As for those of you who are still left cheering for this team, I Yahweh will make you fearful of the talents even of the Maple Leafs. Yes, even this pathetic and accursed organization will be reason to fret. The Oilers will play tonight as though they were playing a top team, passing the puck in a hurry when no one is pursuing them, falling down all over the ice as they rush to make plays. They will stumble over one another and cast blame on one another whenever a fresh chance arises. They will not be able to earn a victory over any team, no matter how awful. Indeed, as fans, you will die anew every game, every day another one of your enemies devouring the rotting carcass of your hockey team for standings points. Those of you who are still fans of this team will waste away, your number getting smaller and smaller as you pay $15.95 to watch this horror show in HD. Yes you will pay not only for the game but also for your sins and the sins of your fathers who delighted in watching the Oilers when they were dynastic and had my favour. Their punishment has been reserved for you.
Toronto Maple Leafs (14-17-9) @ Edmonton Oilers (15-20-4)
Rexall Place, 7:30 PM MST
More analysis after the jump...
Visiting Team Scouting Report: The Toronto Maple Leafs have had equal parts bad luck and bad goaltending submarine their season. In almost any other season the Leafs would have no chance at making the playoffs but the middle of the Eastern Conference has been so soft this year that they really do have a small amount of hope. Nearing the half-way point the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference is only on pace for about 86 points. I think the Leafs are quite safe if they make it to 90 points. In order to achieve that total they would need to play at a 103 point pace for the last 42 games of the season. Are there any reasons to believe that this could happen? There probably aren't enough reasons to expect them to be that good, but the team should have a better record in the second half and you never do know. I usually don't put a lot of faith in psychological arguments but it can only help that the Leafs don't own their own first round pick. The players know that every coach, manager, executive and fan wants them to win every game. The impact is likely small, but also certainly positive. A more concrete reason is their ability to outshoot the opposition. Not only do the Leafs lead the league in shots, they also have a very good shot differential, both overall (+4.3 per game), and also when we look only at the team performance at even strength with the score tied (+389 -349). Those numbers are more positive still when we include missed and blocked shots. The Leafs, it seems, do well territorially. Their downfall so far this season is in goal and in their percentages. Their PDO number of 96.7 with the score tied is very poor and is likely to improve in the second half. Their overall number of 97.6 should see a similar bump. Even if you don't buy the regression argument, I think it's fair to say that the Leafs won't be letting Vesa Toskala face over 400 shots on the season. Jonas Gustavsson's .905 save percentage isn't particularly impressive but it is a rather significant improvement on Vesa Toskala's .869. And this is all good news for Oiler fans. The Leafs have strolled past the Oilers in the standings and - whether the Leafs make it to the postseason or not - the Oilers may well never see them again.
Edmonton Oilers (15-20-4):
Penner - Gagner - Nilsson
Jacques - Horcoff - Brule
Stone - Potulny - O'Sullivan
Moreau - Cogliano - Stortini
Visnovsky - Smid
Souray - Gilbert
Staios - Strudwick
Toronto Maple Leafs (14-17-9):
Kulemin - Stajan - Kessel
Ponikarovsky - Wallin - Hagman
Blake - Primeau - Stempniak
Mayers - Grabovski - Orr
Kaberle - Komisarek
Beauchemin - White
Schenn - Finger
Behind The Numbers:
- In the month of December the Maple Leafs have a record of 8-5-2 in regulation. The Oilers December regulation record in December is 3-7-2. That's a big swing in only one month! In "unrelated" news the Oilers are now only 7 points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes for dead last in the NHL. The Hurricanes regulation record in December? 5-5-2.
- The Maple Leafs have trailed after the second period on 22 occasions so far this season. The Leafs have lost all 22 of those games, 17 of them in regulation. Of the 12 times the Leafs have led after two periods, they have yet to lose in regulation.
- In his first 28 games as a Maple Leaf, Phil Kessel has really improved his shot rate. Kessel's shot rate this season is 4.4 per game, up from the 3.3 per game he managed last season with the Bruins (it was also his previous career high). A lot of this increase comes from getting additional ice time, but even on a per minute basis Kessel has really improved, going from 3 shots per 15 minutes with the Bruins a year ago to 3.3 shots per 15 minutes with the Leafs so far this season.
- Through the Oilers seven game losing streak Dustin Penner has recorded only two points. Penner doesn't exactly have a lot to work with right now but if the Oilers are going to pull out of this slump they will need to get more production from Penner, especially on the power play where Penner has gone twelve consecutive games without a point.
- The last time the Oilers lost 7 consecutive games in regulation was March 1st to 15th 2007. That was not a very happy time to be an Oilers fan. The scary part is that this time it almost feels normal.