(photoshop: @isuckatpicking)
In today’s NHL it is rare to see any significant animosity or hatred carry over from game-to-game. We don’t see line brawls, massive cheap shots or much extra curricular stuff during the games. Anything dirty would be caught on video, or if a player cheap shots someone and his teammate retaliates, usually the aggressor is suspended.
It is a different era of hockey. However, tonight’s game against the Leafs carries a little extra motivation for the Oilers.
Toronto defeated Edmonton 3-2 in OT on November 1st. Nazim Kadri went head-to-head against Connor McDavid and he won the battle, scoring two goals, including the game winner when he out-maneuvered McDavid to a loose puck and scored.
Kadri didn’t deliver any cheap shots during the game, he simply played McDavid hard and tough.
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The subtle jab occurred after the game when Leafs head coach Mike Babcock suggested McDavid was tired because he played 8:15 in the first period and didn’t have the same jump the rest of the game. 
This morning Todd McLellan was asked if he was irked by Babcock’s post-game comments earlier this month. “I got a call from him and he said it wasn’t the way he wanted it to come out. I will say this, I used to work for a really good coach and he used to always tell me, ‘It is really hard to coach in this league, just coach your own team,’ so….” And he smiled.
McLellan used to work for Babcock and he took his own subtle jab at his former coaching colleague in Detroit.
There is no doubt they respect one another, and maybe it’s a sad state of the game when there is more chirps between coaches than players, but it’s the truth. The NHL doesn’t have much anger or vengeance today.
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I’m sure McDavid will have a little extra spring in his step tonight. He’ll want to show he can produce against Kadri, not that there should be any concern, but Kadri won the first matchup and McDavid will want to produce tonight. And you can bet he’d like to do it playing 22 minutes.
McDavid has played 22+ minutes 11 times this year. He has five goals and 12 points in those games, so suggesting he can’t handle it, or is fatigued, doesn’t pass the smell test.
The Leafs play a much more exciting style than the Coyotes, which isn’t difficult, but they will create chances, and also give up a lot. They remind me of the Oilers of past seasons, with some skilled offensive players, but a weak blueline and not much depth.
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The Oilers need to play fast, but they also need to lean on the Leafs skilled forwards. Adam Larsson has proven he can be physical. He’s big, strong and has just enough dirty in his game to make him hard to play against. He and Darnell Nurse need to be very aggressive on Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and James van Riemsdyk.
Similar to how teams used to push the Oilers out of games, tonight Edmonton needs to use their size advantage and push the Leafs out of this game.

LINEUP

Oilers
Milan Lucic didn’t skate this morning, but McLellan said he’ll likely play. If Lucic plays, and he’s expected to play, the lineup will remain the same as Sunday. Tyler Pitlick, Anton Slepyshev and Eric Gryba will sit out. I’m surprised Pitlick and Slepyshev are out, but McLellan will give his veterans a chance to redeem themselves. Many in the bottom six need to play better, because I’d argue Pitlick and Slepyshev have been more consistent and productive than many of them.
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Leafs
Lineups courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

