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GDB Game Day Notes: Maple Leafs @ Oilers

The Oilers are one win away from setting a new season-high with five-consecutive wins. In their way are the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team who hammered them in the middle of their otherwise-successful road trip last week.

1. The game against the Leafs last Wednesday was the only blemish on an otherwise very successful five-game road trip for the Oilers. They kicked things off with a gritty shootout loss in Nashville without Connor McDavid, they then got slammed 6-2 by the Leafs, and have since won four games in a row against Ottawa, Columbus, Buffalo, and Vancouver. The loss to the Leafs also represents Edmonton’s only regulation loss since Andrej Sekera was activated from the Injured Reserve and the Oilers have been able to roll out their ideal top-six blueline. They’re 6-1-2 in that stretch.

2. The loss in Toronto was an excellent lesson in what the Oilers lack — high-quality depth. While the Oilers had a very good first period, highlighted by Leon Draisaitl’s highlight reel goal, the Leafs quickly took over the game in the second period. That team can send wave after wave after wave of skilled forwards at their opponents, making it difficult to stop their attack. I thought Auston Matthews was invisible against the Oilers, but, unlike when Connor McDavid has an off game, there’s a wealth of players there to pick up the slack.

3. The difference between the two teams is shown in the depth each side featured. The Oilers have the better top end duo, in my opinion, as McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are better than any two players on the Leafs you can put together, but Toronto absolutely dominates Edmonton after that. The Oilers have just five players with 10 or more goals while the Leafs have 10. Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen, two players who play up and down the lineup, both have 19 goals, old man Patrick Marleau has 14, shutdown third-line centre Nazem Kadri has 15, and even Tyler Ennis, a fourth-liner who was added in the off-season on a cheap deal, has 12. Ennis, a guy who many didn’t think would even crack the roster, would be tied with Zack Kassian for fifth on the Oilers in goals.

4. While the Leafs are potent offensively, they certainly aren’t without flaw. The team ranks 10th in the league in goals against, but much of that is a testament to Frederik Andersen’s excellent goaltending. Andersen owns a .923 save percentage on the season and makes Toronto’s defence look better than it actually is. The Leafs rank 24th in the league in shots against in all situations, right in between the Red Wings and Sabres. Their blueline isn’t the complete disaster many critics of the team would suggest, but it isn’t a strength either. Andersen certainly compensates for a lot.

5. While the Oilers are in a battle for the playoffs, the Leafs are engaged in a battle for home ice advantage, so this game is important for both teams. The Oilers are seven points behind the Wild with two games in hand, meaning they can bring themselves to within just three points if they win both of those games. The Leafs, on the other hand, are four points behind the Bruins for second in the Atlantic Division. It’s inevitable both of these teams are going to meet in the first round, but the race now is for home-ice advantage.

6. As of right now (Friday afternoon), three of the top five teams in the league in points are in the same division. Nobody is in the same world as Tampa Bay, who are running away with the Atlantic, but the Bruins and Leafs rank second and fifth respectively in the NHL. It’s very likely the second- and third-seeded teams in the East, Boston and Toronto, will play in the first round. While Boston and Toronto is a great matchup, is it a bad thing for the league to have it happen so quickly? Personally, I like the current format because it forces these rivalries. Toronto would have to beat Boston or Tampa Bay to advance to the Cup Final regardless, so who cares if it comes in the second or third round after some random, meaningless series against, like, Carolina? I like that the divisional format guarantees that we’ll see intense matchups like Toronto and Boston and Pittsburgh and Washington pretty much no matter what.

7.  Leafs fans hate the format because they’re terrified they’re going to have another first-round exit to deal with this summer. The team hasn’t made it out of the first round since before the Salary Cap era, as a first-round win over the Ottawa Senators in 2004 punched their most recent ticket to the second round.

8. Connor McDavid has faced his hometown Leafs six times since entering the NHL. The first game came with a bang as McDavid put up five points on the Leafs in a 5-2 win. But that was a different Leafs team than the one we’re watching now. Roman Polak and Matt Hunwick led the team in ice time that game and P.A. Parenteau led the team in goals that season. Since then, the Leafs have won all five matchups between the two teams and McDavid has just four points.

