Welcome to the All-Canadian Roundup, a bi-weekly look at how the Oilers’ rivals in the North Division are doing…
1. Montreal Canadiens
3-0-2 (8 points)
Goals For: 24 (1st of 31), Goals Against: 16 (20th of 31)
When I previewed the other Canadian teams ahead of the start of the season, I mentioned Montreal as the division’s biggest wild card. They weren’t very good last season, but a surprising playoff showing coupled with a strong off-season generated quite a bit of buzz around the team.
So far, the Habs have been the best team in the division. They’ve won three of their first five games and they haven’t lost a game in regulation yet. The underlying numbers back the Habs up too as they rank fourth in the league in terms of even-strength shot attempt differential (221-to-188).
The interesting thing here is that Montreal isn’t doing well because of their goaltending tandem (Carey Price and Jake Allen own a combined .893 save percentage), they’re riding a very strong offence. The Habs have scored 24 goals through five games, the most in the league, and they have 13 different skaters who have put the puck in the back of the net.
Both of their major off-season additions, Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson, are off to hot starts with five and three goals respectively. If Montreal’s goaltending comes around, they could be the team to beat in the North this year.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs
4-2-0 (8 points)
Goals For: 19 (2nd of 31), Goals Against: 17 (24th of 31)
Though most Leafs fans would tell you that the team is going to walk away with the best record in the North Division, it’s been a worrying start in Toronto.
The Leafs are 4-2-0 through six games, tied with Montreal for the most points in the division, but the team is dealing with the exact same struggles that held them back last year — keeping the puck out of their net.
Toronto ranks 24th in the league in goals-against through six games, which isn’t terrible. But the worrying stat here for the Leafs is the play of goaltender Freddy Andersen, who has a .898 save percentage through five starts. Andersen’s .909 save percentage in 2019-20 was the worst of his career after routinely posting a save percentage around the .918 mark for six seasons.
The team has the fourth-fewest shot attempts against per 60 minutes and is in the middle-of-the-pack in terms of high danger chances against, so there’s reason to believe this is an Andersen problem.
3. Winnipeg Jets
3-1-0 (6 points)
Goals For: 13 (14th of 31), Goals Against: 10 (8th of 31)
The Jets are off to a good start this season with a 3-1-0 record through their first four games. The team’s top-six forwards are producing and Connor Hellebyuck, last year’s Vezina Trophy winner, has been great in net.
But the big story out of Winnipeg is two disgruntled young stars finally getting the change of scenery they had been looking for…
— Daily Faceoff (@DailyFaceoff) January 23, 2021
Could you imagine telling somebody back at the 2016 draft that the Jets would be trading Patrik Laine to Columbus for Pierre-Luc Dubois and they would be the team adding another player and retaining salary? Also, could you imagine telling an Oilers fan one year ago that both Laine and Dubois would get traded and Jesse Puljujarvi would be back in Edmonton? Wild stuff.
While Laine has produced some impressive goal-scoring numbers in his young career, he gives back a lot with poor defensive play. Dubois isn’t going to score 40 goals, but he’s the better all-around player of the two. I would say Winnipeg is a better team now than they were yesterday.
4. Calgary Flames
2-0-1 (5 points)
Goals For: 11 (18th of 31), Goals Against: 6 (3rd of 31)
There isn’t much to say about the Calgary Flames just yet as they’ve only played three games so far this season. They dropped their season opener in overtime to Winnipeg and then picked up back-to-back wins at home against Vancouver.
The one thing to mention with Calgary is that Jacob Markstrom, their big off-season addition, has looked great thus far, stopping 87 of the 93 shots he’s faced. Calgary will have an interesting test this week when they host the Leafs for a two-game set.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 17, 2021
T-5. Edmonton Oilers
2-4-0 (4 points)
Goals For: 15 (10th of 31), Goals Against: 20 (28th of 31)
This obviously hasn’t been the start for the Oilers anybody was hoping for.
The team split a two-game set with Vancouver, got hammered in both games against the Habs, and then earned another split against the Leafs. All in all, we’ve seen more mediocre play from the Oilers than good play thus far.
— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) January 23, 2021
It’ll be interesting to see if Dave Tippett shakes things up and gives some young players an opportunity to shine. There’s been talk about Jesse Puljujarvi moving up to the Connor McDavid line and there’s also been speculation Evan Bouchard could draw into the lineup.
Next up, two games in Winnipeg.
T-5. Vancouver Canucks
2-4-0 (4 points)
Goals For: 18 (5th of 31), Goals Against: 28 (31st of 31)
After winning two playoff rounds and coming one win away from reaching the Western Conference Final last summer, the Canucks had big-time expectations this year. Things have not gone according to plan early on.
2019/20 Canucks 2020/21 Canucks pic.twitter.com/na11jvMLIc
— TOMMY (@tommykippes) January 22, 2021
The Canucks are 2-4-0 through six games. They split that series with Edmonton, got swept by the Flames, and picked up a win and a loss against Montreal, with their one win coming in the shootout.
The big issue for the Canucks so far has been goaltending. Thatcher Demko and Braden Holtby have a combined .878 save percentage, so it undoubtedly stings to see Markstrom, the guy they chose not to re-sign this fall, killing it so far in Calgary.
7. Ottawa Senators
1-2-1 (3 points)
Goals For: 11 (18th of 31), Goals Against: 14 (16th of 31)
And, finally, at the bottom of the pile, we have the Senators.
Though, to be fair to Ottawa, they’re in the basement right now largely because of their schedule, not because of how they’ve played.
Ottawa is 1-2-1 through four games and they’ve looked like a pesky team rather than a complete punching bag. They earned a split with the Leafs and nearly swept that season-opening series, and then they lost a tight one to Winnipeg in overtime before losing again to Winnipeg by a score of 4-1.
Also, Ottawa’s new uniforms look fantastic…
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) January 19, 2021