The Edmonton Oilers (18-12-4) played host to the Toronto Maple Leafs (15-14-4) at Rogers Place last night in the early slot on Hockey Night in Canada. Both teams lost last time out, and were looking to bounce back in prime time on Saturday night.
It is always an occasion whenever the Leafs are in town. The city is flush with people brave enough to wear their Leafs gear in public, and with some 8,000 season ticket holders flush with hundred dollar bills having just taken advantage of them.
But apparently not last night. Shortly after puck drop there were still seats available on the secondary market. For me that’s a story without even considering how cheap you could get them. For all my thoughts about the current team, the Oilers are still widely believed in by many of their fans and currently occupy a playoff spot. If they can’t sell this one out — Toronto, Saturday night, in a playoff spot — that’s probably a problem.
Maybe we’ll get another three games where you can get a $5 can of beer for a period. Maybe that’ll get people going.
Both teams started with some jump, with Mikko Koskinen and Frederik Andersen having to be alert early as the two sides traded looks.
Toronto was getting the better of it though, after weathering a brief storm they created some havoc in the Oilers zone, going really close as Koskinen flailed in the paint before eventually finding their first goal at the end of the same sequence through Alex Kerfoot. 0-1. Oh no.
The Oilers were at risk of getting buried in this one as the Leafs continued to press after taking the lead, but Koskinen proved resolute and kept the Oilers afloat while they looked for their legs.
They would find them, however, and began to influence the game themselves during the latter half of the opening frame. Edmonton couldn’t find the breakthrough, but they at least began to look like they could hang. Frederik Andersen is good, though, and the Oilers couldn’t find an equalizer despite manufacturing 7 high danger chances in the period.
After 20 minutes, the Oilers trailed the Leafs 0-1.
The Leafs were the better side to start the second, though Andersen had to make a wonderful save on Markus Granlund to preserve the lead just over two minutes in. Otherwise though, the Oilers barely managed a shot attempt (2, to Toronto’s 9) before Toronto extended their lead just past the five-minute mark. Some carelessness in the neutral zone ceded possession to the Leafs, who transitioned to offense with two passes before Ilya Mikheyev’s tap in capped the end of a chaotic spell in front of goal. Koskinen didn’t really have a chance, and none of Ethan Bear, Leon Draisaitl, or Darnell Nurse covered themselves in glory on that one. 0-2.
Edmonton responded better to this goal, stringing a couple of decent shifts together and forcing Andersen into a making a few stops. Still they couldn’t find a breakthrough. Eventually, they would find a reward for their efforts, with McDavid drawing a penalty on Muzzin. Given it was the first penalty called in this game, it was pretty ticky tack. No matter, of course, since the league owes McDavid about 250 penalty draws already in his young career.
The league’s best PP hopped over to take their opportunity, but they couldn’t. The Leafs managed to kill it off and the score remained 0-2 at the end of the period.
Lots to do. Little time.
The Oilers didn’t seem likely through the first five minutes. At all. The Leafs were very much in control of the whole affair and the Oilers seemed destined to lose their fourth straight.
But then, the Leafs were called for illegally putting the puck into the crowd, and the Oilers PP got another chance.
And they took this one. Oscar Klefbom gathered the puck in the DZ slot before sending Leon Draisaitl up the right side. He drifted centrally before releasing Alex Chiasson near the right wall. He drove wide past a desperate Jake Muzzin and tucked it beyond Andersen. 1-2. It’s a game.
For a bit.
Edmonton did manage to back up their goal with some more pressure but Andersen was resilient, and the Leafs took advantage, extending their lead a few minutes later.
Confusion at the Oilers blue line between Ethan Bear and Connor McDavid let Dmytro Timashov gain possession, then the line, then everyone’s attention before finding Frederik Gauthier in front for the finish. 1-3. Probably not a game anymore.
And it wasn’t really, with the Leafs able to slow the game down before drawing a penalty with just over two minutes remaning, where Mitch Marner would put it to bed for good. 1-4.
As has been the case every time the Leafs have played a game at Rogers Place, the better team won, and that team was Toronto.
McDavid, Draisaitl and Kassian had a tough night, and that’s about all you need to know. If that line is swimming, the Oilers are probably drowning.
Good performances from down the lineup considering, with Jujhar Khaira, Josh Archibald and Riley Sheahan doing their minutes some justice tonight. They weren’t rewarded, but they definitely didn’t give up much at all out there and had a couple of minute-long spells in the Leafs end.
The Oilers have now lost four straight games, the bidding war for Taylor Hall is well and truly on, and their time atop the division is almost certainly done for the season. It really is disappointing. It really could have been prevented. A bit of proactive thinking and we might be talking about the Mighty Oilers beating the brakes off of the Maple Leafs. But we’re not.
Upcoming games against Dallas, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh loom large for a team that desperately needs some big wins. It could get worse before it gets better.
Ken Holland needed to do something. He still needs to. His not doing something demonstrates, if nothing else, a willingness to let another season go by without optimizing their chances to win. I don’t know why it’s such a controversial idea to think that anyone content to do that — regardless of the circumstances, quite frankly — in year five of Connor McDavid’s career is probably the wrong guy for the job.
CF — 57 - 53 — 51.82%
FF — 44 - 35 — 49.44%
SCF — 25 - 26 — 49.02%
HDCF — 11 - 12 — 47.83%
Shots — 34 - 31 — 52.31%
xG — 2.35 - 2.71 — 46.44%
Golazos — 0 - 3 — 0%
Dallas (19-11-4) in Dallas tomorrow. 6:30 MST.