9. Auston Matthews hasn’t done much on the big stage against McDavid, either. In four career games against the Oilers, the 2016 first-overall pick has just four points. Toronto’s best performer against Edmonton has probably been Nazem Kadri, who has effectively shut down McDavid and has two game-winning goals, one of which came in overtime.

10. I might be off base on this, but I feel like the Maple Leafs are the most disliked team among Oilers fans. While you’d think it would be the provincial rival Calgary Flames, there seems to be a more intense animosity towards the Leafs and their fanbase than there is towards Calgary and the Flames. I think a lot of it comes down to Leafs fans and Toronto-based mainstream media’s condescending-yet-unaware attitude towards everything that happens outside of the world’s hockey mecca. I don’t know, I could be wrong, but I bet most Oilers fans would be even more perturbed watching the Leafs win the Stanley Cup than they would be watching the Flames win it all.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 3/9/2019 – 7:00 am MT

    • I totally agree that the Leafs fans are completely over hype their team and under estimate the rest of the league. The only good thing about that is the moment they have a bad game most of their fans and the pro-Toronto media turn on the Leafs.

  • rnj

    I grew up a Leafs fan just outside Toronto. That attitude is mostly because Edmonton has done nothing of note since Gretzky. If the organization wasn’t a dumpster fire for 15 years you wouldn’t see that kind of attitude, at this point honestly it’s deserved. A generational talent is being wasted because of an incompetent organization, and hockey as a whole is suffering because of it. If that doesn’t earn you condescension I’m not sure what does

    • VvV

      We’ll they win the cup after Gretzky left, then they had some decent little runs in late 90s early 2000s when they were a low salary team and couldn’t compete because of that. Sure they’ve been incompetent since salary cap, however they did win a round and made it to the Stanley Cup final, two things the Leafs can’t say they’ve done. Also McDavid has maybe the playoffs in 50% of the full seasons he’s played, and they aren’t out of it yet this year. Go back to Leafsnation and all their wins… Oh wait

  • Frank Rizza

    I still hate the Flames the most. I can handle anything except a Flames cup. Toronto and Vancouver are my next most hated teams. In fact I hate all Canadian teams. You’ll never find me cheering for “Canada’s Teams” ever. If it’s not the Oil, then I’m cheering for the team farthest south. I would cheer for Mexico City, if they had a team, before any of the Canadian teams. F*** them all!

  • Prairiechicken

    I Can’t believe I’m saying this but count me in for those who prefers the flames to the leafs. There was an article front page on tsn the other day about the new haircut one of their players was sporting.
    And I love HNIC games mostly because of the late start / party like atmosphere … so a 5pm start time tonight? Makes absolute sense so that the eastern leaf fans can watch at the ideal time of 7pm … while us locals have to start heading down to the rink at 4pm. Gotta optimize for the leafs ya know.

  • hagar

    Not a popular thought, but I cheer for Oilers first, then any Canadian team,then Vegas to win the cup. Rivalry is fun, but Canadian hockey is more important to me than my ego. Go Oilers!! At the very least let’s have an epic effort tonight guys, that’s all we can ask is to consistently maximize what they have.

  • Abagofpucks

    Most leaf fans have never seen them win anything, and the last time the leafs won anything was 52 years ago and counting. but they think the oilers are a tire fire thats funny. but with that said i still don’t like the flames the most and hope they don’t ever win another damn thing as long as i’m alive. HA.

  • The Rookie

    My hate rank
    1-Leafs
    2-flames
    3-ducks
    4-canucks
    5-Canadians

    Prior to the last cpl year I would have Calgary and Vancouver flipped and Toronto would have been a little lower. I don’t hate teams as much when they aren’t winning. The sedins destroyed us for years and I hated playing against them the most. Everyone knows they are looking for the high slot tip on the powerpoay, can’t someone stop them??? Leafs are hated because of their fan base. So annoying and now the team actually backs them up. The only thing we can counter with is 1967. I used to hate playing the Kings. Now it doesn’t seem to matter. Rivalries tend to die quicker than they build.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    I would equally hate it if both teams won the cup. The ONLY saving grace for the Flames is that we still have five, they’d only have their 2nd. And of course the game I go to, is the one where they are dominated in *shakes head*