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Even strength scoring matters. Final Score: 4-1 Leafs

As I wrote in this morning’s GDB, I was incredibly nervous about how this game would play out for multiple reasons. Not only are our boys struggling right now, but this game also happened to be the early one on Hockey Night in Canada and I don’t think I need to remind anyone here how many times these nationally televised matchups have been unkind to us over the years. I mean, losing is one thing but having it happen in front of the whole country is another, ya know? And to the Leafs? Forget about it. the situation is a nightmare. Obviously, winning absolves one from all fears but we haven’t seen enough of that lately, and it was going to be up to the Oilers to make sure that we all had a weekend filled with hockey-related peace and happiness. It was a simple dream, but it was a beautiful dream. Such is life, I suppose.

As with any time the Leafs are in town, Rogers Place was half filled with blue jerseys which meant that a fast start was the only acceptable outcome for the Oilers as they needed to keep that side quiet and they needed to make it happen early. There is literally nothing worse than being in your own barn while the other team’s fans are having a good time, but that’s exactly what happened after some shoddy defending allowed Toronto to open the scoring in the opening minutes of the first period after a shift spent buzzing in Edmonton’s zone. To make matters worse, the same thing happened on the Leafs’ second goal when they once again took advantage of a needless mistake with the puck. There were two big mistakes and both of them wound up in the back of the net. But that’s not to say that the Oilers were horrible, they really weren’t, but they were too often sloppy in their own zone and it got them running around to the point of losing all control. That’s a tough way to play if you’re actually planning on winning.

Down by two goals heading into the third period, the Oilers were needed to manufacture another comeback just as they did in the past two nights, but it was just not meant to be this time. To their credit, they had plenty of chances to pull themselves back into the game but they just couldn’t beat the red-hot Anderson to make it happen. At the end of the day, Toronto got some even-strength scoring while the Oilers did not, and since the refs weren’t calling much in terms of penalties, Edmonton’s power play was limited in its ability to bail the team out for their 5-on-5 deficiencies.

The wrap.

THE BRIGHT SIDE

  • Alex Chiasson got the Oilers on the board, bringing the game to within one (2-1), with a power play goal that he got after grabbing the puck and charging towards the net. I don’t know if you’d necessarily consider what he did a shot on goal, more of a bull rush towards Andersen, but it ended up working like a charm.
  • Mikko Koskinen was back between the pipes tonight and looking to avenge the tough outing he had against the Hurricanes on Tuesday night. And as we’ve seen all season, the big Finn was up for the challenge and a major reason that Oilers weren’t down by more than a goal early on. I know the stats aren’t sexy for Mikko on this one, but I actually think he played better than the numbers would indicate. He finished with 28 saves and a .903 save%.
  • Would anyone disagree if I said that the Neal-Nuge-Gagner line was easily the best trio for the Oilers? I thought those guys were the most consistent line by far.
  • I like the way Adam Larsson has played lately as he clearly needed some time to get himself back up to NHL speed after breaking his leg in the first game of the season. Over the past few nights, Larsson had done a much better job of jumping into the play and using his big frame to try and create a little bit of offence rather than simply sitting back to defend.
  • I know he doesn’t get a whole lot of love but I’ve really liked the way Gaetan Haas has played since being recalled from Bakersfield. I like the way he uses his speed, throws his body around, and seems to have no quit in his game.
  • Like faceoff wins? I hope so because we’re short on bright sides after this one. Oilers won 53% of the draws tonight and clearly it helped.
  • After getting outshot early in the game, the Oilers finally got to throwing pucks on net and finished the night with 37 SOG compared to the Leafs’ 32.
  • Anybody else dig the roundtable they did with Nurse, McDavid, Draisaitl, and Neal during the first intermission? Frankly, I had more fun listening to those guys talk about their favourite goals than I did with what used to be in that slot.

THE FACE PALMERS

  • Freddie Andersen was so annoying. SO annoying. He finished with 36 saves and a .937 save%.
  • Alexander Kerfoot opened the scoring for the Leafs with a shot from the slot that beat Koskinen up over the shoulder. Up until they finally scored, Toronto was absolutely buzzing and the Oilers could not seem to get themselves together long enough to clear the puck out of danger.
  • Ilya Mikheyev put the Leafs up by two goals when he was able to smash home a loose puck at the side of the net after the Oilers got caught on an extended shift and were basically useless in their own zone.
  • Frederik Gauthier restored the Leafs’ two-goal lead midway through the third period, effectively killing the Oilers comeback before it could even get going. This time, the Oilers got caught on a change and couldn’t recover, leaving Toronto with the time and space they needed to cash in a third avoidable goal.
  • Can someone explain what the point of pulling the goalie is when you’re down by two goals, especially when pulling him only makes it 5-on-5 as was the case when Marner scored? I don’t get it. I mean, I know you’re pushing to tie but how often is that really going to work?
  • I don’t care how many times I see it, but I’m still grossed out by the way Leafs fans fill up half of the building when the team is in town and I hope they all got ripped off on their tickets.
  • The Oilers only took a single penalty tonight but they were punished for it with a goal against. Though, to be fair, it was that weird choice to pull the goalie even though they were down by two goals that allowed Marner to sink one in the empty cage.
  • Did you guys notice how Tippett benched the first line during the second period after they were tagged with that second goal against? By the time the second period was nearly 16-minutes old, the dynamic duo had only been on the ice for a little over two minutes. Clearly, the head coach wasn’t impressed with his stars after they got caught mailing it in in the defensive zone. Unfortunately, they didn’t really get much better after the benching either as they were outscored by Toronto’s bottom six and generally looked to be battling the puck.
  • This morning I talked about the depth lines being almost more important to the outcome of this hockey game than even the top end matchups because I felt like the Oilers could even out anything produced by Matthews/Tavares/Matthews. As it turns out, the Leafs got goals from their bottom six while the Oilers could not match, and it ended up being the difference in the final score.

SCORING SUMMARY

1ST PERIOD

TIME TEAM DETAILS SCORE
04:38 Toronto Alexander Kerfoot (6) ASST: Pierre Engvall (3), Morgan Rielly (19) 1-0

2ND PERIOD

TIME TEAM DETAILS SCORE
05:27 Toronto Ilya Mikheyev (5) ASST: Alexander Kerfoot (5), Pierre Engvall (4) 2-0

3RD PERIOD

TIME TEAM DETAILS SCORE
06:08 Edmonton PPG – Alex Chiasson (4) ASST: Leon Draisaitl (36), Oscar Klefbom (19) 2-1
13:49 Toronto Frederik Gauthier (3) ASST: Dmytro Timashov (5) 3-1
18:39 Toronto EN – PPG – Mitchell Marner (6) ASST: Zach Hyman (2) 4-1

#GOODCONTENT

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