Connor McDavid looked sharp early on but the high-powered Leafs found a way to shut down Edmonton’s stars without the help of Auston Matthews.
It wasn’t a pretty one to watch, but I stuck around to provide a complete breakdown of the game...
The pace was good to start this one. It wasn’t the most exciting hockey but it was clear that both teams knew the significance of this series. With first-place on the line, both the Leafs and Oilers were trying to balance steady defensive play with explosive offence.
McDavid had an extra spring in his step and nearly set up the game’s opening goal as he fed Chiasson who was stopped. The Leafs would come right back with an excellent chance of their own as Mike Smith made a great stop on a Barbanov chance at the top of the crease.
It would be the Oilers who blinked first in the form of a lazy holding call from Kris Russell. The Leafs would cause havoc in front of Smith and William Nylander would convert on a feed from Mitch Marner. It somehow made it through a sea of bodies, but it beat Smith. The Leafs were on the board first with a 1-0 lead.
It didn’t take too much longer for Toronto to take hold of the game’s momentum. A rush from the Leafs’ top line led to the puck getting on the stick of Marner. The Oilers gave him too much time and space and he made it count. He wired one through Smith to give Toronto a 2-0 lead. The goals were scored just 1:13 apart.
Tyler Ennis had a chance in the dying seconds with a slapshot from the left circle but Jack Campbell would deny him. Oilers found themselves in a 2-0 hole after the opening frame.
The second period saw less defence and more of a run-and-gun game from both sides. Both teams were trading chances and it appeared that the Oilers had the advantage in the period.
Edmonton’s momentum would be dashed about halfway through the frame as Smith would bite on a fake shot and Spezza would roof one. 3-0 Leafs and it was looking dire for the Oilers.
Edmonton’s best chance would come off a deflection in front of the net that hit the crossbar but nothing would beat Campbell. They overcame a 3-1 deficit against Vancouver last week and they would have to overcome a 3-0 deficit tonight.
I’ll save the specifics to say that next to nothing was generated in this period. The Leafs went into shutdown mode and the Oilers had no answer for them.
Zach Hymen would pot one to seal the deal for the Leafs. The Oilers five-game winning streak comes to an end as they are unable to solve Jack Campbell in the Toronto net.
4-0 Leafs is the final.
- Mike Smith was mediocre tonight. He wasn’t particularly awful but he was far from the god-like goaltender he was against the Canucks on Thursday. The first two goals are forgivable as they were the product of bad defensive play, but the third and fourth were brutal. The Spezza goal was especially bad as he was duped on a rather routine fake shot and it completely destroyed any momentum that the Oilers had going. Should see Koskinen in for game two.
- Give the Leafs some credit tonight. They read the scouting report on the Oilers and didn’t take a single penalty. You could blame the refs all you want but you don’t often see a team take no penalties. Could be a sign that Edmonton didn’t play them hard enough.
- Dave Tippett has to look past the age of his players and focus on icing the best lineup possible. The decision to scratch Evan Bouchard in favour of Kris Russell was just plain bad and it showed on the ice. Russell was scrambling most of the night and took a bad penalty to help the Leafs open the scoring. Don’t overthink it, play your good players.
- Darnell Nurse also had a rough night. He has all the tools in the world to be a great defender but the number of mistakes he makes in games like tonight is preventing him from taking that next step. Gotta clean up his decision-making.
- Communication was a problem all night long. You cannot allow guys like Marner and Nylander time and space to pick corners. They will do it and they did it tonight. You had a few games against snakebitten stars in Vancouver and Calgary....Toronto is a different beast.
- I will say that Edmonton should have had at least a few goals tonight. They had their fair share of chances but Jack Campbell was solid.
- I loved the effort shown by Tyler Ennis tonight. The guy is a veteran version of Kailer Yamamoto and he gives that third-line a whole new look. The rest of his line, however, struggled.
- I also like Chiasson’s game for the most part.
- The Oilers record drops to 14-9-0 on the season but will have a chance at redemption when they rematch the Leafs on Monday.