2019-20 Game 45: Oilers at Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a little like the “Air Coryell” San Diego Chargers: High octane both ways. The Edmonton Oilers enter Don Mills with a pretty good game, some structure and a few hands they can rely on. It’s going to be a major test, just like Saturday afternoon. Tabernac Monday?

THE ATHLETIC!

The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of The Athletic, less than two coffees a month offer here. 

  • New Jonathan Willis: Oilers notebook: James Neal’s resurgence, Matt Benning’s injury and the Tyler Benson recall temptation
  • New Lowetide: Oilers farmhands are pushing hard for NHL jobs
  • New Scott Burnside: Grading all 31 NHL teams at the midpoint of the season
  • Jonathan Willis: Zack Kassian’s breakout performance presents Oilers GM Ken Holland with a familiar dilemma
  • Lowetide: Ken Holland, the Oilers amateur procurement department and the 2020 draft
  • Jonathan Willis: It would be a mistake to write off the Oilers after their December slump
  • Daniel Nugent-Bowman: From Leon Draisaitl to the penalty kill, the things the Oilers need to improve to get back to the playoffs
  • Lowetide: A shift-by-shift analysis of Kailer Yamamoto’s 2019-20 debut in the Oilers’ New Year’s Eve game.
  • Daniel Nugent-Bowman: James Neal puts on New Year’s Eve show to remember in Oilers’ thriller
  • Lowetide: Midseason review of ‘reasonable expectations’ shows Oilers are on track with preseason targets
  • Jonathan Willis and Daniel Nugent-Bowman: How are our Oilers predictions holding up at the midseason mark? We decided to find out
  • Jonathan Willis: Oilers midseason report card shows an unbalanced team with a lot of replaceable parts
  • Lowetide: Complete Oilers top 20 prospects list, winter 2019

OILERS AFTER 45 GAMES

  • Oilers in 2015-16: 17-23-5, 39 points; goal differential -24
  • Oilers in 2016-17: 23-15-7, 53 points; goal differential +4
  • Oilers in 2017-18: 19-23-3, 41 points; goal differential -26
  • Oilers in 2018-19: 21-21-3, 45 points; goal differential -12
  • Oilers in 2019-20: 22-17-5, 49 points; goal differential -5

The current Oilers have a chance to clear 50 points tonight, and continue cleaning up that goal differential. As we continue toward March, the 2016-17 team is going to get so far ahead we’ll lose sight of their taillights. A win tonight and both teams are at the same intersection.

OILERS IN JANUARY

  • Oilers in January 2016: 2-1-0, four points; goal differential 0
  • Oilers in January 2017: 2-1-0, four points; goal differential 0
  • Oilers in January 2018: 1-2-0, two points; goal differential -8
  • Oilers in January 2019: 2-1-0, two points; goal differential +1
  • Oilers in January 2020: 1-0-1, three points; goal differential +1

The bonus double u in Boston gives us a chance to dream a little about the possibilities this month. Another October (or mini-October) would basically guarantee a playoff berth. Too much to dream.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN JANUARY

  • On the road to: BUF, BOS, TOR, MTL, CAL (Expected 2-2-1) (Actual 1-0-1)
  • At home to: NAS, ARI, CAL, STL (Expected 1-2-1)
  • Overall expected result: 3-4-2, eight points in nine games
  • Current results: 1-0-1three points in two games

I have tonight as a loss, but the game against the Bruins featured a tight team (in a good way) with more than one option for any challenge. No idea if we’ll see them again, but the Maple Leafs have holes and if this group can offer something close to balance, well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

OILERS 2019-20

Puck IQ suggests Dave Tippett will be running the McDavid and Draisaitl lines against Toronto’s elites, with Klefbom-Larsson and Nurse-Bear getting the heart of the order from the defensive side. Patrick Russell hasn’t played since the Calgary game just after Christmas. I think we’re heading for a transaction.

MAPLE LEAFS 2019-20

Puck IQ suggests the Rielly and Marincin pairings will see the tougher chores, but Ceci has faced tough competition (Dermott not much). I think Rielly and Barrie are absolute dynamite, great players. Coaching changes mean shuffle and I expect Marincin is getting a slight push. Thrilled, gotta say. Up front, Tavares and Matthews lines get the hose from the forward group.

GRANDMA

My Grandma was a Maple Leafs fan. She would yell at the goalies (famously Gary Smith, later famously Mike Palmateer) to get back in their nets. She was a fan, which is to say I didn’t notice any give in her devotion between 1967 (SC winners) and after the trade of Palmateer (in 1980).

In many ways, she’s responsible for me remembering all these Maple Leafs stories, like their young defensemen (she used to gauge them based on the Tim Horton-Allan Stanley-Bob Baun blue and they all got stern lectures) and the two brave young Swedes (Borje Salming, Inge Hammarstrom) who overcame bias, bigotry and in the case of Hammarstrom his own team owner.

