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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Day After: Sometimes your top line isn’t your best line

Welcome to the day after where we dive into what’s happening with the Oilers the day after a game. 

Sometimes your top line isn’t your best line.

And last night, when the Toronto Maple Leafs broke the Edmonton Oilers five-game win streak with a xx performance, that’s exactly what happened. When the Leafs scored their first goal 14:37 into the first frame then their second 1:13 later, it took the wind out of whatever sails the Oilers had.

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The Leafs third goal which saw Mike Smith overcommit on a shot fake then had Jason Spezza go top shelf on a wide-open short side was noting short of salt in the wound.

Edmonton’s top line fought the puck more than any other last night, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid out on the ice for the Leafs second and third goal nowhere to be found. Sometimes that’s just the case and to be fair, they’ve contributed their fair share offensively this season.

It’s not as if they didn’t try, but there just seemed to be something missing from the whole teams game last night. And the truth is, the Oilers weren’t horrible in game one of three against the Leafs.

Even adjusting for score effects and the venue, Edmonton drove play to the tune of controlling 53.76 percent of the shot attempts. They generated shot attempts from the dangerous areas, but often found themselves unable to get control of the large amount of rebounds Jack Campbell gave up.

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The line blender came out in the third period as Dave Tippett tried to generate something. McDavid skated with Dominik Kahun and Kailer Yamamoto for parts of the period, while also swapping out Leon Draisaitl for Kahun at times. Nothing worked, however, as the Oilers were unable to beat Jack Campbell.

Edmonton gets a chance to avenge the off-game with a Monday night matchup with the Leafs.

Backhanders…

  • Short presser after the game without a whole lot being said. Leon Draisaitl spoke first and was clearly frustrated with the game. An eloquent Caleb Jones spoke the longest where he spoke about how he felt the Oilers lacked energy from the beginning of the game, and how he expects the team to come out with a defence-first mindset. Dave Tippett sounded as frustrated as he has all season and was a man of few words.
  • Speaking of Draisaitl, it sounds like he’s playing with some kind of an ailment. After the game, Tippett was asked about it to which he said: “I don’t think it is anything that will keep him out of any games.”
  • If Draisaitl is indeed banged up, the Oilers shouldn’t shy away from keeping him out of the lineup for a game or two. Yes, these two upcoming games are important for the Oilers, but so are the next two months worth of games. After game three against Toronto Wednesday, Edmonton has two days off before facing the Flames next Saturday.
  • Caleb Jones got held out of the lineup for a while after a tough stretch of games to open the season, but he’s come back into the lineup and looked great in limited minutes. Last night he played a 10 minutes at 5×5 with Ethan Bear and they led the Oilers defence with a 74 xGF%. These young Oilers defencemen are playing some really good hockey for the team, and are going to make decisions interesting this offseason when it comes to Adam Larsson and Tyson Barrie.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]