Photo Credit: Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes Oilers @ Maple Leafs: Tough Test

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a league-best .775 points percentage, and the second most points, 31, since Sheldon Keefe was hired as their new head coach on November 20th. Since firing Mike Babcock the Leafs have dominated their opposition going 15-4-1, and outscoring them 82-54. The Leafs were 6-4 in their first ten games with Keefe, and are currently riding a 10-game points streak going 9-0-1.

The Oilers have rediscovered their game from earlier in the season, going 2-0-1 in their last three, and they had great starts in all three games. They will need another strong start combined with sound defensive play against the high-scoring Leafs.

1. Toronto has outscored teams 49-27 in their previous 10 games. Their powerplay has been a ridiculous 36.6%, scoring 15 goals on 41 chances. If the Leafs could get more powerplays they might be really scary. Despite going 15-4-1, they have a league-low 41 PP chances under Keefe. The Oilers have had the 13th most, 64, since November 20th.

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2. We might not see a lot of powerplays tonight. Since November 20th the Maple Leafs have been shorthanded a league-low 45 times. The Oilers have been on the PK the second fewest times with only 50 kills over their past 21 games. On the season the Oilers have been on the PK 125 times (ninth fewest), while the Maple Leafs are seventh at 123. Both powerplays are dangerous, with the Oilers’ PP leading the NHL at 29.5% and the Leafs sixth at 24.4%.

3. Edmonton has a big advantage on the PK. They sit fourth in the NHL at 83.2%, while Toronto is 26th at 75.6%. They might not get many powerplays tonight, but when they do the Oilers need to capitalize on the one obvious weakness of the Maple Leafs.

4. Edmonton is +7 in PP/PK chances, 12th highest in NHL, while Toronto is -8, which is 16th. If you are curious, Colorado is +24 (155-131), followed by Florida +22 (132-110), while the lowest PP/PK chances has Dallas at -24 (122-146) and Washington at -23 (133-156).

5. It is interesting to note the Leafs’ GF-GA under Keefe compared to Mike Babcock. They’ve outscored teams 82-54 in 20 games with Keefe, and in their first 23 games with Babcock they were 72-79. Babcock preached defence and they allowed 3.43 GA/Game, while scoring 3.13. Under Keefe they have averaged 4.1 GF/G and 2.7 GA/G.

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6. If the Leafs win a playoff round, something they didn’t do with Babcock, I wonder how GM’s will view him this summer? No question they have played better since Keefe took over. It might not just be Babcock, but when you consider some of the stories about how he treated players, it is fair to question if he would be the right coach moving forward for another organization. Can he change how he communicates with players?

7. Gaetan Haas and Joakim Nygard are looking more comfortable all the time. Both of them have drawn eight penalties, which is impressive considering their overall Time On Ice (TOI). Nygard is first on the Oilers in Penalties drawn/60 at 1.62, while Haas is second at 1.35 followed by McDavid at 1.17 and Jujhar Khaira at 1.15. McDavid has drawn 19 penalties followed by Draisaitl (14) and Khaira (10).

8. McDavid is 13th in the NHL in drawn penalties for forwards with 19. Brad Marchand is first with 26, followed by Jack Eichel and Brady Tkachuk at 25. Imagine if the NHL called the penalties at the level of the hook on Jack Eichel in overtime that led to a penalty shot. McDavid likely would have drawn another 10-15 penalties. Former referee Kerry Fraser explained to me why he felt the penalty shot for Eichel was the right call (scroll down a few posts on his twitter feed to see it). It made sense. I wonder why the NHL doesn’t use that guideline all the time. I’ve long argued the league’s best players get punished for being better than the rest. They are forced to skate through more hooks and obstruction. It makes no sense to me, but it’s been going on forever. The league should use the Oscar Klefbom hook on Eichel as an example of what they want refs to call. I think fans of every team simply want consistency, or at least something resembling consistency, on obstruction and hooking.

9. Nygard’s lack of finish is a concern, but he is an NHL rookie, and adapting to the NHL takes time. Haas has shown better offensive finish thus far, but I’ve liked the progression from both of them. The challenge, thus far, is neither has been used on the PK. To get more involved in games, most bottom six forwards need to be on the PK. Both have been used sparingly on the second PP unit, with Nygard averaging 33 seconds/game and Haas 28. If they keep improving and learning, they could be valuable down the road. I’ve really liked Haas’ play over the past six weeks, and Nygard has created some chances, but has yet to show the hands that scored him 21 goals last season. I’d be patient with him. I think he, along with Haas, have potential to score 10-12 goals, which would be solid production from a bottom six 5×5 player.

10. Here is the Oilers scoring last year compared to this season, as well as the Maple Leafs scoring, through 44 games.

2018/19 87 (192) 20 (59) 15 (72)
EDMONTON 88 (210) 29 (67) 11 (75)
TORONTO 84 (189) 54 (127) 16 (89)

11. The Leafs have the highest-scoring forward group in the NHL with 138-178-316. The Oilers forwards have the eighth most goals with 117-160-277.

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12. Edmonton hasn’t won in Toronto since December 2nd, 2010, when they shutout the Maple Leafs 5-0. Since then they have lost seven in a row and been outscored 30-13. They haven’t played a January game in Toronto since January 17th, 1987, when they won 7-4.

13. Connor McDavid scored 2-3-5 in his first career game against Toronto on February 11th, 2016. The Oilers won 5-2. Since then they have lost all seven meetings and been outscored 27-13. McDavid has 2-4-6 in those losses. Leon Draisaitl only has 1-3-4 in nine career games against the Maple Leafs. Is one of them due for a breakout game against the Leafs?

14. Leon Draisaitl and McDavid lead the NHL with 65 points, but Draisaitl is in first due to more goals, 24 to 23. Auston Matthews is second in the NHL with 28 goals and leads the league with 21 EV goals.

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