THE 2014 DRAFT

I always wait five years for a draft to call it, although it is often decided long before. The 2012 draft was basically a fail the second time Dallas Eakins healthy scratched Nail Yakupov. The 2015 draft is in its final year but is already a smashing success. There are exceptions, though. If William Lagesson emerges as a legit NHL player, he should help the 2014 draft over the finish line. Leon Draisaitl alone might cover the bet (his next goal will be No. 150) but a 500-game career from Lagesson would put it to rest. The young Swede made his NHL debut in draft +6, so the five-year rule does have exceptions. I’m starting work on my 2020 draft coverage today, you should see a top 30 later this week.

That’s a long time, to be honest, luck is such a big damned factor one would think there’s a win on the other end this streak. Maybe Taylor Hall will watch tonight’s game, see the Oilers win, and decide in his mind to join the band on July 1. Then again, maybe Nik Khabibulin is thinking the same thing.

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416 Responses to "2019-20 Game 45: Oilers at Maple Leafs"

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  1. slopitch says:

    Knighttown loved the play by play. Glad you made it. Thats gonna be a story to tell your grandkids

  2. Pescador says:

    knighttown:
    Gents (and lady?) we did make it. Recommendation to grab the UP train was stellar. We landed at Union station. Kids got into their Oilers gear on the train and I sent them and the missus straight on to the rink to catch the warmup at 6pm. I’m typical dad style, I trundled across Toronto with all the luggage and dropped everything off at the hotel. Slipped the concierge a 20 to run the bags up after checking in and showed the wheels with the sprint down Bay Street to the ACC (err Scotiabank Centre).

    I think based on the pics on my phone from warmup, my daughter may have a crush on McDavid. Or maybe it’s my wife. Regardless, kids got the full warmup and I had a lovely IPA (Woodguy thinks their moose piss) in my hands and was there for puck drop.

    Awesome KT!
    Love it, so happy for you & your family!

  3. JimmyV1965 says:

    Rewatched the game because it was so damn entertaining. Yamamoto is a great addition to 2L. For a short guy, he has an amazing stick. Thought Nurse had a great game too. All the dmen looked good really. The bottom six really contributed in a meaningful way too. Nygaard, Sheahan and Archibald really stood out to me; fast and tenacious.

    I’m worried about JJ though. He’s maybe the only player tonight who really didn’t contribute in a meaningful way. He was just there. He didn’t even play on the PK. I wouldn’t be surprised if Yama takes his spot there soon. Not sure what the hell you do with JJ. I think his future here will soon be done.

  4. flea says:

    Thought Keefe’s 5 on 3 timeout was a misstep. The players must know what to do in that situation. How does a timeout change the plan? Weird one.

    I also thought Larsson had one of the most active games I’ve ever seen him play. Walking the line, carrying the puck, setting up for off wing shots.

    Yamamoto was credited with one takeaway but he created so many turnovers throughout the game.

    And McDavid – wow.

  5. godot10 says:

    Glovjuice:
    That goal was pure Michael Jordan.

    Lamar Jackson

  6. Bag of Pucks says:

    Watched the game on PVR about 15 mins behind (hate commercials) and then raced to the curling club to play a late draw. The whole club was buzzing about the goal. Dozens of grown men in their 30s, 40s and 50s marveling at the artistry of this amazing athlete.

    Like Gretzky before him, Connor simply changes the physics of the game and makes the improbable probable.

    The one trait Wayne and Connor share? They never look down at the puck!!! They were/are an absolute blessing to this cold northern town.

  7. v4ance says:

    Mike Smith won but that’s a far cry from saying he played well. We outscored his mistakes because normally a goalie who gives up 4 goals and has a save% under 0.900 will lose. He played the first and second goals badly even though he was excellent in the first period. He’s just off balance way too often and guessing where the shots are coming from rather than reading and reacting.

    The first was a partial 3 on 2 with Khaira late on the backcheck. There wasn’t good communication on the play as Jones should have asked Khaira to take Spezza wide. Maybe a little too puck focused by all the defenders. Smith leaned way too far to his glove side and I felt he was guessing that Engvall was taking the shot rather than reacting to the play.

    On the second, I felt he was way too far in his net. Marchment made a perfect area pass to Gauthier into the center slot that Smith could have taken a strong step to the middle to cut the angle before sliding back to his stick side. Instead, he leaned waaay to far too his glove side again and his momentum was going the wrong way when Gauthier cut left. He was horribly off balance so felt his only way to make the save was to try the leg flail windmill in the air and to cut off the bottom of the net… which totally didn’t work.

