MAPLE LEAFS (9-8-4) at OILERS (12-9-2)
9:00 pm (TSN4)
Twenty-eight days ago many hockey enthusiasts expected the Edmonton Oilers to swagger into the ACC and lay a beating on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thanks to Nazem Kadri and the rest of the roster the opposite turned out to be true.
Tonight the Leafs start a 3 game western road trip beginning with those same Oilers. If you follow the Leafs then you are likely salivating at the chance to repeat the dominating 3-2 OT win the last time these 2 teams competed on the same ice.
The Oilers are the Pacific Division leaders but only by a fingernail. Both Los Angeles and San Jose are playing better hockey recently, sitting just 1 point back of the Oilers and both have a game in hand.
Edmonton has lost 2 in a row and has struggled to a 3-6-1 record over the last 10. Just like the Leafs, the Oilers rebuild continues. Albeit Edmonton has taken the longer route to return to respectability.
Connor McDavid leads the league in points and has put together 5 goals and 5 assists in the past 5 games. The key tonight will obviously be to shutdown McDavid. The game within the game is who will play against McDavid.
Kadri did a masterful job last time. The Leafs center played one of the best games of his career. Every chance he had to get into McDavid’s space, he did.
The Leafs game Saturday night saw more of a team effort in keeping Ovechkin to 1 assist with Zach Hyman being particularly effective on the penalty kill. So does Babcock deploy the same strategy in shutting down McDavid tonight?
There is one more element to consider.
The past couple days has seen media and fans alike hoping to see a Matthews vs McDavid match-up. Matthews is scoring again and that has no doubt fueled discussion of both franchise centers going head to head.. It is becoming evident that Matthews is also carving out a living with his work in the corners, often coming away with the puck and creating chances.
Statistically the Leafs hold the edge in offense being ranked second overall in the league with the Oilers sitting seventh.
Looking at both teams defensive numbers indicates the Oilers hold a large advantage. However, while the Oilers were off to a flying start to begin the season the Leafs struggled.
Defensively the Leafs are starting to put it together. Still, a significant improvement to the Leafs defense is needed to compete game in and game out.
It is nice to see that Leaf’s management efforts are paying off. Marner, Matthews and Nylander are ranked in the top five in many individual categories with Marner really turning it on as he finds his NHL way.
Speaking of Nylander there seems to be some confusion this week. He was a scratch for Saturday’s game with the club stating he was nursing an upper body injury. Now he is centering the fourth line and publicly stating that his demotion was “completely understandable”.
The optics make it appear that coach Babcock is sending a message. Now romours are circulating that the Leafs may be interested in a Dougie Hamilton for Nylander trade.
What do you think?
Discuss amongst yourselves.
UPDATE: Reports are out that Peter Holland has not made the trip to Edmonton. The 25 year old forward has appeared in just 8 games this season recording 1 assist. According to Hollands agent,
“Peter and Lou met this weekend. At this time, it appears that Peter’s future with the club is limited . . . and, Lou will do his best to trade him. Lou also stated that Peter not go on the road trip during this time frame.”
Story will be updated as information becomes available.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
van Riemsdyk– Bozak — Marner
Hyman — Matthews — Brown
Komorov — Kadri — Soshnikov
Martin — Nylander — Smith
Reilly — Zaitsev
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Polak
Lucic — McDavid — Puljujarvi
Maroon — Nugent-Hopkins — Jordan Eberle
Pouliot — Draisaitl — Caggiula
Hendricks — Letestu — Kassian
Klefbom — Larsson
Sekera — Russell
Nurse — Benning
Mike Babcock — Practice — 11/28/2016