Anyone check if the powerplay software is up to date? Final Score: 4-2 Leafs
I don’t think anyone would argue that Wednesday’s game was about as boring as it gets when many of us were expecting some high scoring pond hockey. Yet, from an Oilers perspective, it was the kind of ugly road win that they desperately needed to stop the bleeding and prove to themselves that they could lock things down when it mattered most. Heading into the rematch, the Oilers had a wonderful opportunity to leave Toronto with four points as they were facing a depleted Leafs lineup that was missing both Matthews and Thornton from their top line. This was a chance for the Oilers kick a team that was down and win a game where they had a slight advantage, making this a huge opportunity to not only get themselves back to a .500 record and maintain pace near the top of the North Division but also to gain a little bit of confidence as they head into Winnipeg.
In the early going, the Oilers carried over their strong defensive play from Wednesday night and did a fine job of keeping the Leafs to the outside of the ice while also setting themselves up for a quick transition the other way. As steady as they were in the opening period, the bad news was that that they weren’t able to cash in on any of the handful of glorious chances they had and it allowed the Leafs to stick around in a tie game. Moving into the second period, I was hoping that the Oilers would maintain their handle on the defensive side of the puck but after opening the scoring with a shorthanded marker by Draisaitl, they took their foot off the gas and got sloppy with their choices which gave the Leafs a clear opening to counterpunch. Once again, turnovers led to the puck ending up in the back of their own net. Edmonton went from stealing a lead to down by a goal in a matter of minutes and it was incredibly frustrating and, worst of all, avoidable.
Chasing a tie with only 20 minutes to play, I felt like the Oilers were going to have to get greasier with their approach to offence if they were going to even things up because their insistence on fishing for the perfect play wasn’t working out so well. Yeah, it’s great when the beautiful passing plays work — Vesey scored a goal in the second period that will surely make the highlight reels — but when those lanes aren’t opening up for you then you have to pivot to a Plan B. And as if the team was reading my thoughts, Connor McDavid tied the game on a simple play that was a product of a strong forecheck, hard work, and a well placed shot from the point. Unfortunately, McDavid’s temporary tying goal was the lone bright spot as the Leafs were able to cash in on a second powerplay goal whereas the Oilers could not match and our dreams of four points from the 6ix were dashed in flash.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
- Leon Draisaitl is a master at protecting the puck and I just love the way he fights his opposition off with one arm while maintaining puck control with the other and I was loving the way he was showcasing that skill early on. Puck protection didn’t have a whole lot to do with the shorthanded goal he was gifted (1-0) on the back of some fine forechecking by Yamamoto, but his quick hands and stick skill sure did.
- Connor McDavid tied the game up (2-2) with his fourth goal of the season on a perfectly deflected point shot by Ethan Bear that he got a stick on in the high slot. The play started with a nice forecheck by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who stole the puck in the corner and set Bear up on a tee for the one-timer.
- Kailer Yamamoto has been the most consistent forward so far this season and I cannot get enough of his tenacity on the puck. In terms of overall effort on a shift-by-shift basis, I don’t know how much more this kid has to offer and I wanted to take a second to say how much I appreciate it. He’s a tonne of fun to watch.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins looked much more engaged tonight than he was on Wednesday and picked up an assist on McDavid’s goal, giving him five points (2G, 3A) in six games.
- Outside of Matthews’ goal in the third period, Mikko Koskinen was rock solid between the pipes on Wednesday night and I was looking for him to keep that going in the rematch, which was what he did more often than not. While he wasn’t as busy as Andersen, there were plenty of times when he was called upon to make a save and keep the game in check and he answered the bell. To me, he had no chance on any of the three goals he allowed but I know that looking at the .893 save% he finished the night with will prevent many folks from believing me.
- James Neal made his season debut after a battle with COVID kept him on the shelf and I was curious to see how he’d look after missing the first five nights, specifically whether or not Tippett would give him some time on the powerplay. While he wasn’t able to cash anything in with the man advantage, I’d still argue that he looks better in that net-front role than Chiasson does any day.
- Thinking about turning the Wrap Ups into Slater Koekkoek appreciation posts. It’s not often I’m this taken with a third-pairing defenceman, but the guy whose name is a party has quickly played his way into my heart and into this ‘Bright Side’ section of the article. Koekkoek finished the with 13:54 in TOI to go along with one shot, two blocks, and a -1 rating.
- Outshot the Leafs by a 32-29 margin.
THE FACE PALMERS
- Adam Brooks tied the game up with a powerplay goal (1-1) — his first in the NHL, I should add — after perfectly deflecting a point shot off of his skate and past Koskinen. It was a bad luck goal for the Oilers, and I don’t think there was a whole lot the goalie could have done about that one.
- Jimmy Vesey gave the Leafs the lead (2-1) after being the business end of a beautiful passing play in the slot that saw the puck tic-tac-toe around the Oilers’ zone quickly and deliberately. The play never should have happened in the first place, but Adam Larsson duffed his clearing attempt and gave the Leafs the additional zone time they needed to convert.
- John Tavares restored the Leafs’ lead (3-2) with powerplay goal that came from another deflected point shot that changed direction only feet in front of the goaltender.
- I wonder how long it will be until Adam Larsson takes a seat in the press box because he is not playing like a guy that’s supposed to be providing some stability on the back end. The Jimmy Vesey goal simply does not happen if Larsson didn’t get caught with a mangled pass to no one in particular. To put it lightly, this was not a great night for Larsson.
- It was another quiet night for Zack Kassian on the first line with McNuge and I’m wondering how much more leash he has from Dave Tippett before getting moved out of that spot. Tippett gave Puljujarvi a couple of spins on the first line in the third period so you have to think a demotion is close.
- The powerplay (0/2) looked like what I imagine a fart would taste like.
- Not to be outdone, the penalty kill allowed two goals on both chances they faced. They do, however, get bonus points for scoring a shorthanded goal.
- I tried to pump your tires, Joakim Nygard, but I have failed you. See you soon, old friend.
- The Oilers won only 44% of the faceoffs tonight and you guys know how much I love my faceoffs.
They were flipping the switch to lift the blackout in Saskatchewan is my guess because the game is now on my tv haha
— Mickey Wallace (@MickeyWallace91) January 23, 2021
Everybody loves some Koekkoek pic.twitter.com/3QDXlbDD1Z
— Surveyor Brett (@BLuchanski) January 23, 2021
He is the new Matt Benning. Thus, I like him.
— Steven Simon (@stevenasimon85) January 23, 2021
That goal was a direct result of a bad giveaway by Peter Chiarelli.
— Ken Holland (@FakeOilersGM) January 23, 2021
JP filling what was the dead space being taken up by Kassian.
— Robin Brownlee (@Robin_Brownlee) January 23, 2021
If this game is the game that made Puljujärvi the RW of McDavid I'll take the loss. Worth it.
— TSM dohfOs (Martin Lundén) (@dohfOs) January 23, 2021
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