If Not Now, Then When?
Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
8 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers had to be feeling pretty good about themselves with a 3-1 lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs early in the second period with hockey’s national TV spotlight on them Saturday evening.
After all, getting the better of the Maple Leafs right in the Big Smoke is a big deal no matter what, and when the Oilers were ahead by a deuce, they were looking at three wins on a four-game swing. We know how that ended – the Oilers gave up five straight goals on the way to a 7-4 loss, packing for the flight home and a Tuesday game against the Ottawa Senators with four points instead of six.
The Senators, meanwhile, hit the road last Monday for a five-game trip that included three games against non-playoff teams looking to make a move up in the Eastern Conference. Instead, the Sens have lost ground. They opened the swing with a 5-0 loss to the feeble Chicago Blackhawks. After bouncing back with a 5-4 win over the Seattle Kraken, they undid that times-two, losing 5-2 in Vancouver Saturday and 5-1 in Calgary Sunday. One win in four games is not the stuff of a playoff push.
Given all of that — the Oilers still stinging from spitting the bit in Hogtown and the Senators frittering away points and getting short on runway if they’re serious about getting into the post-season – I think we could see a game with two revved-up teams ready to go and plenty of mustard on it tomorrow. If not now, then when?
Mar 11, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft watches the action during the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
We know what undid the Oilers against the Maple Leafs, who began to rally with Mitch Marner’s goal to make it 3-2 on a brutal giveaway by Ryan McLeod. Add in mistakes by rookie Vincent Desharnais and Darnell Nurse and the Maple Leafs pulled ahead, never to look back, with four goals in 5:59. Mistakes and all, Stuart Skinner has had better games.
I can’t say I was expecting that from a team that beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 just 48 hours earlier. You? Bottom line, it’s best to put that sheet-soiler in Toronto in the rear-view mirror in a hurry with games against Dallas and Seattle after Ottawa comes calling.
“It was a young mistake,” coach Jay Woodcroft said of McLeod’s glaring error. “He’d be the first guy to own up for that and feel bad for it in the end. Hockey is a game of mistakes, and our goal as a team is to make fewer than the other team and capitalize when they make theirs . . . nobody on our team points the finger. That’s a hallmark of a good team — people who stick together win or lose.”
As you’d expect, talk out of Ottawa’s room after getting deep-sixed in Cowtown on the weekend was much the same. “We’ve been resilient all season,” defenceman Travis Hamonic said. “We’ve faced a ton of adversity. We’ve clawed our way back into the race, into the conversation, when everyone left us at the side of the road a couple of months ago.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Oilers doubled the Senators 6-3 on Feb. 11 in the only previous meeting this season. The Oilers turned that game with three unanswered third-period goals – by Jesse Puljujarvi, Derek Ryan, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The game also featured a second-period scrap between Evander Kane and Brady Tkachuk.
Anything less than full buy-in by both teams for this rematch won’t sell in either city and it shouldn’t. Like I said above, if not now, then when?
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