up with Hemsky, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins or Gagner. He looked like a kid out there. Yes Jones may have had a 66% CorsiFor rating on the night but he really looked lost out there when playing with skilled players. Why not take the opportunity to move Justin Schultz to the wing for a game and let Jones play in his natural third line role.
Richard Bachman - Although he allowed 4 goals on the night he still made some pretty nice saves throughout the night and wasn't the Oilers biggest weakness. I am not saying he is a number one goalie but may be better option than Jason LaBarbera.
Anton Belov - For the second game in a row Belov was probably Edmonton's best defenceman. Sure he was -2 on the night but the blame for both those situations fall directly on his defence partner. After defensive zone specialist Boyd Gordon, this may have been Craig MacTavish's best acquisition of the offseason.
The Rest of the Defence - This may be the time to revisit some of the D pairings. Give it a shake up and see what works best.
C&B Three Stars
1. Ales Hemsky
3. Anton Belov