QUICK HITS

  • Babcock believes he is the best coach in the game, and smarter than most. He has a solid resume, no doubt, but his record since the start of 2012/2013 season does not suggest he is the best coach in the NHL. Winning two gold medals is great, but Canada’s roster in 2010 and 2014 was so good, I’d argue many other NHL coaches could have led them to victory.
    Here are the records of coaches who have been behind a bench since 2012/2013 to today, ranked by points amassed.
    Quenneville: 191-88-38 with Chicago
    Boudreau: 192-88-35 (Four years in Anaheim, this year in Minny)
    Hitchcock: 194-95-28 with St.Louis
    Vigneault: 185-102-30 (Vancouver one year, then to Rangers)
    Therrien: 179-106-31 with Montreal.
    Sutter: 173-108-35 with Los Angeles
    Trotz: 168-105-42 (Nashville two years, then to Washington for last 2 1/4.)
    Cooper: 160-99-26 (hired for final 16 games of 2012/2013 season).
    McLellan: 159-123-35 (San Jose for three, Edmonton for 1 and 1/4)
    Capuano: 157-119-39 with the Islanders
    Ruff: 146-103-37 (fired after 24 games in Buff in 2012/2013. Hired in Dallas for 2013/2014 season).
    Babcock: 144-119-52 (Detroit for three, Toronto for 1 and 1/4)
    Tippett: 125-147-42 with Arizona.
    This stat won’t automatically illustrate who is the best coach, because you need talent to win — ask Dave Tippett — but it is interesting to see where coaches rank.
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    **I didn’t include Peter Laviolette, because he only coached three games in 2013/2014, or Peter Deboer because he only coached 36 of 82 games in 2014 with the Devils.**
  • The Maple Leafs like to pressure the middle guy on the PP (Draisaitl on first unit), so look for the Oilers to slide the back side point man down low (Eberle). Draisaitl leads the team with five PP goals, and they like using him, but they might have to alter their approach against the Leafs.
  • It is interesting to note Nylander is centreing the fourth line. He was a late scratch last game. Babcock said the trainers wouldn’t let him play, but the speculation from many in Toronto is some sort of transgression occurred, since Nylander looked healthy prior to the game. Nylander leads the Buds in PP goals, so we’ll watch to see how long he stays on the fourth line.
  • The Leafs are second in goals per game and 28th in goals against. They are exciting to watch, which is something we say rarely nowadays. I hope the Oilers and Leafs exchange chances all night. I enjoy watching skill at high speed, rather than dump and chase and sitting back in the neutral zone.
  • In his first meeting vs. the Leafs in Edmonton McDavid scored 2-3-5 in an Oilers 5-2 win. One thing I like about McDavid is his attitude. He’s respectful, but he has a little bite to him. He bristles at certain questions or situations, and when a Toronto scribe asked about the Leafs focusing on him so much he replied,  “They’re not reinventing the wheel here. It’s not something I haven’t seen before. They did a good job last game. Good for them, I guess. But I’m looking forward to tonight,” said McDavid. 
    I like the “Good for them, I guess,” line. I got a sense tonight could be one of those games were he takes over. 

    WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

    A few weeks back, Canadian Hero Nazem Kadri did a great job in giving Connor McDavid an excuse for his underwhelming performance “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this” game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Some call it a brilliant shutdown performance by Kadri , some call it a cold night for the best player in the world, some call it subtle tanking while the clock winds down to July 1st, 2022.

    TONIGHT

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    (photoshop: @TomKostiuk)
    GAME DAY PREDICTION: A high scoring affair ends with an Oilers 5-3 win.
    OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid picks up two points, plays over 21 minutes and there is no discussion about him being fatigued.
    NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After Sunday’s snoozefest, Oilers fans want to ensure there is some atmosphere in the building. They drown out the “Go Leafs Go” chants early in the game by borrowing a page from Jets fans and belting out “Connor’s better!” There is some actual excitement and buzz in the building throughout the entire game. It is a great atmosphere and the first time Rogers Place is rocking.

    A GOOD OL’ HOCKEY GAME

     
    • When: Friday December 9th with doors opening at 2pm (the game starts at 6pm). 
    • Where: West Edmonton Mall at the Mayfield Toyota Ice Palace
    • Who: Edmonton takes on Minnesota
    • Why: Because we love to party
    • What else: We’re going to have prize giveaways all night long
    • How much to get in: FREE!
    Huge thank you to everyone at West Edmonton MallThe Brick, Vimy Hockey, Donnan, 1st RNDTSN 1260Eddie BauerThe Bear and everyone else that worked so hard to help us get this event off the ground. Your hard work is appreciated, and I can’t wait for December 9th to get here. It’s going to be a fantastic night.
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