    Honestly if you look at Smiths last 10 starts, he only deserved to win 2 games with save percentages under 0.900 in 8 of 10. His record is 3-5-2 in those 10 but only because the team in front of him piled 6 goals on the opponents tonight. If we objectively look at how he’s playing right now he’s just flailing at shots or guessing or lunging off balance way too often to be successful. Also, he’s been beaten so many times cleanly on his glove side lately, I think he’s overreacting that direction to try put more of his body in the path of glove side shots and exposing his stick side or being off balance when the play goes to his stick side.

    https://www.hockey-reference.com/players/s/smithmi01/gamelog/2020/

    Chiasson’s goal was the only real weak goal on the Leaf goalies. The first by Klef was a screen shot past Nygard, the second was Nurse with a floating screen by Kassian to pick a corner, and the 3rd was Yamamoto getting lost in coverage. When Drai threw the cross ice backhand to Jones, Nuge was standing right in front of the net so Andersen had to respect both a shot from Jones and a possible tip/shot pass to Nuge leaving Yama totally open as the defence shifted right. Chiasson’s goal was a shot that goalies save 95-98 times out of a 100. Andersen was in position but the shot handcuffed him and snuck in. The fifth was Drai picking a post and in with Klef driving to the net and providing a screen. The sixth was McMagic.

  8. ArmchairGM says:

    flyfish1168:
    5 teams behind us have games in hand. If they were to win them all we could drop down to 11th place. Scary tight conference

    Vancouver is 1 point back and has 3 games in hand.

    BUT: they play the next 5 games on the road – TBY, FLA, BUF, MIN AND WPG – and they have a losing record (9-10-1) in away games. So which will carry over, their Away record or their 7-game winning streak?

  9. hunter1909 says:

    mmmmKay so which are the real 2019-20 Oilers? That team who stormed out of the gates with a 2 person forward corps(literally) dominating until their collective wheels fell off and then they declined and the rest of the schmucks came down to earth as few were contributing for shite?

    Or are they these new improved Oilers with Nurse, Yamamoto to name 2 players who have both elevated the team’s fortunes by auspicious play?

    Am particularly happy to eat my words about Yamamoto, who is still too small and I still expect him to get flattened sometime between now and March, but he’s seriously developed himself down in the AHL the way players are always supposed to unless its a Lowe/MacT desperate to fool the suckers ahem fans with strategy of personal failings and selfishness.

    Ever since Katz came clean the team’s fortunes have started looking up. Of course I too thought the season was over about 4 games ago, but they’re beating top eastern teams away which schmucks rarely can do consistently.

    And so, does anyone know what the rest of the season is likely to bring? So far, even if they’re skating on thin ice they’re in playoff position in January.

  10. ArmchairGM says:

    Wilde:
    Apologies if anyone mentioned this already, but a Finn on Twitter appears to have the Game Score numbers for the SM-Liiga and posted the top 15 forwards and top 10 defensemen – Jesse Puljujärvi is at 4.20/GP, with the next highest 3.44; which is astonishing. The 15th highest number is 2.41!

    e: If anyone is wondering, the reason the numbers are so much higher than my AHL data is because I only use 5-on-5 numbers (and some stuff like blocked shots is taken out of my version of the formula) which makes something like 1.00 very high

    Do you have a link?

  11. Woodguy v2.0 says:

    OriginalPouzar: Great answer!

    Of course, in my opinion, the theory/verbal/premise that Drai “pouts” when not with McDavid is complete gibberish – just my opinion though.

    I think it was real (the pout) for both players.

    After their disastrous December together and their amazing run since being split up I think Tippett has them on side with it.

  12. frjohnk says:

    PVRd the game and just read the comments

    Im happy that KT not only made it to the game, but a game that his family will never forget.

    Oilers beating the Leafs in Toronto was beautiful.

    Just when a person thinks they have seen everything that is amazing by the best player in the league, McDavid gets us to hold his beer.Wow.

  13. tileguy says:

    I also think the pout was real.

  14. Coiler says:

    frjohnk:
    PVRd the game and just read the comments

    Im happy that KT not only made it to the game, but a game that his family will never forget.

    Oilers beating the Leafs in Toronto was beautiful.

    Just when a person thinks they have seen everything that is amazing by the best player in the league, McDavid gets us to hold his beer.Wow.

    Well put. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I can tell you from my own vantage point at the game, there was stunned silence from the Leaf’s fans after he scored that absolutely sublime goal. What a masterful display of skill and talent. His speed…just incredible.

    Edmonton finally got that monkey off their back in what was a really entertaining game. Best Oiler game I’ve seen in a long time.

  15. kooler says:

    Btw. Kudos to RNH for that back check / no look backhand pass to McDavid.

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